Injuries after Lockdown: Why They Happen and How to Avoid Them

Injuries after Lockdown: Why They Happen and How to Avoid Them

In this article we will clearly explain the main reasons that lead athletes to suffer discomfort and injury in these first few weeks returning to normal activity.

After more than two months in confinement, and with our reduced daily activity and mobility, it is time to gradually resume the sports we were practicing as before.

After these first few weeks of being able to go out to practice sport outdoors, there are numerous cases of injuries and ailments, as confirmed by many physiotherapists.

In addition, this news has also jumped into the sports media with numerous professional football players injured after the first week back to training.

Lockdown

There are two main questions we ask ourselves: why is this happening, and how can we avoid it?

Loss of sports specificity

The starting point is to be aware of how our daily physical activity, mobility and the pace and volume of training have declined in recent months.

We could say that, despite having been doing home training, the change has been moving everything to almost nothing.

In addition, in most cases, the specific practice of sport has been almost impossible or zero.

Training at home

  • Runners, for example, unless they have a treadmill at home, have not performed the specific activity of the race.
  • Swimmers, have not trained in the aquatic environment.
  • Powerlifters, in most cases, have not had the opportunity to training with high loads due to the lack of material necessary for the practice of Powerlifting…
  • In the case of footballers, they have also not been able to take part in specific training in spacious environments, in coordination ability games, speed ability training as well as team games.
That is, the SPECIFICITY OF SPORT, this basic principle of training, has not happened in the vast majority of cases.

Longer downtime

On the other hand, having a reduced daily physical activity rate, spending more sitting time thereby reducing our mobility, has also caused certain skeletal muscle structures to have suffered atrophy, reduced mobility ranges and loss of muscle mass.

But it should also be noted that this inactivity has had a direct impact on all systems: endocrine, metabolic, nervous…

Lack of activity

As when a person is sick in bed, or one of the members is inactive because of injury, and decreasing daily steps (decreasing daily physical activity).

María del Pilar Martín Escudero (Researcher in the Department of Radiology, Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy from the Complutense University in Madrid) states that:

“Studies show that after five weeks without training there is an increase in fat mass, an increase in waist circumference, associated with a decrease in maximum oxygen consumption, and a drop in the resting metabolic rate.

Another consequence of confinement is alteration in the bone structure through decreased bone density and mineralization caused by reduced exercise and hours of sun exposure.

There is a disturbance and loss of muscle mass with modification of the distribution of some muscle fibres, the musculature is shortened and elasticity is lost.”

Consequences of not having practiced sport

A recent study published on May 12th about the effects of sedentariness and inactivity due to the COVID19 pandemic describes the main conditions produced in all systems resulting from physical inactivity due to months of confinement.

The most remarkable data shows that rapid muscle wasting occurs after a few days of inactivity (we have been confined for 2 months).

Loss of muscle mass

The fact that there is loss of muscle mass implies a decrease or loss of enervation of muscle fibres, there is possible neuromuscular damage, and increased protein breakdown.
Injuries

Reduced insulin sensitivity

On the other hand, a recent article highlights that inactivity affects the glucose homeostasis, reducing sensitivity to insulin.

Less aerobic capacity

Regarding aerobic capacity, as we have pointed out earlier, not only does oxygen uptake decrease, but it also affects the peripheral circulation and oxidative capacity of the muscle.

Accumulation of fat

Another notable feature of this decrease in inactivity is related to loss of energy balance, in favour of greater fat deposition and systemic inflammation is usually present.

Loss of bone minerals

To this we must add lack of sun exposure and, therefore, a decrease in vitamin D, which is necessary to strengthen bone mineralisation and which works to protect the immune system.

Loss of strength

Loss of “cardio” and strength

A priori, it is common sense to think that, in order to be able to train at the same level (volume, intensity) as in the pre-confinement phase, the first thing is to recover, at least, to our previous state.

To do this, a minimum period of 2-3 weeks will be required.
  • We must bear in mind that after 2 weeks of inactivity in the case of aerobic training, the losses produced by adaptation may be as high as 30%.
  • For strength levels, loss of adaptations can take up to 4 weeks.

In either case, after more than 60 days without these specific activities, there is a high decrease in:

  • Maximum Oxygen Consumption Levels (VO2MAX).
  • Aerobic capacity.
  • Strength.

Progression

How can we recover and get to our previous level?

Advice No. 1: Progression

The first thing we need to consider in the coming weeks is to make small adaptations in a progressive manner to our specific workouts. We will start from the basic load levels, kilometres-volume levels, and work on the most important aspects like: muscle mass gain, aerobic base work, movement pattern techniques for the sport in question.

For runners, for example, these first few weeks have to be alternating minutes of smooth running with minutes of walking.

Sessions can be extended in volume as the weeks pass and the movement patterns recover, with the first aerobic adaptations being produced.

Working progressively will prevent muscle overload, ailments and more than one injury due to lack of use of that musculoskeletal structure.

Advice No. 2: Complementary workouts

Don’t forget to keep going with the complementary training you’ve been doing throughout confinement such as: flexibility, mobility, general fitness exercises, and the use of foam rollers as a self-massage tool.

Complementary training

Advice No. 3: Healthy Habits

Control your daily caloric intake, hydration and rest.

Meanwhile, increase your daily step count now that it is possible to exercise out in the fresh air, allowing forsun exposure.

Advice No. 4: Supplements

The extra contribution from certain supplements such as Turmeric, which has an anti-inflammatory effect will help.

Zinc and Magnesium, are also good allies to strengthen the immune system.

Conclusions

Remember that the return to sport and physical exercise must be progressive, from less to more, maintaining good levels of hydration and rest that help us assimilate to new workouts and adapt to them as soon as possible.

Bibliography Sources

  1. Narici, M. et. al. “Impact of Sedentarism Due to the COVID-19 Home Confinement on Neuromuscular, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health: Physiological and Pathophysiological Implications and Recommendations for Physical and Nutritional Countermeasures”, European Journal Sport Science, 2020 May 12, 1-22

Related Articles

  • How should footballers return to training after confinement?We tell you here.
  • Do you know these mistakes when it comes to home training? We explain here this link.
  • Coronavirus has marked a before and after in the world of sport… continue reading.
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