Injury Myths: What You Need to Know
Perhaps that’s what drove me to become a physical therapist—a yearning to understand what was wrong with me.
Along the way I learned a few things and with that, I now share with you my favorite 5 Injury Myths.
5 Injury Myths
Injury Myth #1: “A Torn Rotator Cuff is a Torn Rotator Cuff. Doesn’t Matter How It Happened.”
The cause of injury is just as important as the injury itself.
I remember once having a 45-year-old male construction worker and an 18-year-old baseball pitcher both in rehab at the same time for reconstructed rotator cuffs.
What stood out in that moment was the athlete saying, “Oh, he has the same thing as me.” Not even close.
The construction worker was carrying a ladder over his shoulder and turned a corner, hit a wall, and it jerked his arm backward causing a forceful twisting of the shoulder, shredding the rotator cuff.
The baseball pitcher was the result of throwing 150+ pitches a game, back-to-back days for several years. These two injuries are not the same.
The construction worker’s injury was the result of instantaneous load that exceeded his ability to control motion. The baseball player’s injury was from years of microtrauma. The former was an accident, and the later was more deliberate.
These two are not rehabilitated the same way or for the same purpose due to age, cause, and desired return to a specific activity.
Injury Myth #2: “Kids heal faster than adults. You don’t need to worry about them as much.”
Oh contraire! Adults have fully formed, constructed body parts that when damaged, a blueprint exists to reform the broken parts.
It sure won’t occur as fast as children but the body’s healing mechanisms have an idea of where everything is supposed to go.
Children, particularly athletes, are in the process of writing the blueprints.
There is a pre-determined set of instructions that is being edited daily by the forces of physics. With enough beating and breaking, even the most resilient athlete may result in having these blueprints messed up.
I am not talking about legs and arms that are 3 inches shorter or longer. I am referring to subtler things such as lower legs that are prone to shin splints or bony formations in the shoulder from inappropriate friction. This stuff shows up later.
It is imperative that the body tissues get to the finish line, fully completed, and ready for the decades of life to come.
Injury Myth #3: “The more it hurts the worse the injury is.”
Pain is not input, it is output. Past experiences, desire, experience with handling injury, mood, environment, and education are just a few of the things that cause pain.
In our multi-billion dollar youth sports world that is high competition and high volume (both of which need a bit of balancing but that is for another blog post) this idea of pain is tricky.
Pro Tip: If there are concerns, it is best to leave it to the professionals. When your car starts making funny noise, unless you are a mechanic, you don’t open up the hood and start moving things around. Same with your young athlete—take them to the shop for a diagnostic and tune up.
Injury Myth #4: “Swelling is not a big deal as long as the body part is wrapped.”
Swelling does something funny to body parts, particularly joints: it makes them work pretty crappy.
Swelling is the body’s natural response to damage—starting an inflammation process to get rid of damaged tissue and restore parts to normal working order. It also shuts down muscle activity to help facilitate this regeneration.
Pro Example: Clinically, if I have an athlete recovering from an ACL surgery and during the course of sports conditioning the knee gets really swollen, I will shut everything down. Why? Because I know that thigh muscle is going to fire as fast or as strong due to the joint swelling. That could impact the stability of the joint, putting the ACL at risk. This could also be true that the same swelling makes the knee less responsive, sluggish if you will.
Fluid is not compressible, which is why we have hydraulic systems in our cars. It helps transfer energy from one area to the other because fluid cannot compress.
Everything else in your body, including nerves, ligaments, muscles, even bones are compressible and that fluid pressure wreaks havoc on all the parts affected.
Injury Myth #5: “If it hurts, just take some anti-inflammatories and it will be fine.”
I would like a few doctors to give their two-cents on this one but I am happy to stick with this simple statement: Stop it.
Children are not adults. If you have an athlete that is taking fifteen 200mg tablets of ibuprofen every day to get him through hockey season, just sit down and ask yourself, why?
There is a reason for this, but if it’s because this OTC, cheap treatment gets your athlete through the day and without it they are miserable, limping blobs of pain, then there is no understanding of “the why”.
Almost every serious overuse injury that resulted in missing whole seasons or having surgery before the age of 20 has a similar backstory.
Many times parents and athletes do not report this to the doctor. They weren’t hiding anything, they just thought this was the norm and wasn’t worth mentioning. THIS IS NOT NORMAL!
A drug that has interactions on the body should not be taken lightly just because the athletic world has been eating them like Skittles for decades.
Dr. Keith Cronin, DPT
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About the Author: Keith J. Cronin
Keith J. Cronin is a physical therapist and owner of Sports and Healthcare Solutions, LLC. Keith currently supports US Operations for Dynamic Tape®, the “Original” Biomechanical Tape®, providing guidance for education, research, and distribution. He graduated with his Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from Belmont University in 2008 and later earned his Orthopedic Certification Specialist (OCS).
Prior to graduate school, Keith was a collegiate baseball player and top-level high school cross country runner. He also had the opportunity to work as a personal trainer (CSCS) prior to his career in physical therapy, providing a very balanced approached to educating fitness and rehabilitation. Keith has focused his career on the evaluation, treatment, injury prevention, and sports conditioning strategies for athletes, with particular attention to youth sports. He currently lives in the St. Louis, MO area with his wife and two daughters, Ella and Shelby.