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Posted 08/31/2021

Non-Pharmacologic Approaches to Athletic Injuries

One of the entry points for the misuse and overuse of opioids is during treatment for severe pain from athletic injuries.

Whether you are a competitive athlete or prefer a more recreational approach, injuries to the bones, muscles and joints are hard to avoid. Common sports injuries include strains, sprains, fractures, and damage to the knees, shoulders and spine.

To reduce your risk of athletic injury, it’s crucial to understand your sport and your body. And don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if you have questions or unique health conditions.

Here are several questions to consider:

  • Is this activity appropriate for my physical status?
  • Do I have a history of injury that should be considered?
  • Do I need specific protective gear?
  • What are the proper warm up and conditioning exercises?
  • Will this activity require a specific nutrition plan?
  • Do I need to learn proper mechanics and techniques of this sport?
  • How will I know when to slow down or stop?

The OSU Center for Health Sciences Athletic Training program educates future clinicians to prevent and treat injuries sustained by the athletic individual. Athletic trainers may work in elementary and secondary schools, colleges, hospitals, fitness centers, professional sports settings, and rehabilitation facilities.

When working with active individuals and patients, the primary goal of clinicians is to spend a large amount of time focusing on preventing injuries so that we do not have to spend longer periods of time treating and rehabilitating these musculoskeletal injuries said Matthew O'Brien, professor and coordinator of clinical education at OSU’s Department of Athletic Training. “

The program’s curriculum emphasizes conditioning as a key component of injury prevention.

“We strongly encourage all individuals, regardless of the level of activity, to engage in a structured program of functional flexibility,” said O’Brien. “This ensures pain free range of motion, a progressive sequence of muscular strength and endurance to withstand athletic activities coupled with maintaining cardiovascular training to ensure musculoskeletal health and healing from exercise, physical labor and sport activities.”

O’Brien also explained that the key for many active individuals is to listen to their bodies and make adjustments to their physical activity based on physical cues such as soreness, pain, fatigue or burnout; all of which may lead to injury and the need to control pain and inflammation.

Experts in addiction medicine at OSU’s National Center for Wellness & Recovery work closely with OSU’s Department of Athletic Training to develop curriculum that addresses addiction to opioids. “We provide education on the judicious use of opioids,” explains Jason Beaman, executive director of training and education at NCWR. “And because we realize that everyone is susceptible to opioid addiction, we teach our athletic trainers how to spot addiction in the early stages so they can direct patients to appropriate care.”

In the event of an athletic injury, there are several modes of pain control that can be implemented to avoid addiction including a comprehensive treatment plan of medications, therapy, therapeutic massage and exercise.

“Our curriculum addresses common ways to treat injuries without (or with low dependence) on pharmacologic means,” shared O’Brien.

Deanne Vick | August 2021