How to Prevent Repetitive Strain Injuries

April 10, 2013 | Joe Giandonato

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Doing the same thing over and over again can lead to overuse injuries. That's why pitchers and tennis players often experience shoulder and elbow problems (Learn about Tommy John injuries.). You might not be a pitcher or tennis player, but you still have to beware of overuse in your sport and training program.

A repetitive strain injury (RSI) is classified as a painful and restricting injury to the musculoskeletal system. Common causes include performing the same exercise too frequently and repeatedly practicing the same skill, such as throwing or swinging. (Learn how to prevent common muscle strains.) Even sitting down all day can lead to a repetitive strain injury. The particular movements themselves may not be of concern; but repetitive strain injuries become an issue when athletes fail to use proper technique or allow insufficient time for recovery.

Preventing Repetitive Strain Injuries

Fortunately, repetitive strain injuries are completely preventable. You only need to slightly modify your daily routine.

  • Workouts calling for high volume and loads of about 70% of your max should only be done three times per week. Allow 48 hours of recovery between workouts.
  • Workouts calling for lower volume and loads greater than 90% of your max should only be done twice per week. Allow 72 hours of recovery between workouts.
  • Always use correct form on all exercises, even when you are lifting a lighter weight.
  • Always use proper technique when executing skills.
  • If you have a skill that is performed in one direction, like swinging a bat, take the time to perform it on your non-dominant side to equalize strength on both sides of your body.
  • Vary your workouts by changing the type of exercise performed, intensity, volume or distance.
  • Adhere to a pitch count, serve count or limit on your skills, especially during practice. The goal should always be to improve your skill without causing fatigue.
  • Always perform a dynamic warm-up before workouts, practices and games. Afterwards, go through a cooldown routine and ice any heavily worked joints.
  • Avoid long periods of cold or heat exposure, and be sure to stay hydrated. Extreme temperatures and dehydration may cause or exacerbate repetitive strain injuries.
  • If you sit for long periods of time, stand up and stretch occasionally to prevent tightness.
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
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