Posts Tagged ‘biomechanical injury’

Using Biomechanics & Motion Analysis to Enhance Athletic Performance & Reduce Injuries

For those people who participate in competitive sports, athletic injury and related pain are not uncommon. Even without being an athlete yourself, you’re likely no stranger to some of the worst injuries that have been sustained by professional athletes. Mary Pierce and her torn ACL, Willis McGahee’s broken leg post-collision on the field, or Tony Saunder’s (Devil Rays’ pitcher) breaking his arm while throwing a pitch are just a few noteworthy examples. More recently, we saw Peyton Manning sidelined with a neck injury that kept him from participating in this year’s NFL season.

It is injuries like these and research being conducted in the world of biomechanics that is helping today’s athletes make strides in improving their form and physical durability.

Research and evaluation into biomechanics has resulted in new technology that allows experts to capture the movements of an athlete and analyze those movements via specialized software. The takeaways from the analysis are used to help educate and train athletes to move in the most effective and efficient ways to reduce injury and maximize outcomes. While much of this technology is emerging from colleges and universities around the U.S. and in turn, helping keep college athletes operating at peak performance, the same technology is also being used by professional athletes and their trainers.

As Jeff Fish, director of athletic performance for the Atlanta Falcons explains in a recent article covering biomechanics, “You have to look at the movement. It’s so much bigger than just is this player strong, is this player fast.” And with the help of Emory’s Dr. Spero G. Karas, head team physician for the Falcons, the team has one of the lowest injury rates in the NFL.

To help keep injury rates low and enhance performance among the Falcons, a fairly scientific process is in place. More than once a year, each player from the Falcons goes through “functional movement screening,” during which their strengths and weaknesses from a biomechanical movement standpoint are evaluated and they are each given a healthy motion score. After each player’s risk factors are evaluated, a customized plan is developed for each of them. Plan success is determined based on changes in the healthy motion score gleaned from the functional movement screenings.

Dr. Spero Karas

Dr. Spero Karas

Furthermore, now when a Falcons player is injured, that healthy motion score provides a baseline for team physicians such as Dr. Spero Karas to use to measure improvement in the athlete’s range of motion after injury and rehabilitation.

As Dr. Karas explains, “I can use that objective data that was generated before the athlete was injured to help me evaluate the athlete at the time of return to play.”

These are some pretty amazing developments for the athletic and medical worlds. For years, we’ve seen players watch their own game footage/tapes for insight into how they can better execute each play on the field. Now, with the help of biomechanics, functional movement screenings, and experts such as Dr. Spero Karas, those same players can learn how to fine tune their movements before taking the field to ensure the outcomes once there are the best they can be.

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What is a Biomechnical Injury?

Dr. Amadeus Mason of Emory Sports Medicine explains biomechanical injuries and how they can be prevented and treated.

Biomechanical Injury

In sports medicine, we see a lot of biomechanical injuries. A biomechanical injury is caused by the overuse or incorrect use of a joint or muscle. This type of injury generally occurs when the joint has been stressed in the wrong way or overstressed repetitively over a short period of time. While any joint can sustain a biomechanical injury, at the Emory Sports Medicine Center, I see a lot of runners who come in complaining of knee pain.

Iliotibial band syndrome, or ITBS, is a biomechanical injury. It usually presents as pain on the outer side of the knee and is a common complaint among middle-distance runners or in athletes when they try to do too much running too quickly. This usually occurs early in the season or when athletes increase the intensity of their training, e.g., moving up from 5K to 10K distance.

To prevent a biomechanical injury, no matter where in the body it is, you need to be cognizant of how you’re stressing your joints and give your body enough time to accommodate the increased stress. If you’re a runner, start slow with low mileage (1–2 miles) and a moderate pace and slowly increase distance or intensity, but not both. If you’re lifting, start with a lighter amount of weight and a higher number of reps in each set and then, as you increase the weight, decrease the number of reps per set.

If you think you might have a biomechanical injury, you should be evaluated by a sports medicine specialist who understands biomechanical injuries. He or she can correctly determine the source of your pain and initiate the appropriate interventions so you can get better. If you’re in pain but not sure what type of injury you have, don’t take chances—come see a specialist here at the Emory Sports Medicine Center.

Things to Keep in Mind if You Have (Or Suspect You Have) a Biomechanical Injury:

  • This type of injury will not just “heal on its own” with rest. You need to address the cause of the pain, or the symptoms will come back when you return to whatever activity caused the pain in the first place.
  • Don’t push through the pain. This pain is telling you that you’re doing something wrong. This is not a no-pain, no-gain situation.
  • There’s no quick fix. There’s no pill or quick shot that can cure a biomechanical injury. The best approach is to correct the problem using a holistic approach, which may include therapy, medications, modalities, and injections (as needed). Physiotherapy, in conjunction with steroid injections or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, can help reduce inflammation and, in turn, alleviate pain and facilitate addressing the underlying biomechanical issues. This is why it’s important to seek the help of someone who understands this type of injury.

Have you had a biomechanical injury? We’d like to hear about your experience. Please take a moment to give us feedback in the comments section below.

Dr. Amadeus MasonAbout R. Amadeus Mason, MD:

R. Amadeus Mason, MD, is an assistant professor in the Orthopaedics and Family Medicine departments at Emory University. He is board certified in Sports Medicine with a special interest in track and field, running injuries and exercise testing. He has been trained in diagnostic musculoskeletal ultrasound and platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection. Dr. Mason is Team Physician for USA Track and Field and the National Scholastic Sports Foundation Tucker High School, and Georgia Tech Track and Field.

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