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Role of genetics in injury prevention and recovery

Exercising is important for good health and wellbeing, but people often get hurt when participating in sports or other physical activities. Accidents, incorrect training, failure to stretch properly, and inappropriate gear can all lead to different types of injuries. Those most at risk for injury are,

  • People who have been inactive for a long time

  • People who fail to stretch or warm up before exercise

  • People who participate in contact sports or action sports, such as snowboarding or mountain biking

  • Excessive activity without adequate time for recovery

The type of injuries athletes suffer from depends largely on the sport or activity they participate in and the area of the body it puts stress on.

Swimmers or throwers are more likely to end up with shoulder tendinopathies, a type of overuse injury that causes tendon pain and irritability. In runners, we will typically see lower limb overuse injuries like tendinopathies or stress fractures.

People taking part in sports that involve kicking or frequent changes of direction, like football or basketball, are more likely to develop hip and groin injuries or muscle strains. Full contact and combat sports result in more concussions and traumatic injuries like fractures and dislocations.

Many sporting injuries happen because of prolonged unaccustomed exercise involving muscle lengthening (eccentric) actions resulting in ultrastructural muscle disruption, impaired excitation-contraction coupling, inflammation, and muscle protein degradation.

Types of sports injury

A sports injury can affect any part of your body with different symptoms and complications. The most common type of sports injury include,

  • Ligament injuries or sprains

Ligaments are fibrous, slightly stretchy connective tissues that hold one bone to another in the body. Its major function is stabilizing the joint so that the bones move in the proper alignment.

A stretch, tear or twist in the ligament results in a sprain. The severity of the injury depends on the extent of injury, (whether a tear is partial or complete) and the number of ligaments involved.

  • Strains

A muscle strain is an injury to the fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones. Minor injuries may only overstretch a muscle or tendon while more severe injuries may involve partial or complete tears in these tissues.

An injury can occur from a single stressful incident, contact sports, or it may gradually arise after many repetitions of a motion, causing damage to the muscle, tendon, or ligament fibers.

  • · Knee injury

A knee is a complex joint that acts as a hinge between your thigh and lower leg. It contains many components such as bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, making it vulnerable to a variety of injuries. It could range from an overstretch to a tear in the muscles or tissues in the knee.

  • Swollen muscle

First comes the pain, then comes the swelling. Swelling is a natural reaction of the body to an injury. It can occur in the skin, joints, and other tissues and organs of the body. The swollen muscle may also be painful and weak.

  • Achilles tendon rupture

The Achilles tendon is a thin, powerful tendon at the back of your ankle. During sports, this tendon can break or rupture. When it does, the most common initial symptom of Achilles tendon rupture is a sudden snap at the lower calf, intense pain, and an inability to point the foot downward.

Immediate after an Achilles tendon rupture, walking will be difficult and one is unable to stand on their toes. In addition, the patient will also complain of pain with ankle movement.

  • Rotator cuff injury

A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that keep the upper arm in your shoulder socket. It helps keep your shoulder stable when you move your arm in any direction.

Rotator cuff injuries are common. Most of them are wear and tear injuries caused by overuse, wear or tear over time, or acute injury.

  • Dislocations

In this type of injury, the bones of a joint are knocked out of place. This injury can be very painful and can temporarily deform and mobilize the joint. The most common locations for dislocations include your knee, hip, ankle, or shoulder. The cause is often a fall or a blow, sometimes from playing a contact sport.

  • Fracture

A fracture is a break, usually in a bone. A considerable number of bone fracture occurs because of accidents, falls, or sports injury. However, a fracture may also be the result of some medical conditions that weaken the bones. These include osteoporosis and some type of cancer.

Role of genetics in injury prevention

It is apparent that inter-individual variation exists in response to exercise, including muscle damage, and there is evidence that genetic variability may play a key role. Although this area of research is in its babyhood, certain gene variations or polymorphisms have been associated with exercise-induced muscle damage i.e. individuals with certain genotypes experience greater muscle damage, and require longer recovery, following strenuous exercise.

The best-studied genes associated with athletic performance are ACTN3 and ACE. These genes influence the fiber type that makes up muscles, and they have been linked to strength and endurance. Many other genes with diverse functions have been associated with athletic performance. Some are involved in the function of skeletal muscles, while others play roles in the production of energy for cells, communication between nerve cells, or other cellular processes.

Knowing how someone is likely to respond to a particular type of exercise could help coaches/practitioners individualize the exercise training of their athletes/patients, thus maximizing recovery and adaptation while reducing overload-associated injury risk.

Sports injury prevention

Sports injuries are some of the most common injuries for both youth and adult athletes. Many individuals believe that sports injuries are just a part of the game, but most injuries are preventable.

The best way to prevent injury is to maintain a proper technique, use appropriate equipment, adhere to a healthy rest schedule, and stretch before and after exercise can help prevent injuries.

Accidents do happen, so it is best practice to use proper protection like helmets, knee and elbow pads, gloves, and possibly body armor for extreme sports that present a higher probability of danger.

For some sports, it is recommended to exercise regularly to prevent possible injury. It is especially true for sports that use repetitive motion (such as tennis or running). Developing a healthy strength and conditioning program can also help prevent soreness or injury.

Final thoughts

Exercise and sports are important to good health, but they often lead to injuries. Understanding the causes and consequences of the genetic associations between exercise and sports-induced muscle damage may eventually allow the identification of individuals, who are at high risk of developing specific injuries.

Knowing how someone is likely to respond to a particular type of exercise would help coaches tailor the training and nutrition of their athletes (moving from one size fits an individualized approach), thus maximizing recovery and positive adaptation, and reducing the risk of injury.

Almost every person will sustain some type of injury at some point in their life. Having a plan in place to deal with setbacks can make the recovery process less daunting. That said, it's not possible to anticipate the obstacles we face or how we'll respond to them. But whether you're on the field or on the couch, you can always do your best

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