Last month’s edition (April 2010) of the scientific publication The American Journal of Sports Medicine included a very serious and important article for anyone who practices bodybuilding. The report states that, over in the last seventeen years, hospitals in the US have treated 970,801 injuries incurred during bodybuilding workouts. That’s almost one million injuries from bodybuilding workouts.
- A group of researchers analyzed data from a hundred health units in the U.S. between 1990 and 2007. Here are some of the most significant highlights:
- 25,335 Muscle injuries were treated in these one hundred hospitals, giving an estimated 970 801 cases across the country;
- Of these 82.3% were male;
- The parts of the body that most suffered injury were the chest (25.3%) and abdomen (19.7%);
- Muscle sprains and strains accounted for nearly half of all cases (46.1%);
- The most frequent cause of injury was putting weights on top of a person (65.5%) (image on the right);
- Female body builders recorded a total of 22.9% lesions on the feet, while males registered only 11%.
How to prevent
First of all, if you’ve never done any type of exercise, or have not exercised for a long time, you should see a doctor, to check out your health and physical condition. Consulting a doctor is highly recommended if you suffer from any chronic or persistent medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, etc.
If you start to feel regular chest pain, breathlessness or dizziness and loss of balance, see a doctor immediately.
Once you have been checked by a doctor, here is the advice you should follow to avoid muscle injuries:
- Always warm up first, before you start to life weights! A minimum of 10 minutes on a mat, elliptical trainer or exercise bicycle is ideal;
- Don’t overdo it. Start lifting weights appropriate to your muscle structure, and gradually increase the amount with each session. Normally, it is recommended that you move on to the next level of weight after three or four weeks of training. This period should be increased as the weights get higher.
- For example, if you do three sets of leg presses with 60 kg twice a week, after three to four weeks you can move on to 70 kg. However, if you are lifting 120 kg in this exercise, you will really need more time before going for 130 kg;
- Plan a balanced workout scheme, i.e., distribute tension over various muscle groups. If you put repeated tension in just one or two areas of the body, this will naturally increase the chances of suffering an injury in that area. Some sports put a lot of pressure on certain area(s) of the body: swimming places more press on the shoulders, jogging on the feet and ankles, tennis on the elbows, football on the legs, etc.
- It is important to balance the stress that is placed on different parts of the body. If you practice a sport that focuses more on a particular region of the body, you should compensate for the other parts in the gym. For example, if you play football, you should go to the gym and do exercises that focus on the upper part of the body;
- Respect your body. Do not train when are feeling ill or very tired. If you are unable to complete a session, stop earlier. If there are still five minutes to finish the program on the carpet and you’re already so tired that even feel a little dizzy, then stop the exercise. If you can’t do it, don’t. It is more sensible to cut twenty minutes off the workout today than not be able to workout for one or two weeks due to injury;
- If you have had to stop because of an injury or for some other reason, don’t be too demanding on yourself when you get back to your training. In terms of bodybuilding, this means doing fewer repetitions or lifting lighter weights. This should be common sense, but it is not always what happens;
- It is important to drink plenty of fluids. Preventing dehydration by regular intake of fluids to replace those lost through sweat is important for ensuring physical well-being and mental health. Certain sports are more demanding than others in this respect. When choosing isotonic drinks, make sure that they contain amino acids, carbohydrates and electrolytes;
- Choose clothing and accessories appropriate for your physical activity. If you practice pavilion sports that require a lot of running, replace your trainers every six months due to wear and tear;
- For strength training, good physical condition is essential. Do not sacrifice good form for weights beyond your capacity;
- Exercising in extremely hot conditions can lead to serious dehydration, which can cause dizziness and make you feel unwell. Practice exercise at times when the sun is not so strong. This is especially important if jogging along the street. The best time is in the morning or late afternoon. If you practice bodybuilding, look for a gym with adequate ventilation.
- Dress appropriately while training or playing in low temperatures, to avoid hypothermia. In these conditions, a pair of gloves is recommended.
- Give your body all the nutrients it needs. Be fair to your body. If you force it and demand peak performance, then you must also give it the necessary conditions to do so.
- Kerr, Z. & Collins, C. & Comstock, D., Epidemiology of Weight Training-Related Injuries Presenting to United States Emergency Departments, 1990 to 2007, The American Journal of Sports Medicine Vol. 38, Nº 4, págs 765-771, April 2010.
- Hartley, H. & Lee, L., Exercise: A program you can live with, Harvard Health Publications, 2010.