While most issues with the musculoskeletal system can happen to both men and women relatively equally, the most common orthopedic injuries that affect men differ from those that affect women. Men are more prone to serious falls, such as from a ladder during home repairs or improvement projects. Men also tend to try to lift heavy things without help, jump into games without a warm up, or fly off jumps on their skis.
Men over the age of 65 years who experience fractures resulting from a fall are more vulnerable to severe complications like infection, another fracture, or even death (most likely in the case of a hip fracture).
Being aware of the common injuries suffered by men will help you to understand them better, thus knowing how to prevent them if possible, and also how to treat them.
Here are six common orthopedic injuries the surgeons at Ventura Orthopedic see frequently in male patients:
Hand and Wrist Fractures
Sporty men and handy men are more prone to hand and wrist fractures. A common injury for men involves fractures of the fingers (phalangeal) and of the hands (metacarpal), otherwise known as hand fractures. The hand and wrist are used so frequently throughout the day that the slightest pain can be seriously debilitating. Dozens of bones, joints and ligaments work together to allow us to perform functions properly. This leaves a lot of room for injury.
Contact sports such as football and basketball, as well as more extreme sports like mountain biking and skiing, account for many hand fractures from tackling and grappling with opponents.
Men are also more prone to serious falls, such as from a ladder, and falls are often broken by an outstretched arm, which results in different injuries depending on age. In the young, it may cause a fracture of the upper arm bone, or humerus, right above the elbow. In the elderly, the same fall often causes a distal radial fracture, a break near the wrist.
Achilles Tendon Tear
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. This tendon connects the calf muscle to the ankle bone and makes it possible for the foot to flex. An Achilles tendon tear is typically very painful, with pain presenting in the calf and heel. Those suffering this type of injury may experience inability to push off with the injured leg while walking.
This is another orthopedic injury that’s far more likely in men than it is in women, especially those participating in sports like track, football and basketball. Proper footwear and comfortable fitting shoes can help everyone prevent these injuries from occurring. Sports rehabilitation will almost always be necessary for an Achilles tear injury, helping to re-train the muscles to move correctly so that you can resume normal activity in the future.
The meniscus is the wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as a shock absorber between your thigh bone and shinbone to stabilize your knee. Healthy knees have two of these tough rubbery shock absorbers, but menisci are subject to frequent injury.
Athletes, particularly those who play contact sports or sports with a lot of pivoting or squatting, are at increased risk for meniscus tears. Older men are more likely to have degenerative meniscus tears. Tears are often accompanied by a “popping” sensation, followed by swelling, pain, knee instability and limited range of motion.
Soft Tissue Injuries
The previous injuries are typically caused by sports and other forms of physical activity, but soft tissue injuries can happen at any time for a number of reasons. Of course, they can occur as the result of a physical activity injury but they can also be caused by being worn down over time. This is why soft-tissue injuries are prevalent in men working in physical jobs, where movement and heavy lifting is a central aspect of their daily routines. Commonly, slips and falls are the primary culprits for workplace injuries.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
The rotator cuff refers to four tendons that attach the ribs and shoulder blades to the upper arm bones and allow the shoulders to rotate in their sockets. These tendons work within a tight space, so when the shoulder is pushed to or beyond its normal range of motion, the tendons can rub against ligaments or the acromion, the bony knob in the shoulder. This friction is called impingement.
The three main rotator cuff injuries are:
- Rotator cuff tendonitis — Inflammation of one of the tendons causing pain during upward reaching movements
- Shoulder bursitis — Inflammation in the pocket of fluid that lubricates the rotator cuff tendons — pain often worse at night
- Rotator cuff tear — Tear in one of the tendons after being weakened by inflammation
Osteoporosis is often under-diagnosed in men because most think of it as an exclusively female health problem. While Osteoporosis does indeed affect more women than men, 2 million American men already have osteoporosis. The condition is characterized by bone thinning that makes bones brittle and porous and likely to fracture. For men, osteoporosis typically occurs later in life than women and progresses more slowly.
The majority of men with osteoporosis have at least one secondary cause. In cases of secondary osteoporosis, the loss of bone mass is caused by certain lifestyle behaviors, diseases, or medications. Some of the most common causes of secondary osteoporosis in men include alcohol abuse, smoking, exposure to glucocorticoid medications, hypogonadism, gastrointestinal disease, hypercalciuria, and immobilization.
Men should speak with their doctor about what they can do to prevent osteoporosis.
Preventing Injury is Best
Preventing injury when possible should always be the goal. When you are participating in any physically demanding activity, appropriate footwear and safety equipment, as well as proper form, can go a long way toward injury prevention. Every workout or sporting event should start with a gentle warm-up to prevent common sports injuries. Getting warmed up increases blood flow to the muscles, gets you more flexible, and could decrease injuries
While exercise is good for keeping our bodies in shape, everyone should be careful not to overdo it and go too hard too soon. Overuse injuries are common and preventable. Especially as we age, ramping up activity intensity slowly and cooling down afterwards are key injury prevention strategies, and not just for exercise. Whether it’s hiking, running, or team sports, do some “pre-participation training” first by lightly working the relevant muscle groups in the weeks before the activity.
And learn to recognize when you are already fatigued and take a break or stop for the day. Muscle fatigue takes away all your protective mechanisms and really increases your risk of all injuries.
How Can I Get Started?
Orthopedic injuries are some of the more difficult and painful injuries you can sustain and they almost always require one to get proper medical treatment. If you have suffered from a break or fracture, dislocation, knee or rotator cuff injury, seek medical treatment right away.
You will likely be in a lot of pain depending on the complexity of your injury, but even if your pain is moderate, only a proper diagnosis by a professional will be able to determine what exactly has occurred and what needs to be done to remedy things.
The experienced and dedicated orthopedic surgeons at Ventura Orthopedics are here for you. We are committed to helping you through any procedure until optimum health, strength and mobility are restored.
Call us today at 800-698-1280 to schedule an appointment.