Feeling the Pain of Olympic Injuries

By Morgan Moore

Published 02/04 2014 10:52AM

Updated 02/04 2014 10:54AM

It's an all too familiar fate for many Olympic athletes - a severe injury keeps them on the sidelines before they can even compete.

NBC 2's Morgan Moore spoke with doctors about what these injuries mean to athletes, and what you can do to make sure you don't follow in their footsteps.

We've heard it time and time again this Olympic season...athletes dropping out of competition because they're just in too much pain.

But it's not just those in the big leagues who have to deal with sports injuries.   

From Lindsey Vonn to Evan Lysacek, sports injuries have taken their toll on many Olympic hopefuls.

"The training that these Olympic athletes undergo and are involved it is really remarkable," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gary Ulrich.

And that training can become a literal pain.

Dr. Gary Ulrich at the UAP Clinic spent part of his career working with Winter Olympic athletes.

He says that going for gold can push these members of Team USA to their limits.

"Really a very rigid schedule, it's an all day schedule. There are various components that going to the training," he said.

Many cold weather sports, like skiing, lock ankles into place, so the most common injuries plaguing these winter warriors are with the knee.

Only 60-percent of athletes who go down can compete where they once did.

"Often times the athletes will lose a level, then that will mean the difference of them making them an Olympic team and not making Olympic team," explains Dr. Ulrich.

IIt's not just professionals who have to deal with sports related injuries. But don't worry - there are things doctors say us amateurs can do as well.

Stretching can go a long way to help prevent injuries.   

Experts say beginning your work-out with an active stretch, like lunges, is the best way to warm up.

"With any stretch you should hold 15 to 20 seconds, otherwise it becomes a feel-good stretch and it's not actually increasing the elasticity or length of a muscle," said athletic trainer  Evert Siebert.
If you're recovering from an injury, a brace can really help get you moving again -- but don't rely on it for too long.

"Your muscles and ligaments want to do the work, so when you're getting back into a type of activity after injury we sometimes use bracing initially until the muscles and everything in the ligaments are 100% healed," said Siebert. 

And always make sure you're getting to the root of the problem, because not every injury is easy to diagnose.

"Our body is a chain so it's not always what's going on with the ankle, sometimes it something else further up the chain that's causing the problem so if you keep going after the knee, the ankle or whatever is hurting and you don't look elsewhere sometimes that problem will never get better," cautions Siebert.

And here's something else to remember -- even if you don't consider yourself "athletic" or gearing up for a work-out, stretching really is the best way to start every day.

It'll help in the long run, so something doesn't turn into a disabling -- and painful -- injury.

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