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HSS Doctor Shares Tips To Avoid Overuse Injuries And Burnout

Dr. David A. Wang of Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. David A. Wang of Hospital for Special Surgery. Photo Credit: Hospital for Special Surgery

PARAMUS, N.J. -- Many athletes train for countless hours to prepare for an upcoming competition, whether it’s a triathlon, marathon or other rigorous event. Is it possible for them to condition too much?

Unfortunately, overtraining can be too much of a good thing. When athletes train too much, they can develop overuse injuries or even burnout. When an individual is active, they are micro-injuring their body with micro-fractures to their bones, muscles, and tendons. When the body is given time to rest, it can heal these micro-injuries and adapt to become stronger. If the body is not allowed enough time to heal, the micro-injuries can progress and eventually become an overuse injury.

Overuse injuries typically begin with a slight pain or discomfort during activity, but if left untreated, can lead to lingering pain. In these cases, the injuries can cause significant time lost from a sport, or even end a career.

In general, treatment for overuse injuries involves resting and allowing the affected area time to heal. This is then followed by rehabilitation to strengthen the injured area and correct any imbalances that may have triggered the injury. From there, athletes can gradually return to activity.

The best treatment for overuse injuries is to prevent them in the first place. Whether it’s taking a day off during the week, incorporating cross training or gradually increasing the amount of workout activity, it's important to ensure the body has enough time to recover and heal.

While there is no specific test to pinpoint overtraining or burnout, a gradual decline in performance over time can be a warning sign. Despite it's prevalence in sports today, the phrase “no pain, no gain,” can be a dangerous mantra to live by.

Dr. David A. Wang is a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery specializing in the treatment of acute and overuse injuries. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Paramus and the hospital’s main campus in New York.