Posted on July 25, 2019
Category: Signs and Symptoms Physical Injury
Whether your favorite pastime positions you in the thick of the action on the court, field or rink, or a friendly round of table tennis is more your speed, there’s always an opportunity for athletic injury. Luckily, the majority of these typical mishaps are preventable when you outfit yourself with the right knowledge, skills and gear.
Let’s talk about some of the most common sports injuries and how to evade them.
Why Sports Injuries Happen
We’ve all been there—we’re getting after it at a practice, pickup game or in the gym and something suddenly doesn’t feel quite right. The truth is, many athletic injuries can be caused by just such a drive to push yourself to the limit—overuse of a particular body part can be one of the most common causes of athletic-related pain. Stress on your muscles, tendons and bones can lead to a lingering or sudden injury—here are some more of the most common ways to spur it:
- Singular focus in your workout can lead to overuse—one of the primary reasons cross-training has become such a prevalent method of exercise. For example, if you spend an entire muscle-building session on the bench press, rather than mixing it up with some squats or leg lifts, your odds for a back or shoulder injury are considerably greater. Make sure to mix up the muscle groups you’re relying on in a given workout—offer each system a chance to rest to maximize your results.
- Misuse of equipment is a pretty straightforward way to hurt yourself. From the use of protective gear, such as helmets or padding, when engaging in contact sports, to something as simple as properly fit footwear, all types of gear and equipment can have an impact on your likelihood for injury. After all, an ill-fitting shoe could cause a trip or fall on a morning jog—and repeated use could turn poor arch support into a bone spur in your foot. Take that fit seriously, athletes!
- Poor diet can have an impact on your athletic safety, as well. Exercise demands caloric intake be up to snuff in order to constantly repair your muscle tissue, and calcium-rich foods help power up your skeletal system. Imbalanced diet can lead to weak muscles and bones, which is a good way to encounter a fracture or break.
Which Injuries are Most Common?
While good prevention can go a long way toward keeping athletic injuries at bay, sometimes they’re unavoidable. So which types of these sports fails are the most common to encounter? Let’s unpack some for which to keep your eyes peeled.
Sprains & Strains
You know you’ve always been told to “stretch before exercising?” Well, whoever said it wasn’t lying. In fact, sprains and strains count as some of the most likely athletic injuries. When a given ligament is overstretched or torn, a sprain can occur—and when a muscle or tendon gets the same treatment, a strain can occur.
So you didn’t go to medical school and aren’t entirely sure what the difference is between a ligament and a tendon? Well, a ligament connects bone to bone, while a tendon connects bone to muscle. That being said, it can be easy to confuse the two in terms of symptoms. Signs of injury most commonly found in both strains and sprains include:
- Pain around the joint
- Limited flexibility and motion
But one big differentiating factor in determining whether you’re dealing with a sprain is some residual bruising, spasms or cramping—these can be signs of an escalated issue, such as a torn tendon.
Prevention & Treatment
So how can you keep sprains and strains out of your medical chart? For starters, staying in good physical condition is the best way to avoid them. Ensure that stretching and strengthening exercises are part of your workouts.
If a sprain or strain has reared its ugly head, however, you have treatment options. Just remember the acronym RICE. It stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.
- REST—take time off from your regular workouts to give the injury time to heal
- ICE—use ice for 20 minutes several times a day, and avoid heat, as it can increase swelling
- COMPRESSION—consult with a doctor as to what type is best for your specific injury
- ELEVATION—raise the injured area above your heart to reduce swelling and pain
If your symptoms continue after trying out these at-home care methods, see your doctor to talk about physical therapy options before returning to normal activities.
If sports with a little more hands-on action are your go-to, there’s one particular injury for which you should be on the lookout. Because of their prevalence in contact sports like football or wrestling, dislocations can be a complaint among athletes. When a bone slips out of a joint, such as a finger, shoulder, hip or even jaw, dislocation has occurred—and this is most often spurred by an unexpected impact, potentially damaging ligaments, nerves or blood vessels.
So how do you know you’re dealing with a joint dislocation? Let’s walk through the symptoms you should be on top of:
- Swelling in the injury site
- Concentrated pain
- Visual evidence of out-of-place joints
Prevention & Treatment
So what are the best ways to keep those joints where they belong? Start by wearing proper safety gear during contact sports. In addition, staying active and keeping the muscles and tendons around your joints strong can shore up your defenses against future dislocation. Maintaining a healthy weight can also go a long way to preventing this type of injury—undue pressure from excess weight can lead to dislocation.
