All athletes are at risk of injury, but not all injuries are created equal. Some, such as lower extremity injuries, are much more common. These injuries can happen during high-contact sports, such as rugby, or through repetitive movements such as running. In fact, this is the most common type of injury and affects athletes regardless of their sport-from runners to those who play rugby and everyone in between. Patellar tendinopathy, Achilles tendinopathy, and plantar fasciitis are just a few of the many lower extremity injuries that can occur in the lower extremities. The challenge in treating these injuries is that doing so often requires immobilization, medication, and surgery. For this reason, many clinicians are now turning to shockwave therapy treatments to provide non-invasive, effective, and timely care for their patients.

Patellar tendinopathy largely affects athletes who use the tendon for repeated energy storage and release activities. This common injury presents as pain and tenderness just above or below the patella. Although data on the incidence of patellar tendinopathy is sparse, according to the National Institute of Health in the United States, it is clear this largely affects those above age 18. In fact, the NIH reports that there are double the number of patellar tendinopathy injuries in those over 18 as opposed to younger athletes. It is also worth noting that volleyball and basketball players are those most affected by this type of injury.

For those who suffer from patellar tendinopathy, which can become chronic, there is hope. Shockwave therapy has been proven to be extremely effective. In a randomized controlled clinical trial reported in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, shockwave therapy has been proven to be more effective than conservative, traditional treatments. In fact, ultrasounds revealed a significant increase in the vascularity of the patellar tendon and apparent reduction of thickness in this tendon after shockwave treatment when compared to conservative treatments.

Achilles tendinopathy largely affects elite runners. The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body but is nonetheless prone to injury. Symptoms include tendon pain and swelling, as well as an impaired load-bearing capacity. For elite runners, the lifetime risk of this injury is 52%, though it should be noted a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to Achilles tendinopathy. Treatment for this injury is often individualized and conservative treatments include NSAIDs, injection therapies, and transverse friction massage, to name a few. However, symptoms for many sufferers will persist even up to one year and involve multiple, costly treatments. For the many runners and other athletes who suffer from painful Achilles tendinopathy, shockwave therapy has proven to be an effective, efficient form of treatment. In fact, this modality provides a 76% improvement rate for Achilles tendinopathy.

Plantar fasciitis is yet another lower extremity injury commonly found in athletes for which shockwave therapy is proving to be useful. This is characterized by pain and stiffness of the main fascia (a fibrous connective tissue) on the bottom of the foot. This injury, while prevalent in many sports, is most often found in runners and soccer players. While different clinical treatments for plantar fasciitis abound, many involve medications, such as corticosteroids or NSAIDs. Other options for treatment include shims and insoles in shoes and physiotherapy. According to the NIH, when basic conservative treatment for plantar fasciitis fails, the only alternative consists of excision of the bone outgrowth. Above and beyond these methods of treatment, shockwave therapy has proven to be an effective, non-invasive, and long-term solution for this pernicious, painful injury.

Sports injuries are common. And, when it comes to athletes, lower extremity injuries are most common, accounting for roughly 42% of all sports injuries. By providing effective, non-invasive treatment options, your clinic can greatly increase its client base while providing much-needed respite for patients in pain.

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