THE GYM EXERCISE MOST LIKELY TO CAUSE INJURY

GYMI f your New Year’s resolution focuses on health or fitness, you’re probably not alone. Losing weight, getting in shape, and just working toward feeling healthy are among the most popular goals men and women set when the calendar rolls over.

While this resolution may come and go every year, you’re more likely to find workout inspiration from social media today than in years past. Online personalities and their fitness profiles may motivate you to get off the couch and start sweating, yet some experts warn against the misinformation, danger, and injuries that can occur from following their advice or routines.

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In reality, there are many ways injuries and emergency room visits can happen as a result of working out. To learn more, we analyzed workout-related emergency room visits in 2016 reported to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to see what the riskiest exercises might be, what equipment may cause the most injuries, and which body parts could need the most protection. Read on to learn more.

Pain With Gains

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Whether you’re training for a race or are logging your weekly cardio sessions on the treadmill – running can be dangerous for experts and casual joggers alike. Usually occurring when a person pushes him or herself too far, more than 1 in 3 workout-related ER visits in 2016 with and without equipment involved running and treadmills.

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While typical running injuries may involve shin splints, stress fractures, and runner’s knee, many can be avoided by proper pacing. Avoiding overuse and incorporating the right stretches before hitting the pavement may help you avoid dangerous accidents. For runners who prefer indoor options or the added convenience of a treadmill, there are still strains and injuries to be aware of. Things like plantar fasciitis can sometimes be corrected with the right shoes, while behavioral changes like reducing the amount of time spent on the treadmill or finding more supportive exercise equipment can solve various other issues.

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General exercise accounted for 1 in 4 injuries without workout equipment, while general exercise machines (11 percent), stationary bikes (nearly 10 percent), and jump ropes (about 8 percent) led to the most emergency room visits in 2016. Many workout wounds can be avoided by warming upproperly and not pushing past the pain.

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Anatomy in Agony

Not every workout-related injury is the result of overuse or strain. As with many of the millions of emergency room visits recorded each year by the NEISS, sometimes the physical trauma suffered during regular workout sessions are just accidents.

There are many ways to incorporate medicine balls into your set. If used properly, they can work out the core, legs, hips, arms, and more. Some of these exercises may involve throwing or slamming the ball against another surface, or even overhead and catching it again. As a result, the most common medicine ball injuries involved one of the most sensitive parts of the body: the head. Jumping rope and the pull-up bar led to similar accidents, while tools like resistance bands led to injuries to the eye.

Stationary bikes, ellipticals, rowing machines, and weights were the most likely to result in upper torso injuries. The neck, lower back, and shoulders are among the most common places to experience a workout injury and can be influenced by a mixture of elements including posture, physical strain, and poor form.

Treacherous Tools

Based on 2016 data from the NEISS, 34 percent of women and 31 percent of men who visited the ER for a workout-related injury used the treadmill. In 2014, there were 24,400 treadmill injuries reported by emergency rooms across the country, and while slips and strains may be the most common causes of dangerous run-ins, broken bones, abrasions, bleeding, even chest pain can be a result of using or overusing treadmills.

Running isn’t the only way you can seriously hurt yourself at the gym. We found 10 percent of workout-related emergency room visits involving women stemmed from accidents on stationary bikes and jumping rope, while 11 percent of visits from men were linked to weights and 10 percent from pull-up bars. Weightlifting can be beneficial regardless of your fitness goals, but poor form, taking on too much weight too quickly, and overtraining can lead to muscle overload and injury. A consultation with a doctor is often necessary before starting a new workout routine and may include stopping immediately if you experience pain or discomfort.

Erroneous Exercise

No matter your fitness goals, accidents and injuries can happen whether you incorporate workout equipment into your routine. Moreover, these injuries can happen anywhere on your body with any degree of severity.

While upper and lower torso injuries were the most common body parts in peril for men, lower torso, knee, ankle, and upper torso injuries were the most common for women. With 13 percent of workout-related ER visits for women involving knee pain and another 12 percent related to ankle injuries, women might want to be especially careful of activities that put unnecessary strain on their lower extremities. Knee pain can affect men and women of all ages and may be compounded by certain medical conditions including arthritis or other physical injuries.

While less common, ER visits for men and women also involved injuries to the head (6 percent each), face (3 percent for men), and foot (7 percent for women and 6 percent for men).

Unbalanced Hazards

You may have heard the scale can be your biggest enemy when accomplishing a new fitness or weight-related goal, but did you know it’s also been linked to physical injury and even ER visits?

More common among older generations such as baby boomers (17 percent) and the silent generation (60 percent), 29 percent of all scale-related accidents caused damage to the head. Older exercisers aren’t the only ones hurting themselves on the scale, though. In 2016, 1 in 10 hospital visits involved Gen Zers, while 7 percent each involved millennials and Gen Xers. More than simple bumps or bruises, 21 percent of accidents that occurred while Americans were weighing in resulted in fractures and another 17 percent in contusions.

Easy Does It

You don’t need to be training for a triathlon or competing in professional sports to put your body in danger during exercise or activity.

As our research shows, it doesn’t even take heavy equipment to injure your head, eyes, or another body part. While poor form and overuse can lead to painful strains or injury, some exercises and equipment can cause serious damage including broken bones, lacerations, and dislocations. Being aware of your surroundings and making sure you’re getting workout advice from trained professionals can help you stay safe while sweating it out at the gym.

Methodology

We collected 2016 data on all exercise-related emergency room visits from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). This government-backed data source is run by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and is accessible to the general public. The NEISS does not always specify exact workout equipment, so data did not accommodate unknown or unspecified injury types.

Fair Use Statement

Want to spread awareness of the potential dangers involved in working out? Feel free to share the results of our study with your readers for any noncommercial use. Just make sure to link back to this page, so our contributors earn credit for their work too. 

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