This week’s blog was written by Dr. Andrew Flesner. With numerous obstacle course races under his belt, he shares his insights and recommendations for avoiding injuries while completing these mud-ridden courses. Read what he suggests to keep your shoulders, back, and ankles performing at the top of their game.


Whether it’s Ninja Warrior, Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, or some other iteration obstacle course, races are quickly becoming a common form of exercise and competition in America. Obstacle course training is a fantastic way to stay in shape; with built-in variation and a heavy focus on proper form, regular participants are sure to work with every muscle group in a setting that varies constantly. However, like many other sports that require at a higher degree of technical and physical competence, obstacle course training comes with its own risk of musculoskeletal injury.

Below, you’ll find three common areas of injury associated with the climbing, swinging, and jumping centric pastime, along with what you can do to prevent these injuries.

Rotator Cuff Sprain or Strain, Shoulder Impingement, and Shoulder Pain

Ever try to climb up a sixty-degree incline, stretching your arm out at the last second to grab the lip of the wall as some guy you don’t know yells at you from the top, all while covered in a layer of slick mud and sweat? No? Well, you clearly don’t know what you’re missing.

The shoulder joint is one of the most mobile joints in the body, and maintaining that mobility is crucial to compete in obstacle course training – or even just completing everyday tasks, like getting a plate from the cupboard. The rotator cuff muscles both move the shoulder and act as stabilizers to keep the joint secure.

If an imbalance develops, such as the anterior musculature (think pecs and upper traps) becoming stronger than the posterior musculature (think rhomboids and mid/lower traps), the rotator cuff muscles must work even harder to maintain proper stability of the joint. This leads to an increased occurrence of injury and pain. Good thing there are simple at home exercises to treat and prevent this imbalance!

Lower Back Strain or Sprain, Abdominal Strain, and Hip Pain

Swinging from the monkey bars in grade school; no problem. Traversing the Devil Steps backward, while dangling twenty feet over a trench of cold, muddy water; let me get my swim trunks. Yes, it does take some reasonable shoulder and grip strength to move our heavy adult bodies through the air, but core strength and control is just as important. When this is lacking we often rely on the large muscles of the back and the hip flexors to pick up the slack, and this leads to higher incidents of the lower back, hip, and abdominal injuries.

Like the shoulders, our core muscles, including the glutes, seek a balance from front to back. However, we often see the glutes and hamstrings become weak, while the hip flexors, lumbar erectors, and quads becoming tight and overpowered.

An extreme version of this is known as Lower Crossed Syndrome, which occurs if the previously mentioned dysfunction is not addressed. Stronger athletes can compensate for Lower Cross Syndrome dysfunction, but it often catches up in the form of lower back pain, hip strain, or other injuries in the midsection. You could check online for a few core exercises to help prevent this condition. But wouldn’t you know it, Google has over 331,000,000 results for core exercises! Here are a few core exercises we recommend to help alleviate and prevent Lower Cross Syndrome.

 

Ankle Sprains and Achilles Tendonitis

All that running, jumping, climbing, running, and finally, in my case, falling can really take a toll on your ankle. I know what you’re thinking, “He’s going to tell me what to do to strengthen my ankle!” Well, you’re wrong. I’m going to tell you what to do to strengthen your hip! And your foot as well, so you’re half right. The point is that much of your ankle and knee stability, and thereby your ability to avoid ankle injuries is derived from your hip. If your hip muscles are inhibited, it increases the likelihood your ankle will overpronate and the knee will deviate inwards. This increases instability through the foot and ankle, increasing the chance for rolled ankles and added tension through the Achilles tendon. Below are some exercises that can help to strengthen the hip, foot, and ankle.

If pains or a lingering injury are keeping you from tackling those obstacles, schedule an appointment with your Airrosti provider today! Our providers know you want to get back to doing what you love, so they treat your pain at the source. This, combined with at-home active rehab, leads to injury resolution in an average of 3.2 visits (based on patient-reported outcomes). We know you want to get back to doing what you love quickly, so we treat your pain directly at the source.

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