What you need to know to avoid sports injuries

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- With the advent of high intensity interval training, CrossFit and Olympic lifting, sports injuries are more common than ever, especially in younger people. If it's been a while since you've worked out -- or if you're trying a new fitness regimen -- chances are good you might have some aches and pains afterward.

Enny Audu regularly pushed herself at the gym -- the more weight, the better.

"There wasn't too much instruction, and that's how I hurt myself -- putting on too much weight," said Audu.

She continued exercising, even though it hurt her back.

"It went from pain, to 'Okay, I can't do it at all.' I couldn't tie my shoes. I couldn't sneeze without pain," recalled Audu.

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That's when Audu went to the Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute-Memorial City and UT Health and found out she had a lumbar annular tear. Clinical director Benjamin Renfrow said he sees cases like Audu's regularly.

"What we typically say is when fatigue sets in, form will fail and injury will ensue. This was the classic case of what her cause of the cause was," said Renfrow.

It's not just back injuries. Dr. Peter Sabonghy, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute-Memorial City and UT Health, treats a large number of patients -- especially women -- with rotator cuff injuries and knee issues.

"Females have really strong quadriceps compared to their hamstrings. The front of the leg is stronger than the back, so we all sit down all day at our computers, our glutes get weak. All these imbalances lead to a lot of problems," said Sabonghy.

He also sees sports hernias.

"What we refer to as a sports hernia is probably a spectrum of injury to the abdominal wall. It's called a groin injury, sports hernia. If rest doesn't help, surgery is the only remedy," Sabonghy explained.

For Audu, strengthening her core and activating the proper muscles helped her recover.

"I always recommend doing the exercise without weights first until you can do 15 repetitions pain-free. Then, add some light weights. Then, increase your weight," advised Sabonghy.

So what's the difference between a little muscle soreness, and when is it time to worry that those aches might be more serious?

"If something persists beyond two weeks and you've tried anti-inflammatories, rest and light stretching, you need to see somebody," said Sabonghy.

If you are sore, Sabonghy said it's okay to take a few days off from exercising. Spend some time each day stretching and try an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to help with the pain.

Once you get back on the fitness path, Audu has some advice.

"Be patient. It's not about the weight, it's about how healthy you can be. You want to be in this for long run. Light is okay, don't let it bruise your ego," she said.
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