What are sports injuries?
Sports injuries are injuries that most commonly occur during sports or exercise. Sports injuries may occur because of accidents, poor training practices or with use of improper gear. Injuries may also be caused when an individual is not medically fit or because of insufficient warm up and stretching exercises.
Some of the common injuries suffered by sports personalities include:
- Sprains and strains
- Swollen muscles
- Knee injuries
- Joint dislocations
- Pain along the shin bone
- Achilles tendon injuries
How does an acute injury differ from a chronic injury?
Sports injuries are generally classified in two types – acute and chronic.
Acute injuries are the sudden injuries that occur during playing or exercising and include sprained ankles, strained backs, and fractured hands. Individuals with acute injuries may present with signs such as,
- Sudden, severe pain
- Unable to place weight on lower limb, on leg, knee, ankle or foot
- Tenderness in an upper limb, may be in arm, elbow, wrist, hand or fingers
- Unable to move a joint as normal
- Extreme limb weakness
- Visible dislocation of bone or joint
Chronic injuries happen from overusing one part of the body for playing a sport or exercising, preferably when practiced for a longer duration. Signs of chronic injury include:
- Pain when performing an activity
- Dull ache when at rest
What should I do if I suffer an injury?
Regardless of the type of injury, acute or chronic, avoid working through the pain of an injury. On experiencing pain from a particular movement stop playing or exercising. Continuing the activity may worsen the condition. Some injuries may require immediate medical intervention while others can be self treated.
When is the medical intervention required?
Consult your doctor if:
- You experience severe pain, swelling, or numbness
- You can’t tolerate any weight on the area
- Pain or dull ache of an old injury
- If pain is accompanied by swelling or if you feel the joint as unstable
When to treat the injury at home?
If you don’t have any of the signs that require medical intervention, a safe treatment may be obtained at home. If pain or other symptoms get worse, please consult your sports surgeon. Use the Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) method to relieve pain, inflammation and for quick healing. Follow the RICE procedure immediately after an injury and continue for at least 48 hours. The RICE procedure is,
- Rest – Reduce regular exercise or activities. If your ankle, knee or foot is injured, take weight off of it. A crutch can help and use the crutch on the part other than the injured limb. For an instance, if left part of the body is injured use the crutch on right side and vice versa. This will help you lean away and relieve weight on the injured part.
- Ice – Apply an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes, four to eight times a day. You can use a cold pack, ice bag or plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel. Take care to avoid cold injury; do not apply the ice for more than 20 minutes.
- Compression – Compression (applying even pressure) on the injured area reduces swelling. Injured are may be compressed using elastic wraps, special boot, air cast, or splints. Your sports surgeon may suggest you the device appropriate for your condition.
- Elevation- Raise the injured area to the level above your heart, this helps in reducing the swelling. Pillow can be used for elevation.
What are the various approaches for treating sports injuries?
More often, every sports injury requires RICE treatment. In addition, your sports surgeon may recommend the following treatments:
Use of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduces the inflammation and pain. Some of the common NSAIDs used are aspirin, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, or naproxen sodium. These are available as over the counter drugs. Acetaminophen may also be recommended.
It is a common treatment for all sports injuries. Avoid the movement of injured part to prevent further damage. Slings, splints, casts and leg immobilizers are used for immobilization.
Severe injuries may require surgery such as the torn tendons and ligaments or dislocated and broken injuries.
Rehabilitation involves exercises and is an important part of sports injury treatment. Early mobilization starts with gentle range of motion exercises and then moves on to stretching and strengthening exercises. Avoid painful activities and concentrate on those exercises that will improve function in the injured part. Don’t resume your sport until you are sure you can stretch the injured tissues without any pain, swelling, or restricted movement.
All injuries need time to heal so proper rest helps the process. So you must also take time to rest after an injury.
Electro stimulation, cold packs, heat packs, ultrasound treatment and massage are the other therapies help the healing process.
How to prevent sports injuries?
