Sport has many health benefits. It helps us sleep well, maintain a healthy weight, have a good mood, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and socialize. However, the risk of injuring yourself while exercising is always present; by not warming up correctly, a fall, a bad step, by colliding with an object or person, or simply by not being in shape.
Table of Contents
In this new entry on the NewCity Medical Plaza blog, we will talk about the most common injuries in sports. Let’s get started!
Most common injuries
Sprains and Strains
A Strain or Sprain is the torsion of a ligament; the tissue that connects the bones of the joints. Falls, blows and inappropriate movements are the main causes of sprains and their symptoms are pain, swelling, difficulty moving the joint and sometimes bruising. Spraining a ligament can sometimes sound like a snap or tear.
Strains are stretching or tearing of tendons or muscles. Tendon is tissue that connects muscle to bone and extreme stretching or twisting can cause a Strain, either suddenly or over time. The back and hamstring muscles are the most prone to strains, and strains are common in contact sports. The symptoms are: muscle spasms, pain, inflammation and difficulty in movement.
In case of minor Sprains and Strains, the recommended treatment is the R.I.C.E. method: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. That is, rest the injured area, apply ice, compress the area with a bandage or splint, and elevate the area to help reduce swelling.
Over the counter medications are also recommended to reduce inflammation and reduce pain, and lastly stretching exercises.
The knee is a complex joint that is made up of cartilage, bone, ligaments, fluid and we can move it thanks to the muscles and tendons.
The most frequent knee injuries associated with sports are:
- Knee ligament injuries from twisting, pulling, changes in speed, pace, and direction.
- Meniscus tear, that is, a fibrous cartilage in the shape of a crescent that cushions the impacts on the knee and can break when twisting or rotating the joint excessively.
- Bursitis is an injury to the bursae, or fluid-filled sacs, which can become inflamed from joint overuse.
- Fractures of the patella, lower femur, upper tibia, or fibula. These injuries are usually caused by heavy blows, falling on the knee, sudden turning movements, or colliding with an object or person.
- Kneecap or joint Dislocation.
- Pieces of tissue or bone from fractures or dislocations trapped in the joint.
- Iliotibial band syndrome, colloquially known as runner’s knee (because it is common in marathon runners), is an injury in which the ligament that extends from the pelvic bone to the tibia becomes so tight that it rubs against the femur.
Knee Injuries can also be treated with the R.I.C.E method when they are minor, with over the counter medications, immobilizing the joint with splints or bandages and with the use of orthopedic devices. In more serious injuries, surgery and subsequent rehabilitation may be required.
Muscles become inflamed as a reaction to being subjected to extreme stress, such as overexertion in sports, poor stretching or as a result of a blow. In some cases, this ailment affects various muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia.
Muscle Inflammation is not a nuisance that interrupts daily life, but it does cause constant pain when making movements with the affected muscles. To avoid it, it is recommended to do a good stretching routine before and after a sports practice.
In other cases, the cause of muscle pain is an injury to the fibers and this leads to sharp and intense pain localized to a particular point.
Suggested treatment for minor muscle injuries is ice, rest, massage, and over the counter anti-inflammatories.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
The Achilles Tendon is the largest tendon in the body, connecting the calf muscles, gastrocnemius and soleus, to the heel bone. The most common injuries in this area are:
- Tendinitis. Inflammation of the Achilles tendon is usually a consequence of overuse during sport. Symptoms are severe pain and tenderness in the area when walking or exercising. If left untreated, the pain can become chronic.
- Tendinosis. Achilles tendon degeneration is a chronic-degenerative condition caused by continuous stress that tears the area apart and causes collagen problems. It is a very painful condition that can reduce mobility and strength.
- Rupture. An Achilles Tendon tear is a very painful injury that is usually the result of an injury or direct blow to the ankle, for example when the calf of one leg contracts while an external force stretches it. Symptoms are severe pain, clicking sound at the time of injury, swelling, inability to stand on the affected foot and inability to move the toes.
