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Be it a novice beginner or a returning from injury elite class runner, thrower or jumper, overuse injuries are the most common reason for having to spend time in rehab. The desire to excel or to return to the previous fitness level overpowers the common sense that says to take it easy.


Researchers studied overuse injury patterns in more than 70,000 athletes over an extended period. In their analysis of the data, they were able to able to identify and categorize four different phases in the life cycle of an overuse injury.


The Phase 1 injury is so slight that the athlete often does not associate it with their current training. The pain will arise two or three hours after the training session. It will last for a couple of hours and then go away. However, it will come back again a couple of hours after the next day's practice.


If the athlete continues at the same or at an increased activity level, in a week or so, the injury will go to Phase 2. In this phase, some pain will be present near the end of the run or training session. The level of the pain is low to moderate and will usually subside in an hour or so. It will not return until the next day.

Gymboss Timers


If the athlete tries to "run through" a Phase 2 injury, they will usually progress to a Phase 3 injury. At this level, the pain is severe enough to get the athletes attention. The pain comes on very early in the session and will affect the athlete's activity. It may cause the athlete to limp or favor one leg or foot. Performance will decline and the athlete may stop before completing the workout.


At this level, the pain is so great that most athletes will stop their activity. However, some will try to push on in some hope that it will go away. It won't! The pain will usually start within the first couple of steps. There will be difficulty in doing normal activity such as walking up and down stairs.


The corrective action is very simple--just reduce the activity level. At Phase 1, a reduction of about 10% in volume and/or intensity will usually clear up the problem. The athlete should continue at this reduced level for a couple of weeks before increasing the level. Remember the basic rule that activity (intensity or volume) should not be increased by more than 10% per week.

If the injury has progressed to Phase 2, a 20 to 40% reduction in activity will probably be required. At Phase 3 this has increase to the 50 to 75% range. At the Phase 4 level, all activity will have to stop for from two weeks to the balance of the season.

The only way to prevent an overuse injury is to practice smart. If you get a Phase 1 indication of a problem, act on it and reduce activity. The problem will not go away on its own!

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