While COVID19 itself hasn’t shown any direct effects, the pandemic and our social distancing response probably will impact tendon injury risk for athletes. You need to understand what is happening with your tendons while you are away from sport and what they will endure when sports return.
As athletes return to sports practice and competition after lockdown, they will be susceptible to tendon injury as they undergo spikes in their training load. These acute increases in the volume of throwing, sprinting, jumping, and swinging can be a risk factor for tendon injury.
TENDONS NEED LOAD
Too much load and you get an injury, but too little and you get structural change. After just 2-4 weeks of unloading the tissues of tendons begin to lose their structure and ability to withstand big loads. That means athletes wont to be the same when sports return.
SHOCKS AND SPRINGS
Tendons improve athletic movement skills by transmitting muscle forces and by acting as springs. This means they need to be able to provide both elasticity and stiffness. To do this they need to be exposed to the right types of stimulus in training.
TOO MUCH, TOO FAST
Repetitive stress that overloads the tendon can create micro-injuries in the tissue that add up. These become overuse injuries. Runners and jumpers often experience this when they increase their volume too quickly. Throwers and volleyball players often experience this in the shoulder or elbows as well.
TENDONS ARE COMMON SPORTS INJURIES
Tendon injuries are common in sports. Tendon injuries you may have heard of include;
- Achilles Tendon – Ankle
- Patellar Tendon – Knee
- Elbow Tendons – Tennis & Golfer’s elbow
These injuries can occur with either acute tears or chronic overuse. Tendon injury risk for athletes will be heightened as they haven’t been conditioned by normal sports practice.
PREPARING FOR THE RETURN TO SPORT AS WE REOPEN
Loading tendons enough to stimulate the structure and function is the key to being ready when sports return. At home, and before teams resume, proactive athletes can use isometrics, eccentrics and reactive plyometrics to train. These types of exercises are key ingredients to build resiliency and capacity in the tissue.
GRADUAL RETURN TO SPORTS
One of the biggest risk factors for tendons is how rapidly the volume of work increases. Muscles adapt faster than tendons and can overwhelm them. When an athlete has been doing very little and then starts full practice, the risk of injury to tendons is exponentially increased.