Achilles tendon injuries can be serious, so it is essential to visit a doctor.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
The Rotator Cuff is a complex group of muscles and tendons that support the upper arm with the shoulder socket. Its purpose is to give stability to the shoulder and allow the movement of the arm in any direction.
Rotator Cuff Injuries are frequent and are usually the result of repetitive movements, as well as activities with the arm above the head.
Sports such as baseball, tennis, basketball and swimming often have athletes with injuries such as:
- Rotator Cuff Tear
Rotator Cuff Injuries can cause stabbing pain when lifting the arm, moving it, reaching behind the back, reaching for an object in the hand, lying on the affected side, loss of strength, and a clicking sound when moving the arm.
Conventional treatments for a minor injury include: rest, use of cold packs on the affected area, gentle physical therapy exercises to strengthen the shoulder and improve its movement, and over the counter pain relievers. In more serious cases, other options are recommended like heat application, electrical stimulation of the nerves and muscles as well as surgery in order to repair the tears.
Exercises like lifting weights add a lot of stress on the spine, especially on the intervertebral discs, whose purpose is to act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae.
Other sports that add pressure on the spine include cycling, golf, tennis, skiing, athletics, and swimming, although virtually any sport and physical activity adds some strain on the back.
Weight lifting can add a lot of stress on your spine. This is especially true for people who are middle-aged and older because the spinal discs can dry out and become thinner and more brittle with age. The discs are the “shock absorbers” between the bones (vertebrae) of the spine.
Stretching before and after exercise, avoiding overload, and having good posture during exercise go a long way in preventing injuries.
The elbow is a joint made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and fluid that allow arm movement. The most common causes are falls, blows in the practice of contact sports and excessive use of the joint such as in golf, tennis or basketball.
The most frequent injuries in the shoulder are: fractures, tendinitis, strains, dislocations, bursitis and medial epicondylitis.
The most common injuries to the elbow are biceps and triceps sprains, olecranon bursitis, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, median neuritis, and pronator teres syndrome.
The most recommended treatment for elbow injuries is physical therapy to restore movement, relieve pain and strengthen the muscles.
A concussion is a condition that can lead to nerve damage. It is caused by head injuries that usually come from a blow or fall.
This injury is common in sports that involve high-speed collisions, such as rugby, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, American football, and it is estimated that no sport is free of this risk. In addition, athletes are vulnerable to repeat injuries after recovery, with a 2-4 times chance of having another concussion at some point, even with a less severe impact.
The symptoms of this injury are:
- Loss of Knowledge
- Confusion or Lightheadedness
- Slow Response
- Recent Memory Loss
- Double vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Balance Disorders
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea and vomiting
In the event of a blow to the head, it is essential to visit a doctor to evaluate the possibility of a Concussion. Your treatment can be total rest, stop physical activity or sports for an indefinite time. There are no specific medications for Concussion, but pain relievers are recommended for pain and swelling.
What to do in case of an injury?
If you were injured during a competition or game, go immediately with the available medical services. But if the injury occurred in a place where there are no doctors, get up slowly, sit or lie down to reduce the pain a little and, if you can, apply ice as soon as possible.
When to go to the doctor?
If the pain persists after a few days and/or it becomes more intense, visit your doctor. If you can’t move, the joint becomes deformed, or the bone sticks out, go to the ER.
Some frequently asked questions
Will my injured area be as strong as before the injury?
This depends on recovery, specifically physical therapy, postural reeducation, and muscle strengthening exercises. If you do all of that, you’ll be able to get back into the sport with less risk of re injury.
How long should it take before you can resume normal activities?
It depends on the type of injury, degree and recovery. Generally, you’ll be able to return when your doctor says it’s okay, or when you no longer have pain or swelling.
Should I See a Sports Medicine Specialist?
If the injury is of medium or high severity, it is most recommended to see a specialist in sports medicine, trauma and physical therapy for treatment and reconditioning.