Sports injuries: Causes and treatment

Sports injuries are injuries that occur to athletes participating in sporting events. In many cases, these types of injuries are due to overuse of a part of the body when participating in a certain activity.

For example, runner’s knee is a painful condition generally associated with running, while tennis elbow is a form of repetitive stress injury at the elbow, although it does not often occur with tennis players. Other types of injuries can be caused by a hard contact with something. This can often cause a broken bone or torn ligament or tendon.

What Are Sports Injuries?

The term sports injury, in the broadest sense, refers to the kinds of injuries that most commonly occur during sports or exercise. Some sports injuries result from accidents; others are due to:

· Poor training practices
· Improper equipment
· Lack of conditioning
· Insufficient warm up and stretching

Although virtually any part of your body can be injured during sports or exercise, the term is usually reserved for injuries that involve the musculoskeletal system, which includes the muscles, bones, and associated tissues like cartilage. Traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries are relatively rare during sports or exercise.


Sports injuries can be broadly classified as either traumatic or overuse injuries. Traumatic injuries account for most injuries in contact sports such as football, rugby, American football and boxing because of the dynamic and high collision nature of these sports. These injuries range from bruises and muscle strains, to fractures and head injuries.

A bruise or contusion is damage to small blood vessels, which causes bleeding within the tissues. The body’s response to these sports injuries is defines as – inflammation. The signs and symptoms could be anywhere from pain, redness, tenderness, warmth to swelling.

Fortunately, most sports injuries can be treated effectively, and most people who suffer injuries can return to a satisfying level of physical activity after an injury. Even better, many sports injuries can be prevented if people take the proper precautions.

The most common sports injuries are:

· Sprains and strains
· Knee injuries
· Swollen muscles
· Achilles tendon injuries
· Pain along the shin bone
· Fractures
· Dislocations.

Acute Injury

Acute injuries, such as a sprained ankle, strained back, or fractured hand, occur suddenly during activity. Signs of an acute injury include:

· Sudden, severe pain
· Swelling
· Inability to place weight on a lower limb
· Extreme tenderness in an upper limb
· Inability to move a joint through full range of motion
· Extreme limb weakness
· Visible dislocation/break of a bone

Chronic Injury

Chronic injuries usually result from overusing one area of the body while playing a sport or exercising over a long period. Signs of a chronic injury include:

· Pain when performing activities
· A dull ache when at rest
· Swelling

What Should I Do If I Suffer An Injury?

Whether an injury is acute or chronic, there is never a good reason to try to “work through” the pain of an injury. When you have pain from a particular movement or activity, STOP! Continuing the activity only causes further harm.

When and How to Treat at Home
If you don’t have any of the above symptoms, it’s probably safe to treat the injury at home? If pain or other symptoms worsen, it’s best to check with your physician or a Physiotherapist.

Use the RICE method to relieve pain and inflammation and speed healing. Follow these four steps immediately after injury and continue for at least 72 hours:
· Rest. Reduce regular exercise or activities of daily living as needed. Reduces further strain or injury.
· Ice. Apply an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to six times a day. A cold pack, ice bag, or plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel can be used. To avoid ice burn, do not apply the ice directly on skin or for more than 20 minutes.
· Compression. Compression of the injured area may help reduce swelling. Compression can be achieved with elastic wraps, special boots, air casts, and splints.
· Elevation. If possible, keep the injured ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist elevated on a pillow, above the level of the heart, to help decrease swelling.
Today, the outlook for an injured athlete is far more optimistic than in the past. Sports medicine has developed excellent procedures to help athletes heal and, in most cases, return to sports.


The author is a Sports Performance Enhancement Specialist

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Also read:

Important rules of exercise
Sports nutrition: Fuel your performance

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