Weightlifting Injuries

 

 

 

Weightlifting can refer to strength training, which is lifting weights to increase the strength of the muscles; bodybuilding, which is lifting weights with the primary goal of increasing the size and physical appearance of the muscles for personal gain or competitive purposes; Olympic-style weightlifting, which is a competitive sport involving the clean and jerk -and- snatch lifts; and power lifting, which is a competitive sport involving the dead lift, bench press, and squat lifts. This article will address the injuries associated with Olympic-style and power lifting weightlifting sports.

How Do Weightlifting Injuries Happen?

To understand how weightlifting injuries happen, it will be helpful to understand the different lifts involved in power and Olympic weightlifting:

1. Snatch - the weightlifter lifts a weighted barbell from a platform to a locked, overhead position in one continuous motion. The weightlifter generally receives the bar in a squatted position, moves the bar overhead, and then rises with it to a standing position.

2. Clean and jerk - the weightlifter squats to explosively pull a weighted bar from a platform to the upper chest, jumps the bar up as high as possible, pulls under the bar and stands, and finally propels the bar overhead.

3. Dead lift - the weightlifter, from a bent position, will lift a weighted bar from a platform by extending his/her legs and hips and pushing both feet into the floor until reaching an erect position.

4. Bench press - the weightlifter lays on a bench under a rack of stabilized weights and lowers a weighted bar to chest-level, pushes it up until the arms are fully extended, and lowers the bar back to the rack.

5. Squat lifts - the weightlifter stands erect with a racked, weighted bar resting on his/her shoulders. The weightlifter bends the knees to a squatting position with the full load of the weighted bar, returns to a standing position, and racks the bar.

Such lifts not only require great technique and strength, but also tremendous balance, speed, and flexibility. Not only is there an inevitable risk in weightlifting contests involving a contestant’s maximum lifting ability, but training to perform such explosive, powerful, and taxing lifts frequently leads to weightlifters suffering from a number of overuse injuries. In fact, a six-year study of elite weightlifters published in the Journal of Athletic Training showed that weightlifters were most prone to overuse injuries, not traumatic injuries.

What Are Some Common Weightlifting Injuries?

Strains

The above mentioned study also showed that low-back strains, also called weightlifter's back, is one of the most common injuries in the sport of weightlifting. Knee and shoulder strains were almost as prevalent. Weightlifters are also at risk for groin, wrist, forearm, hamstring, biceps, and abdominal strains.

A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is overstretched or torn. Such is often colloquially referred to as a pulled muscle. This injury can happen when a weightlifter does too much, too soon, and/or too frequently, which is called over-training. It can also happen when a weightlifter doesn’t use the proper safety gear and weightlifting techniques. Uncontrolled weights and pulling or jerking weights too hard can also abnormally stretch and tear a musculotendon unit.

Strains are graded based on how severely the muscle and/or tendon is stretched or torn:

Grade I - mild stretching or microscopic tearing of a muscle or tendon that usually doesn’t interfere with its normal functioning or range of motion.

Grade II - moderate tearing of a muscle or tendon that can cause mild to moderate discomfort, swelling, pain, bruising, warmth, and range of motion limitations.

Grade III - significant tearing of a muscle or tendon that can cause moderate to significant pain, discomfort, swelling, bruising, muscle spasms, warmth, range of motion limitations, and loss of normal functioning.

Tendinitis

Another common weightlifting injury is tendinitis, especially tendinitis of the knees, shoulders, wrists, and forearms. In weightlifting, the prevalence of tendinitis in so many different areas is due to the mechanics of lifting weights and the fact that it takes multiple muscle groups to accomplish the various lifts. For example, a squat will utilize the oblique, back, leg, hip, and forearm muscles.

Tendinitis is the irritation and inflammation of a tendon, which are the fibrous cords that connect muscles to bones. The irritation and inflammation can be caused by blunt force trauma. However, in weightlifting, the causative agent is most often repetitively stressing the tendon and/or lifting more weight than a tendon can handle, also called overloading.

The general symptoms of tendinitis include localized:

* discomfort and soreness
* dull achy pain
* limited range of motion
* possible snapping or popping sensation with movement
* swelling
* warmth

Of course, these are just a couple of the many injuries that weightlifters may suffer. Other common injuries include: bursitis, joint dislocations, muscle cramps and spasms, fractures, sprains, menisci injuries, and impingement syndrome.

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