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A primer on sports injuries


Sports injuries are caused by overuse, direct impact, or the application of force that is greater than the body can withstand structurally. They are also caused by repetitive stress associated with athletic activities. These can affect bones and or soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

Common injuries include:

  • Sprains
  • Bruises
  • Strains
  • Joint injuries
  • Nose bleeds

Sports Injuries can be classified according to the following:

Direct and indirect

Direct injuries are due to an external force and cause injury at the point of contact. Indirect injuries usually involve the athlete damage soft tissues, such as ligaments, tendons or muscles of the body through the internal or external forces. Injuries to the soft issue present more or less similar symptoms such as the onset of the swelling and pain.

Soft and hard tissues

Soft tissue injuries are any injuries to the skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons in the body, for example, a sprained ankle. These injuries are much more frequent than hard tissue injuries.

Injuries associated with hard tissues like bone and cartilage are termed as hard tissue lesions. A fracture is a good example of such an injury. At times, damage to the cartilage can also lead to more serious and chronic ailment such as the Osteoarthritis of the knee.

Overuse

Overuse injuries are caused by continuous or repetitive stress, improper technique or equipment, or overtraining, for instance, tendinitis in the shoulder of a swimmer due to an excessive amount of training.

Most common sports injuries include:

  • Bruises – a blow can cause small hemorrhages in the skin.
  • Knee joint injuries: Symptoms include pain, swelling, and stiffness. Tendons or ligaments, cartilage, may be affected.
  • Ankle sprain: symptoms include pain, swelling, and stiffness.
  • Concussion: A mild brain injury from a blow to the head, which may lead to loss of consciousness. Symptoms include a headache, dizziness, and loss of short-term memory.
  • Cuts and abrasions: are usually caused by falls. Knees and hands are particularly prone.
  • Dehydration: Excessive fluid loss can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • Dental damage: a blow to the jaw may break, break or dislodge teeth.
  • Groin pull/Strain: Symptoms include pain and swelling.
  • Hamstring strain: Symptoms are pain, swelling and bruising.
  • Nose injuries: A direct hit causes either blood or broken nose.
  • Stress fractures: Occur primarily in the lower extremities. The impact of repeated jumps or running on hard surfaces can stress and break bones.

Treatment for sports injuries

The treatment depends on the type and severity of the injury. Always consult your doctor if the pain persists for a couple of days. What you may think is a simple sprain can be a broken bone. Even if you may not have suffered from a broken pain, a persistent pain and swelling indicates other types of injuries such as the tear of the ligament. Since ligaments are the stuctures that provide stability to bones involved in a joint, if left untreated, a ligament injury can also progress to Osteoarthritis in the joint.

First aid for sports injuries

Suggestions on immediate treatment for joint injuries, sprains and strains and to prevent further damage include:

  • Rest: Avoid using of injured limb for 48-72 hours and keep the injured limb well supported.
  • Ice: Cold can reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice to the injured area for 20 min every two hours for the first 48-72 hours.
  • Compression: Apply a firm elastic bandage over the area, extending above and below the painful site.
  • Elevation: Raise the injured area above the level of the heart at all times.
  • No Heat: Heat can increase bleeding.
  • No Running: Excess running or exercise increases blood flow, delaying healing.
  • No Alcohol: Alcohol intake increases bleeding and swelling.
  • No Massage: massage increases swelling and bleeding, also delaying healing.
  • Referral: as soon as possible, see a doctor.

Physiotherapy can help rehabilitate the site of injury and, depending on the injury; it may include exercises to promote strength and flexibility. Returning to the sport after injury depends on the evaluation of your doctor or physiotherapist.

Physiotherapy Management

Physiotherapy rehabilitation of sports injuries include:

  • Electrical stimulation: mild electrical current or frequency provides pain relief by preventing nerve cells from sending pain impulses to the brain. Electrical stimulation may also be used to reduce swelling and make muscles contract limbs immobilized, which prevents muscle atrophy and maintain or increase muscle strength.
  • Cryotherapy / Cold Therapy: ice packs to reduce swelling by constricting blood vessels and limiting blood flow to the injured tissues. Cryotherapy eases the pain by numbing the injured area. It is used only for the first 48 hours after injury.
  • Thermotherapy / Heat: Heat pads cause blood vessels to dilate and increase blood flow to the site of injury. The increased blood flow helps the healing process by removing debris, and damaged cells carry healing nutrients to the site of tissue injury. The heat also helps reduce pain. Do not apply in the first 48 hours after injury.
  • Ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves that produce deep heat can be applied directly to the injured area. The ultrasound increases blood flow to promote healing.
  • Massage: Manual pressing, rubbing and handling soothe tense muscles and increase blood flow to the site of injury.

Any attempt to play before the injury heals properly only causes more damage and delays recovery. The greatest risk factor for a single soft tissue injury is a previous injury. While the injury heals, one can still maintain his or her fitness by choosing forms of exercise that don’t use the injured part of your body.

Prevention of sports injuries

Sports injuries reduced by following things:

  • Wear proper footwear.
  • Always warm up thoroughly by gently going through the motions of your sport and performing slow, sustained stretches.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after the game.
  • Try to avoid exercising during the hottest hours of the day, 11 am-3 pm.
  • Maintain a good level of fitness in general, especially in the off season (in the months between seasons playing for sport).
  • Strap or Belt those vulnerable joints, if necessary.
  • Use the proper safety equipment, such as mouth guards, helmets and pads.
  • Cross-train with other sports to ensure overall fitness and muscle strength.
  • Ensure training includes the right speed and impact work until the muscles can meet demands of a game situation.
  • Do not strive beyond your fitness level. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of training.
  • Use the proper form of exercises and techniques.
  • Allow adequate recovery time between sessions.
  • Cool down after sport with gentle and sustained stretches.
  • Have regular medical checkups.

Have a question?

Feel free to ask us for any help or information here!

Author: Dr. Kaleem Mohammed, BPT

Photo credit: Dean Hochman via Foter.com / CC BY

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