Coronavirus: Injuries related to hobbies, chores and exercise are up

Increase in cases of pulled muscles, sprains, falls, cuts from knives and scalds during circuit breaker

A number of those injuries occurred in the kitchen, such as falls after slipping on the wet floor, cuts from knives and scalds from hot oil and water. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Cooped up at home during the circuit breaker period, which ended only earlier this month, people in Singapore turned to exercise, hobbies and household chores to keep busy and healthy.

Ironically, this led to an increase in related injuries.

Though hospitals and general practitioner clinics were unable to provide exact figures, healthcare providers confirmed that it was true.

Doctors at Mount Alvernia Hospital said they have seen more cases involving falls, sprains and hobby-related injuries.

Dr Oh Jen Jen, consultant and head of the hospital's 24-hour clinic and emergency services, said the hospital has seen a number of injuries that occurred in the kitchen, such as falls after slipping on the wet floor, cuts from knives and scalds from hot oil and water.

"Most injuries appear to be related to food preparation, with a smaller number related to do-it-yourself projects," said Dr Oh.

The clinic has also seen a number of hobby-related injuries, including children who cut or burned themselves doing art and craft activities.

But adults have also turned up at the clinic with similar hobby-related injuries. A woman was treated after puncturing her fingertip while using a sewing machine.

"The needle broke and a fragment of the needle was embedded under the patient's skin on her fingertip," Dr Oh said.

While most injuries of this type are minor and can be managed in the emergency department, a few required major procedures in the operating theatre, she added.

She said a male patient had to undergo a skin graft after suffering a severe hand injury in the course of using a chainsaw for gardening work.

More people with sports and exercise-related injuries have been showing up at some general practitioner clinics as well.

Dr Leong Choon Kit, a family physician at Mission Medical Clinic in Serangoon, said while the increase has not been significant, there have been more cases of sports and exercise injuries during the circuit breaker.

"Some examples include falls, sprains, strains and scraps from extra jogging, cycling, weight lifting and exercise," he said.

On average, Dr Leong said he was used to seeing no more than one case of sport-related injury every fortnight. In the last two months, he has been seeing one such patient every other day and sometimes treating two or three such injuries in a single day.

"Most of my patients sustained these injuries as a result of (being) 'weekend warriors'," said Dr Leong, explaining that this group does not exercise regularly but started working out more because they had more free time during the circuit breaker period.

Dr Lee Kai Lun, from the Phoenix Medical Group in Greenwich V in Seletar, said while he has not seen an increase in the number of injuries related to hobbies, chores or exercise, sports injuries are more common among the patients he has seen.

"Being at home more, there are more avenues for people to injure themselves either because they have not been active for a while or because they have pushed themselves too much," he said.

Many of these injuries are mild and include strained or pulled muscles and aching limbs that can originate from improper warm-ups or cool-downs, said Dr Lee.

"The important thing, I tell them, is to start low and go slow, the key is not to over-exert," he said, noting that because gyms or fitness centres are not open, many people have turned to online workout videos.

Fitness facilities and gyms were forced to close as a result of circuit breaker measures in April and have not been allowed to reopen.

Said Dr Lee: "Now you can learn from all these online videos. But without proper guidance, you can easily hurt yourself if you do not do the workout properly."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 14, 2020, with the headline Injuries related to hobbies, chores and exercise are up. Subscribe