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athletic lifestyle

Healing through Temporary Changes in Athletic Lifestyle

By Alexander Germanis

Down a Different Path

early anyone whos taken a junior high school English class has read Robert Frosts poem The Road Not Taken. The classic piece of verse explores the values of traveling down a path different from the one commonly used. Such a path exists in the field of sports medicine; and in an area like Bloomington-Normal, where sports fill the lives of such a significant portion of the population, that different path should be seeing a lot more foot traffic. A common feeling among runners, for instance, is that they live to run and run to live. But for an injured runner or one who is experiencing pain, that mentality might need to change or their running will no longer be a lifestyle or even an ability. This doesnt mean that if youre hurting as a result of your normal regimen, you need to stop exercising. Instead, physicians like Dr. Joseph Norris of McLean County Orthopedics encourage athletes to consider taking the different path. For runners, a far too frequent issue is medial tibial stress syndrome, more commonly referred to as shin splints. Its an inflammation of the covering of the bone the periosteum, Dr. Norris explains. It responds to rest staying away from impact, consistent running. But most runners dont tolerate being completely inactive for four weeks, so I say get on a bike or get in the pool or do non-impact, upper body weightlifting or cross-training. That gets you back quicker and you dont lose any cardiac fitness while waiting to heal. A lot of people need to hear it, Dr. Norris insists. If youve always focused on one way of exercising, you need to be open to being active in a different way. This is especially true as we get older. Cross-training can provide benefits for all athletes; not just runners. For a baseball pitcher with shoulder or elbow pain that Im shutting down from throwing, Dr. Norris says, I will usually emphasize that the majority of their power comes from their lower extremities, core, and
Page 30 Healthy Cells Magazine Bloomington November 2013

balance. They can then focus on mechanics within the throwing motion without actually doing the throwing. We can also instruct them how to work on structures around the shoulder, like periscapular muscles, thereby protecting themselves from further injury. This can help them return to their sport even stronger than they were before their injury because they took the time to focus on lower extremity power and strength. The different path can take several forms. An issue that affects predominantly females and the younger population of runners and jumpers is chondromalacia patella or patellofemoral pain syndrome. This anterior knee pain results from damage to the cartilage beneath the kneecap. Some things to keep them going, Dr. Norris recommends, is hip abduction external rotation strength training as well as foot repositioning, which means they may need orthotics. Often those will completely eliminate pain in front of the knee. Whether its through different types of therapy, cross-training, even medications and sometimes injections of viscosupplementation(a naturally occurring synovial fluid called hyaluronic acid that acts like a lubricant for the knee joint), its my job to make sure a patient can do everything they want to do and do it with as little pain as possible. They just need to be willing to compromise and meet me half way. The compromise need not last forever," he adds. Just until it doesnt hurt anymore. The ultimate name of the sports physicians game is to keep athletes athletic. Sometimes that takes the form of reminding athletes there is a different path they can take in order to help get them back on the road theyre more used to traveling. For more information about athletic injuries, joint pain, cartilage restoration, arthroscopic surgery, or orthopedic questions, you may contact Dr. Norris at McLean County Orthopedics, 309-663-6461.