After spending a long week chained to a desk, many adults enjoy spending the weekend engaging in physical activities, such as golf, basketball, and football—unfortunately, this weekend warrior mentality is the perfect recipe for suffering a sports injury and requiring a visit to a sports injury specialist. The following looks at some of the most common sports injuries as well as steps you can take to remain injury free.
Sprains, Strains, and Other Common Sports Injuries
A sprain involves an injury to a ligament while a strain is an injury to tendons or muscle fibers. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect bones and joints. When a ligament is stretched beyond its normal limits, it can deform or tear. A strain results when overuse or overstretching causes tiny tears in tendons or muscle fibers. Some common injuries resulting from overuse of muscles, tendons, and ligaments include:
- Hamstring strain
- Ankle sprain
- Groin pull
- Shin splints
- Knee injuries, including ACL tears and patellofemoral syndrome
- Tennis elbow
Preventing Sports Injuries
While some sports injuries are unavoidable accidents, the majority are preventable. Your sports injury specialist may have tips for ways that you can prevent injuries in the activities that you participate in.
Most sports-related injuries occur when individuals push themselves beyond their level of conditioning and endurance. It is not realistic to expect our bodies to perform at the level of a trained athlete after being sedentary all week. By working out consistently throughout the week, you improve your overall conditioning, which will make it easier to enjoy your weekend activities and reduce your risk of injury. It is also important to warm up before engaging in any type of rigorous activity. A gentle warm-up increases blood flow, which makes muscles more flexible and reduces the risk of injury. If you are planning on taking part in a big game or another event, be sure to incorporate pre-participation training into your routine in the weeks prior to the activity. These activities should focus on the key muscle groups used in the activity. Finally, don’t play fatigued. Your technique and natural protective mechanisms suffer when you become overly tired, which increases your risk of serious injury.
The PRICE of Treating Common Sports Injuries
Most orthopedists recommend the PRICE method for treating minor sports-related injuries. The goal of the PRICE method is to limit the amount of swelling that occurs after an injury that can interfere with healing and reduce the range of motion. The principles of PRICE are as follows:
- P – Protect the area from further injury as much as possible by using splints, pads, or crutches as necessary.
- R – Rest and restrict your activity to keep from making the injury worse.
- I – Apply ice as soon as possible after the injury. Ice works wonders in reducing swelling. You should apply ice to the injured area for approximately 20 minutes every couple of hours for the first two days following an injury.
- C – Applying an elastic compression bandage to the area can help reduce inflammation; however, you should take care not to wrap the bandage so tight that you restrict circulation.
- E – Try to keep the injured area elevated above the level of your heart if possible to reduce swelling.
What You Can Do for Common Injuries
Besides utilizing the PRICE method for treating your injuries, there are a few steps you can take to speed your recovery:
- Hamstring strain – The hamstring is a group of three muscles located at the back of the thigh. Kicking outward while running or falling forward can overstretch or tear these muscles. Hamstring injuries can take six to 12 months to heal because of the constant stress to the area from walking. It is extremely important to avoid any activities that put additional stress on the area for as long as possible to reduce the risk of re-injury.
- Ankle sprain – An ankle sprain occurs when the foot is turned in such a way that the ligaments along the inside or outside of the ankle are torn or stretched. Exercises can help strengthen these ligaments and improve flexibility, which can reduce the likelihood of re-injury. A sports injury specialist or physical therapist can help you determine the best types of exercises for your injury.
- Groin pull – Hockey, football, soccer, and baseball all require frequent side-to-side motions that can strain the groin muscles along the inner thigh. Ice, compression, and plenty of rest are effective at healing most groin injuries; however, you should see a doctor immediately if you experience significant swelling.
- Shin splints – Shin splints are a type of stress injury typically associated running or other activities that involve repeated pounding of the bones of the lower legs. The symptoms can usually be treated with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Knee injuries – Activities that involve sudden stops or cutting side-to-side can cause a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament that connects the leg bone and the knee. This type of injury is extremely painful and often accompanied by a “popping” sound as the ligament tears. An ACL tear always requires immediate medical attention and possibly surgery. Another type of knee injury, called patellofemoral syndrome, occurs when the kneecap is repeatedly rubbed against the thigh bone. This injury is often seen in volleyball, basketball, and running. Engaging in only low-impact exercise for approximately six weeks can aid recovery.
- Tennis elbow – Activities, such as golf and tennis, that make repetitive use of the elbow can cause minute tears on the tendons of the elbow. The best remedy is to avoid the activity until the pain improves.
When to See a Sports Injury Specialist
You should never ignore pain that persists or worsens after using PRICE therapy for a couple of days. You should also seek immediate attention if you experience any of the following:
- Excessive swelling
- You cannot bear weight
- A bone or joint is visibly deformed
- Your skin changes color other than mild bruising
To schedule an appointment with an experienced sports medicine doctor, contact our office today.