To treat a dislocation, RICE (see “Sprains & Strains” above) is recommended as an immediate course of action, but most severe dislocations require a doctor’s attention. A medical professional may reposition the dislocation and prescribe medication. Just remember—if you suspect a dislocation, treat it as
High-impact activities can graduate to potentially even more serious injury—fractures. While not all fractures are built alike, they should all be taken seriously when it comes to recognizing and treating them. For example, a stress fracture can occur when a muscle is unable to absorb added shock, transferring it instead to a connected bone and spurring a small crack. A fracture can occur when a bone breaks, typically due to excessive force or pressure.
But what if you consider yourself “tough” and tend to brush over symptoms of sports injury? Here are some of the signs to look out for if you suspect you or someone else may be experiencing a fracture:
- Intense pain
- Swelling, bruising and tenderness around the break
- Numbness or tingling
Severe fractures may exhibit additional symptoms, including pain or shock so intense the injured person may lose consciousness—let’s walk through a few of these types of fractures:
- Open fractures occur when a bone breaks through the skin
- Closed fractures occur when the break is concealed beneath skin with no surface breakage
- Complete fractures occur when a bone breaks completely
- Incomplete fractures occur when a bone is cracked but does not cleanly break
Prevention & Treatment
So now that we’re well-versed on some of the most painful types of fractures, let’s talk about how to prevent them, shall we? Unexpected impacts are sometimes impossible to avoid, but consuming enough calcium and vitamin D can be a big help in keeping your bones strong. You should also consider incorporating balance training into your workout regimen, as falls can also be a big factor in fractures.
All types of fractures require diagnosis and treatment from a doctor. A physician may recommend using the RICE method for stress fractures, and, depending on the severity, you may require a cast or boot. Treatment of a fracture depends on the type and location. The severity of your fracture could
Not all injuries exhibit immediate physical symptoms—but they can be just as damaging. If your favorite physical activities involve the potential for getting knocked around a bit, a concussion can be a common resulting injury. This is a condition caused by an impact that moves the brain rapidly inside the skull. Though it’s described as a mild brain injury, concussions need to be taken seriously, as it can have long-term effects.
So if you’re gauging whether or not you or a teammate or workout buddy is experiencing a concussion, some of the symptoms can be a clear sign it’s time for a checkup:
- Confusion, clumsiness or slurred speech
- Nausea, dizziness or blurred vision
- Headache or light or noise sensitivity
- Ringing in ears
- Difficulty concentrating or sluggishness
- Memory loss
- Behavior or personality changes
Prevention & Treatment
Wearing a helmet is key—and this includes when playing contact sports or something seemingly safe as riding a bicycle. Another way to help avoid concussion if you commonly engage in high-impact sports is strengthening your shoulder and neck muscles to absorb the shock of a hit to the head.
Concussion treatment requires a lot of rest. You’ll want to see a doctor, maybe even a specialist, depending on the severity of your injury. Most concussion symptoms last about a week—then you can usually ease back into
What Long-Term Effects Do These Injuries Have?
Athletic injuries are often about more than just that immediate pain. In fact, particularly when handled improperly, they can have dramatic long-term effects. (All the more reason to see a specialist ASAP to put together a course of treatment.)
For example, if exercise is part of your daily routine and helps contribute to your mental wellbeing, depression can sneak up on you when you’re down for the count. To combat this during your recovery period, consider giving yourself a consistent sleep schedule and consuming a healthy diet. And beyond these everyday home remedies, it can never hurt to talk to a mental health professional if your recovery period is weighing heavily on your thoughts.
Another potential lasting impact of a sports injury is arthritis, which entails a joint inflammation typically when surface cartilage is damaged. While it’s not an absolute occurrence when someone encounters an athletic injury, arthritis usually develops more quickly in people who’ve experience the above types of injuries than in those who haven’t. While it’s a condition that can’t be out-and-out prevented, there are methods your doctor can prescribe to minimize its impact.
Go Forth, and Be Protective!
The No. 1 way to be smart about avoiding athletic injury is prevention—heed the above advice to keep your body on the move. And if you’re set up to recognize when an injury may occur, the more quickly you act to treat it, the better. Talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen—and always remember to listen to what your body is telling you. Exercise with caution, and your wellness will thank you