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The Most Common Injuries of the Weekend Warrior and How to Prevent Them
November 21, 2022

“Warriors, come out and play,” is a chant from an old movie. 

It’s a chorus many former competitive athletes hear today whether it’s for that weekend softball game or a pick-up game of basketball.

Orthopedic surgeons Tyler Smith, DO, and Alexander Johnson, MD, of St. Luke’s Orthopedic Care, see resulting injuries almost every day as weekend warriors get back into the action, oftentimes pushing their physical limits. 

“I consider a weekend warrior to be someone 35 or older who used to be a competitive athlete but now plays sports intermittently or picks up a new sport suddenly. We are seeing a lot of this with injuries from this new Pickleball craze,” Dr. Smith said.

“A weekend warrior is someone who is athletic but not necessarily optimally trained or training on an everyday basis,” Dr. Johnson said. “They compete mainly on weekends, and there are a lot of common injuries that occur in that population.”

Know Yourself

Both Dr. Smith and Dr. Johnson are former athletes who still participate in sports, so they understand the risks and injuries. Dr. Smith has experienced a variety of broken bones, ligament tears and surgeries, and understands the cycle of pain, immobilization and physical therapy rehabilitation. He runs, weight lifts, golfs, and even surfs in his spare time.

Dr. Johnson is a former college football player who enjoys cycling and even competed in a 100-mile bike race in Colorado. 

Their experiences in athletics, and in treating professional, college and high school athletes, make them experts in treating the injuries that occur in weekend warriors.

For most bumps, bruises and more, the key to recovery is injury protection, elevation, limited anti-inflammatory use, and gradual return to play, but sometimes more serious injuries occur that require evaluation, treatment, physical therapy, and potentially surgery.

The Key to Injury Prevention

Proper warm-up, stretching and cooling down, along with a consistent training routine are the keys to preventing injury.

“Just like you’re not going to decide to go out and run a half-marathon this weekend without any training, you need to practice and train before you compete,” Dr. Smith said. 

“NFL players spend a significant amount of time warming up before a game,” Dr. Johnson said. “Weekend warriors often don’t have that kind of time, but they still need to get their bodies primed for their activity to lower the chances for injury.” 

Both doctors also recommend that you should work on your core muscles such as abs, glutes and the lower back, because those areas provide the foundation for most of your athletic movements.

The 10 Most Common Sports-Related Injuries to the Upper and Lower Body

  1. Hand and wrist injuries: Any kind of wrist pain after an acute fall can be indicative of something more serious. An evaluation by an orthopedic specialist determines the best treatment. Bones in the hand and fingers may also break, and ligaments can sprain. 
  2. Separated shoulders: When a direct blow or fall causes a gap to form in the acromioclavicular (AC) joint that connects the collar bone to the scapula. 
  3. Broken collar bones: Most often occur from falls directly onto the shoulder. If the collarbone is displaced, surgery may be required. Common after cycling crashes.
  4. Rotator cuff injuries: Fall or throwing related, they can prevent overhead movements. Physical therapy and corticosteroid injections can provide very effective treatment, but in severe cases, surgery may be required.
  5. Bicep tendonitis/tears: Occur either at the shoulder end or the elbow end of the tendon. Patients generally hear a pop when the bicep tendon ruptures completely, and the bicep has a different appearance because of it, usually with bruising. Tendonitis can be treated with an ultrasound-guided injection and physical therapy. Some bicep tears may require surgery.
  6. Ankle sprains: The most common and easily treatable, ankle sprains sometimes require additional bracing and often benefit from physical therapy.
  7. Hamstring strains: Pain in the back of your upper leg that limits motion. Hamstring strains can be avoided with proper warm-up and stretching.
  8. Achilles’ tendonitis and/or tear: Pain from your heel to the lower part of your calf. Ruptures cause significant pain and require a 6- to 9-month recovery period.
  9. Knee sprains: Occur particularly in football, soccer and skiing. Complete tears may require surgery. Medial collateral (MCL) and lateral collateral (LCL) usually heal on their own. Tears to the anterior cruciate (ACL) or posterior cruciate (PCL) may require surgery.
  10. Meniscus tears: The meniscus is soft cartilage that provides a cushion between the bones. If torn, you feel a sharp pain in the knee, or “locking,” when the torn tissue becomes wedged between the bones. Baker’s cysts may form when fluid from the swelling leaks through the tear like a one-way valve and gets stuck, forming an oftentimes painful cyst. It can be drained, but the meniscus tear also must be treated to prevent the cyst from reforming.