Centre for Spine and Movement Related Disorders

strategies for chronic and more complex

problems to help restore active lifestyles


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Acute, Chronic, Recurring Sports Injuries

Acute Injuries / Symptoms

An acute injury is one that occurred recently.  It may be due to:

     •     the body having received an external force – such as a fall, collision with a competitor/opponent/object.  If the external force is great enough, normal healthy tissues can be damaged – eg. bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments. 

     •     an external force of lesser degree which can cause an acute injury to an athlete’s tissues that were already weakened for a range of reasons. 

     •     internal forces, where all that is required to set off an acute injury is certain postures and movements of the athlete alone.  This is an interesting phenomenon, which can catch the person by total surprise.  Or, the acute symptoms can be preceded by milder ‘niggling’ discomfort for a time; in hindsight, the individual may come to understand these to have been the ‘warning signs’.  So, if any particular body tissues have become weakened or compromised such that they are not able to do their job properly, not much is needed to tip them over the edge into acute injury territory. 


The duration of an injury varies according to the time necessary for different tissue types to heal – eg. typically contusions/bruising heals quicker than sprains/strains, which in turn heal quicker than a shoulder dislocation.  There are two stages to the healing process in a physical injury – acute and sub-acute.  In the acute stage, inflammation is the process the body uses to get healing underway and repair the injured tissue/s.  Following this, the tissues gradually get stronger during the sub-acute stage until they have fully healed. 

Chronic Injuries / Symptoms

An injury is regarded as chronic when the athlete does not recover from an acute injury in the typical timeframe for the particular injured tissues.  This could be because the injury is complicated, such that only partial healing is possible, or that full healing takes longer than usual.  Sometimes an acute injury actually heals, only to recur on an occasional or frequent basis – which can be quite frustrating for the athlete.  Unfortunately, in other cases there is complete healing of a physical injury, yet the person continues to suffer ongoing pain. 


Recurring Injuries / Symptoms

Recurring injuries frustrate a person’s enjoyment of their sport, decrease performance and regrettably, can even result in them having to cease sport altogether.  When a relatively small external force and/or internal forces of the body are all that is needed for an acute injury to occur, a recurring cycle of symptoms is the common result.  Damaged structures can be irritated whenever the athlete loads up or moves these structures a certain way during their sporting postures and movements – such as with a meniscus producing a swollen knee or a spinal disc leading to a grumpy lower back.  In other situations, less than ideal quality of postures and movements during training, competition and various life activities means that the body operates with imbalances. 

The development of posture and movement imbalance ‘faults’ may occur from:

     •     training technique/equipment errors over time

     •     particular work/life activities

     •     due to having not developed ideal postures and movement patterns as a baby

     •     other health problems. 

However the faults are caused, inefficient postures and movements make an athlete more susceptible to injury compared with those athletes having efficient postures and movements.  Furthermore, injuries are also more likely to occur when an athlete is tired and/or lacking sufficient aerobic fitness, such as after a recent acute injury episode or other illness.  This is because it is harder for them to maintain efficient postures and movements at higher levels of activity intensity and sport skill.

When to Seek Help 

While not all acute injuries require assistance from a sports chiropractor or other practitioner such as a sports physiotherapist, skilled clinical care and advice from one or sometimes more practitioners is necessary for complex and/or recurring, chronic injuries in order to obtain the best outcome for the injury.

If you need help with a sports injury, call 9584 4856 to book your appointment.

The Core of Injury Prevention

What is the ‘Core’?

Core (or corset and shunt) muscles are those whose main role is to maintain skeletal joints in their ideal position with various postures and also to guide the joints through their range of motion when we move – so the joint movements are smooth with no jolting.  In order for them to do this job properly, these muscles need to have the maximum mechanical advantage when they contract.  This typically means they are quite close to the joints, so that when the bigger muscles further away from the joints do the grunt work of moving us in all sorts of ways, the deeper core muscles can provide control and stability for the joints.


For example, when it comes to the core muscles that provide stability to the lumbar spine – important for protecting both joints and discs from excessive movement – current understanding is that short spinal, pelvic floor, diaphragm and abdominal muscles need to be able to work as a coordinated team.  Like many things that the amazing human body does, this is indeed a complex task.  While there is a requirement for ‘core muscle’ strength, research is increasingly showing that coordinated activity – timing, order, degree – of various muscle groups are actually the vital ingredients.  And this....is all about having adequate body posture and movement literacy – which is orchestrated by the brain.


How can the Core be Optimised?

For a range of injuries that can be classified as overuse or repetitive – such as types of neck/lower back pain, groin/hamstring/shoulder rotator cuff problems among others – it is important that assessment of the integrated stabilising system of the body frame is included in overall injury management.  This means that the various ingredients – including muscle contraction timing, order, degree, strength and resistance to fatigue – need to be evaluated by the sports chiropractor.  For key faults identified in each case, customised strategies should then be provided that aim to address the faults.  This would ideally involve the patient being taught a range of specific exercises, where the focus is particularly on performing them with the best quality.  It is important that exercises are not for muscle strength only.  See also DNS: Optimising Motor Control. The sports chiropractor may also need to provide certain manual clinical procedures that aid this process so that the patient is able to achieve better quality postures and movements during their sport.

If you need help with injury prevention, call 9584 4856 to book your appointment.