It’s a mark of how Singapore has progressed as a healthy, sporty society when, at the flip of the calendar, office-bound natives cast off their freezing aircon-friendly attire to turn into weekend warriors.
And more often that not, Singapore’s weekend warriors are choosing high-impact sports as their leisure-sporting activity.
It’s all good news, right?
After all, an active sporting lifestyle is just what the doctor ordered to combat osteoporosis. Just like muscles, your bones too get stronger when you put loads and stress on them. Regular high-impact sports has consistently being linked to higher incidences of bone formation and denser bones in old age. Best yet, sports enthusiasts who start early in their teenage years have a significantly lower risk of osteoporosis.
But when you indulge in “high impact sports” such as soccer, basketball, tennis, or even just plain old jogging, the physical exertion involved is taken up by your body’s joints and the muscular-skeletal structure.
But all that sporting activity comes at a price. That chronic, acute pain in the joints, anywhere from the ankle, knee, hip, to spine and neck that can put any professional athlete out of commission, not to mention a weekend warrior.
And perversely, high impact sports increases the risk of joint injuries - leading to osteoarthritis. All that impact and load on the joints sometimes results in joint degeneration and permanent – and progressive – joint pain.
It’s a 4-alarm fire now
There’s a difference between a muscle ache and a joint pain – any self-respecting weekend warrior should take it like a man for the first case.
But joint pain is a warning sign that shouldn’t be shrugged off as acceptable “collateral damage” of a normal sporting life.
If you experience these warning signs, you should cease all sports activity - that injury requires immediate attention:
If and when you’re injured, the goal is to prevent further damage by identifying its cause and remedying it. It could be a poor-fitting shoe, a missed step during running, or poor sports technique.
So you’re hurting. The road to recovery is lit by the letters RICE:
You really should stop the activity that caused the injury. Remember that osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disorder – the more you push it while injured, the worse it becomes.
The best immediate treatment is to apply an ice package. This prevents the blood from circulating around the wounded region, and helps reduce tissue damage.
You might also want to wrap the injured joint with an elastoplast crepe bandage to reduce the swelling.
Elevate the injured limb to a height higher than the heart.
If the injury doesn’t respond to treatment, you may need to consult a physiotherapist. After all, you don’t want to nurse that injury for months.
And when you do return to active sport, do check out protective gear such as modified shoes, tapings (knee guards, for example, to provide extra support), or ankle braces/supports. These gear support and protect your joints from strains and direct blows, as well as possible reinjury.
SAY GOODBYE TO JOINT INJURIES?
Despite the dire picture presented, joint injuries are not inevitable. Like taxes, joint injuries can be avoided.
Adopt a proper warm-up and stretching regimen so that your joints and muscles are ready to take on all loads and impacts.
Develop a comprehensive conditioning programme to build flexibility, endurance, strength and core stability in areas of the body that are at high risk of injury in your chosen weekend sport.
This increases your overall conditioning as well as alleviate joint stress from high-impact sports. Highly recommended are stationary cycles, swimming, water therapy, and rowing machines.
Take joint health supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin and collagen for to keep your joints and cartilage going.
Wear protective gear!
And before you go off for your weekend sports date with the gang, just remember to practise safe sports – wear a helmet if your sport requires it – there are some high impact bone injuries that no one can ever recover from.
 DL Creighton et al. 2001. “Weight-bearing exercise and markers of bone turnover in female athletes”, in J Appl Physiol 90: 565-570.
 L Van Langendock et al. 2003. “Influence of participation in high-impact sports during adolescence and adulthood on bone mineral density in middle-aged men: a 27-year follow-up study”, in Am J Epidemiol 158:525-533.
 S Hara et al. 2001. “Effect of physical activity during teenage years, based on type of sport and duration of exercise, on bone mineral density of young, premenopausal Japanese women”, in Calcif Tissue Int. 68(1):23-30.
 JA Buckwalter. 2003. “Sports, joint injury, and posttraumatic osteoarthritis”, in J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 33(10):578-88.
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