A simple step forward in life can lead to a painful strain or sprain, and if you play sports professionally, at an amateur level, or as a weekend warrior, you probably already know some of the trials and tribulations. Nothing can beat the sense of satisfaction, thrill, and fulfillment you get from competition, especially if you hang out behind a desk all week. As you may have already guessed, strains and sprains are the most common sports injuries.
Sprains and Strains
Ligaments are what connects our joints and bones, and injuries to ligaments are consider sprains. Tendons, or muscle fibers, are strings that tie our muscles to bones. Injuries of this nature are referred to as strains or pulled muscles. You know that gooey, green slime stuff you see on television sometimes? Well, that’s kind of like our tendons and ligaments, they stretch when we add stress to them and later return to the normal state unless they don’t.
To be more specific, this is a listing of the most common sports injuries.
- Sprained ankles
- Pulled groins
- Strained hamstrings
- Shin splints
- Torn ACL and other knee related injuries
- Tennis Elbow (also known as golf elbow)
- Achilles Tendinitis
- Lower back strains
- Runner’s Knee
Best Prevention Effort is Avoidance
The most effective way to manage injury is to avoid them. Easier said than done, huh? Consistently practicing regular warmups before exercise or sports participation not only provides you with added health benefits, they also help keep your body stronger so it can withstand injuries. Certainly not a foolproof method because damages are often unavoidable, but still a helpful addition to your daily activities. Simple stretching is another method to help keep your muscles toned.
Of course, you also want to avoid playing any sport for too long if you haven’t played in a while. Sorry gang, if you haven’t been keeping up with regular physical activity, it’s not a good idea to hit the field all day on that weekend reunion! There are at least a few of us who just aren’t spring chicks anymore. That’s how overuse injuries can happen, and they are avoidable. When your muscles are tired, it’s when you become far more prone to injury, so don’t overdo.
Fortunately, these common sports injuries are usually mild to moderate in nature. Things may not feel too great; however, everything is still where it belongs, usually. And as always, let us help you learn how to treat mild to moderate injuries.
- An ankle sprain usually happens when your foot is abnormally turned too far inward, and it’s important to keep your ankle flexible with stretching exercises. Stretching also helps prevent re-injuring the area. Ice and elevation help with swelling. A high ankle sprain heals more slowly, and you should seek professional medical advice if that is the case. If you have sensitivity above your ankle, it is likely a high ankle sprain.
- A groin pull happens most frequently when you move side to side and in ice hockey, soccer or football. If you experience significant swelling in the area, seek medical help as soon as possible. Otherwise, ice and compression heal in most cases. Be careful not to return to the activity too soon because re-injury may occur.
- The hamstring is one of three muscles in your thigh and behind the knee. Just walking affects your hamstring, and that is the reason it can take so long to heal. It’s also tough for most athletes to stay on the sidelines long enough to allow full healing. Waterskiing, running, and hurdles are the sports that typically create hamstring problems. Treatment includes rest and keeping weight off the leg, ice, compression, and elevation for swelling and anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen helps with pain and swelling. Be sure you don’t overdo the medication as it has side impacts. And then stretching helps save you from possible re-injury. Check with your doctor before beginning any stretching routine.
- Shin splints, most often caused by running, are a pain in the front of your leg. In most cases, these can be taken care of with rest and icing. A tiny bone break or stress fracture is possible, so if pain persists, please see your doctor.
- Knee-related injuries are not only among the most common injuries, but they are also the most severe. An ACL tear can be caused by quick stops, side steps or hard hits, as in football, and you may hear the dreaded “pop” when it happens. It can be a career-ending ordeal for professionals, and it most often requires surgery. See a doctor with any knee injury.
- Officially called epicondylitis, tennis or golf elbow is most typically experienced by 30 to 60-year olds. It is a pain felt on the outside of the elbow and rest usually takes care of the problem. So, lay off the game for a few until your elbow feels better.
- Achilles tendinitis is most often seen in running sports, and it is an inflammation in your heel. If not adequately treated, tendinitis can make running nearly impossible. To prevent injury or re-injury, stretch and strengthen your calves. Again, rest, ice, compression, and elevation are the best treatments. If you return to running too soon, this could become annoyingly chronic.
- Concussions are brain injuries and can be quite severe. You may or may not lose consciousness; however, you are likely to feel dizzy, disoriented or off balance. Seen most frequently in football, hockey, soccer, and boxing, it can take months to fully recover from a concussion. Multiple concussions over time may lead to permanent damage.
- Lower back strains are less common sports-related injury and more often the result of obesity, and individuals with a sedentary lifestyle. However, it can affect baseball players, golfers, runners, and cyclists. The best treatment is rest, ice, and compression.
- Runner’s knee is one of the most common knee injuries, and it is related to the kneecap. It is recognized by a variety of aches and pains and is an irritated tendon below the kneecap. Be sure you replace your shoes regularly for optimal cushion, run on a softer surface, strengthen your quads and take more rest days in between activity and this malady hopefully can stop being a bother to you.
Shoulder injuries are most often dislocations, strains or sprains, and misalignments. Our shoulders are our weakest joints, and injuries can usually be taken care of with rest and ice; however, if you are still in pain after two weeks, please see a physician.
Around the front upper side of your thigh are your hip flexors. They are there to help raise your knee toward your body and then push it away again. If you have a job sitting all day or a sedentary lifestyle, it’s easy for these muscles to weaken over time. As with most injuries, pain is the first sign. Fifteen to 20-minute icings for the first 48 to 72 hours is recommended. After that time frame, you may apply heat in the same manner. More than two weeks of pain is an indication that it’s time to see a doctor, and physical therapy may be needed.
A traumatic injury, like a collision or a fall, may create a bone break or fracture, and in most cases, you’ll know thanks to the severe pain felt immediately. If this is the case, see a doctor right away so that an X-ray can confirm or deny a break and the extent of any damage. When possible, you most likely can be treated by immobilizing the area. Sometimes, surgery may be required.
Even though you’re a rough ‘n tough Superman or woman, please be aware and act smartly regarding injuries. See a doctor if you notice:
- Significant swelling
- Skin color changes
- That you are not able to put weight on the area
- Anything abnormal about your movements
- That it isn’t improving
Being active and involved in regular sports play is a great thing at any age, so despite exposure to injury, you’re taking good care of yourself, and if you remain active and do proper warmups before any exercise, you’ll reduce the risk of injury or re-injury. Let’s be careful out there people!