Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics

Athletes’ symptom anxiety linked to risk of injury

The anxiety experienced by elite athletes over illness symptoms is linked to the risk of being injured during competition and should be taken seriously, according to a study carried out at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics 2015. The way in which the symptoms progress and the nature of the sporting activity also influence the risk of injury.

“Elite athletes know their own bodies extremely well. If an athlete becomes anxious about injury or illness, this is a reliable indicator of the degree of seriousness. We have seen this also in previous studies. An athlete cannot lie to himself or herself,” says Professor Toomas Timpka of the Athletic Research Center, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences at Linköping University, one of the researchers who conducted the study.

In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, an international team of researchers led by Linköping University, Sweden, has investigated factors that predict the risk of injury or illness during competition. A second study by the team published in the same journal has investigated heat stress in athletes competing in the IAAF World Championships in Athletics 2015. Fifty countries took part, and around300 athletes completed a questionnaire detailing their health status one month before the world championships began. The researchers subsequently registered new injuries and illnesses that arose during the competition period.

Athletes who stated that they had been anxious about symptoms of illness before the competition had a five times higher risk of suffering injury during it. Anxiety about symptoms of injury, in contrast, was not clearly linked with an increased risk of injury.

“We were surprised that the results were so clear in this study among topflight athletes. We recommend that the teams include a clinical psychologist, thus enabling the athletes to talk openly about their anxiety for illness or injury when preparing for competitions. It is important that the athletes do not conceal any injuries from their trainers or doctors,” says Prof Timpka.

Symptoms that increased gradually before competition were more closely linked with the risk of injury during competition. The risk in this case was three times higher than the risk for other athletes. Prof Timpka believes that injuries that arise from overuse and for which the symptoms increase gradually may deceive athletes.

“The athlete has time to change the way in which he or she views the symptoms, and does not experience the same increase in anxiety. Anxiety-arousing signals do not have as strong an impact on athletes who have had problems for a long period. This makes it important to keep a close eye on such athletes,” says Prof Timpka.

Athletes competing in endurance sports had a ten times greater risk of injury or illness during the world championships than those competing in other types of sporting activity. This confirms the findings of previous research.

In the second study, the researchersexamined how athletes prepared to compete at high temperature and high humidity, and determined how many were affected by exertional heat illness (EHI).

“From a physiological point of view, carrying out sporting activity in such environmental conditions is not optimal. But it’s not easy to distinguish between illhealth caused by heat stress and the normal consequences of maximum physical exertion in these conditions. The study shows that methods are required to be able to diagnose dangerous EHI during major competitions,” says Prof Timpka.

The research has received financial support from the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), among others. Researchers in several countries have participated in the research, including researchers from Linköping University in Sweden, the Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Qatar, and the Université de Lyon in France.

  • doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096580

Hand surgery at the Neuro Spinal Hospital, Dubai

The hand is one of the finest structures in the human body and it is important in everyday life. What would we do without hands? They help us to feel the world, to eat, to write. Artists use hands to play music, to paint or sculpt.

If you look at your hand, even during simple motion, you can see how precise the motion is, how sensitive the fingers are, how many structures are involved in hand function. It is a complicated structure built of bones, tendons, muscles, ligaments, nerves, vessels and skin. Every element is vital for hand function.

The hand surgeon treats all structures of the hand. This surgeon sees the hand as a whole and tries to maintain its function. That is why hand surgery is a combination of many specialties like orthopedic surgery which deals with bone fractures, joints, ligaments and tendon injuries; neurosurgery which deals with nerve problems; vascular surgery for repairing vessels; and plastic surgery which is needed to treat skin problems and deformity of the hand. The hand surgeon combines all this knowledgeto make hand recovery as successful as possible.

A person with hand pain or malfunction should visit a hand surgeon. There are many common conditions that can be easily treated with many available methods.

Many severe deformations and limitations of hand function can be treated nowadays with surgery. Surgeons are able to remove contractures, replace missing tendons, reconstruct ligaments and nerves to regain good function of the hand.

At the Neuro Spinal Hospital, Dubai, conditions such as arthritis of the joints in the hand can be treated with implants. Surgeons are able to replace even small joints of the hand in order to give the patient pain free motion and function.

Hand surgery is also needed for some typical conditions like fractures and tendon ruptures, because they have to be treated a little differently than, for example, a fracture of the leg. Fixing hand fractures requires more precision and usually earlier and longer physiotherapy. There must be close cooperation between the hand surgeon and hand physiotherapist.

However, sometimes surgery is not necessary. For example, in some cases hand pain is due to tendon inflammation. Unfortunately, patients are often afraid of hand surgery, so they suffer for months without seeing a doctor. But for these diagnoses, they can often be treated with a simple injection. The injection is usually done with a small needle under ultrasound guidance so it is very precise and the medication works in the exact location of the pain.


Date of upload: 16th Sep 2017

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