What is an injury?

It's all about stress

When it comes to understanding the mechanisms related to an injury, it is necessary to establish a point of reference that can facilitate its understanding.

Thus, the body is a living organism that must deal with many stresses during a given day. Stress, globally, is defined as the cumulative effect of interactions with its immediate environment, whether internal (inside the body) or external (outside the body).

In doing so, stress is a reality of any living organism: we continually face stressful agents. Our body adapts to it and offers a response.

For example, simply receiving the sun's rays on our skin causes a cascade of events at the hormonal and chemical levels, while a fall on the floor of cement will generate another response.

Balancing demands and capabilities

The Austrian-born researcher Hans Selye, who became a Canadian citizen, established the concept and definition of stress and its ramifications for the human body's responses. According to Selye, stress is the nonspecific response to any request placed on the human body.

Among other things, each "stressor" has a non-specific response since each is done in a unique way. In doing so, for example, a resounding alarm in the middle of the night, while you sleep peacefully, or a quick run after a gradual warm-up, will not be perceived in the same way by your body in addition to exposing separate responses.

Still according to Selye, who developed the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), the stress response develops in three stages:

  1. The Alarm Reaction Step;
  2. The Resistance Stage;
  3. The Exhaustion Stage.

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What is an injury?

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Adapt or get hurt

When an episode of mechanical stress occurs, for example, the body will face two possibilities, which are not so clearly dichotomous in reality ; since the line separating them is drawn by the human in order to better conceptualize the consequences of stress on the body.

Mechanical stress is defined as a force applied to the cells of the human body.

The body can then defend itself or suffer damage. When he is able to defend himself, he has the ability to cope with this stress or that stress is significant enough to generate a positive response. On another note, when he can not cope with the demand placed on him, he will suffer damage.

Thus, we can formulate the following:

Stress > Capacity = Injury
Stress << Capacity = Adaptation

When the balance between stress and the body's ability to cope with it is uneven, damage or adaptations can occur.

We can prevent injuries

By knowing how stress influences the mechanisms of injury, we can act to modulate its risks or when they occur, to recover more quickly in order to return to our level of activity, while improving variables influencing the ability to cope with different mechanical stresses.

In summary

Our day-to-day activities influence our ability to cope with stresses in order to adapt or suffer damage.

Stress comes in many non-specific forms and generates responses from our body. In addition, our body's response will depend on the magnitude of the said stress and our ability to withstand it.

When mechanical stresses are applied, for example, during a run or lifting a box from the ground, and that these surpass the capacity of your body to undergo them, an injury will occur.

In contrast, when we work on improving our capacities, we influence our potential resistance to future stresses by maximizing our ability to cope with them. In this way, we prevent future injuries by allowing our body to adapt. It is also through progressive training that we can regain our ability to undergo stress.


(1) Clark, M., Lucett, S., (2010) NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 409 pages.

(2) Selye, H. (1950). Stress and the General Adaptation Syndrome. British Medical Journal1(4667), 1383–1392.

(3) Selye, H. (1973). The Evolution of the Stress Concept: The originator of the concept traces its development from the discovery in 1936 of the alarm reaction to modern therapeutic applications of syntoxic and catatoxic hormones. American Scientist, 61(6), 692-699.