Practicing the below mentioned preventive tips can help you avoid sports injuries:
- Avoid bending knees past 90 degrees when doing knee bends
- Avoid twisting the knees when you stretch an keep your feet flat as much as possible
- Land with your knees bent when you jump
- Warm up exercises are compulsory before any sport
- Avoid extreme warm up exercises
- Relax well after hard sports
- Use appropriate sports gears
- Use the softest exercise surface available
- Run on flat surfaces
- Don’t be a “weekend warrior” packing a week’s worth of activity in a day or two
- Learn to do your sport right
- Use safety gear
- Accept your body’s limits
- Increase your exercise level gradually
- Strive for a total body workout of cardiovascular, strength-training, and flexibility exercises
For parents and coaches
- Try to group children according to their skill level and body size, not by their age, preferably for contact sports
- Match the child to the sport, and don’t push the child too hard to play a sport that may be a hard to your child
- Choose sports programs that have certified athletic trainers
- See that all children get a physical exam before playing
- Don’t make the child play when injured and get the child medical attention if needed
- A safe environment should be provided for sports
- Be in proper condition to play the sport
- Get a physical exam before playing
- Follow the rules of the game
- Know how to use athletic equipment
- Wear appropriate protective gear
- Avoid playing when you are very tired or in pain
- Make warm-ups before and cool downs after you play
What are the recent advances in treating sports injuries?
Researches in sports medicine explored many new ways of treatment.
- Arthroscopy – It uses a small fiber optic scope put through small cuts in the skin to see inside a joint.
- Tissue engineering – Uses a person’s own tissues or cells to help heal injuries.
- Targeted pain relief – Special patches containing pain relievers are applied at the site of injury.
- Advanced imaging techniques – Diagnostic tools such as X-rays will lead to better diagnosis and treatment.
Hand and Wrist Injuries
The hand and wrist are more prone to injuries and the problems may include sprains and strains as well as fractures can occur with lifting and carrying heavy objects, hand injury while operating machinery, bracing against a fall, or sports-related injuries.
Some of the common hand and wrist injuries include:
Sprains and Strains: Sprains and strains are the two most common types of injuries affecting the hand and wrist. A sprain refers to an injury to a ligament and a strain refers to a muscle injury. Sprains and strains occur due to excessive force applied during a stretching, twisting, or thrusting action. Most sprains and strains will repair themselves with adequate rest, ice application, compression, and elevation. Surgery is occasionally required to repair the damage.
Ligamentous Injuries: Ligaments are tissues that connect bones to other bones. They are made up of several fibers and one or all of the fibers may be involved. Complete ligament injury occurs when all the fibers are torn. Ligament injury may cause pain and swelling and limit the movement of hands and wrist joints. Ligament injury is effectively treated with splinting and taping with restriction of movement of injured structures.
Fractures: A fracture is a break in the bone, occurs when more force than the bearable limit is applied against a bone. Crushing injuries to the hand or wrist occurring due to high degree of force or pressure may also cause fractures. A fracture may cause severe pain, swelling, bruising or bleeding, discoloration of the skin and limit the mobility of the limb. Fracture of a finger bone can only be treated by using a cast or splint while the bone heals. Sometimes surgery may be needed where the plates, pins or screws may be placed to keep the stable.
Repetitive Trauma Syndrome: Repetitive stress injury occurs as a result of repeated similar movements for longer periods of time. This often causes pressure on the joints resulting in inflammation, pain, and decreased function in the extremity. The condition is more likely to develop with repetitive, rapid, forceful and prolonged movements of the hand and wrist, or vibration or frequent pushing, pulling or carrying heavy objects. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common of these syndromes.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition characterized by numbness or pain in the thumb and first two fingers and occurs when the median nerve is compressed at the wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often a common complaint in individuals who use their hands for prolonged period of time in particular occupation. Immobilization of the affected part for certain period may help heal the condition. Medications, physical therapy, and surgery may also be recommended. Often, splinting for a shorter period of time can treat the condition.
Some of the common elbow injuries include:
Elbow Fractures: Fracture is a common injury to the elbow. Elbow fractures may result from a fall onto an outstretched wrist, a direct impact to the elbow or a twisting injury. Elbow fractures may cause severe pain, swelling, tenderness and painful movements. If a fracture is suspected, immediate intervention by your doctor is necessary. Surgery is often required if a bony displacement is observed.
Golf Injuries to the Hand, Wrist or Elbow: Golf, a famous sport involves the action of wrist. Insufficient strength in the forearms is the major cause for wrist and hand injuries in golfers. Common injuries in golfers include:
- Tennis Elbow/Golfer’s Elbow: Tennis elbow is the inflammation of muscles on the outside of the elbow where as tendinitis on the inner side of the elbow is golfer’s elbow. Overuse of the arms or a traumatic blow to the hand may cause tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow. These injuries may cause severe pain and tenderness of the affected muscles that radiate down into the forearm, particularly with use of the hand and wrist. Adequate rest and immobility of the affected part helps the muscles to recover and modification of the activities helps in better healing. Heat therapy, followed by a stretching and strengthening exercises and then ice massage may offer be beneficial. A tennis elbow strap may relieve the pressure from the muscle attachment. Pain medications may be recommended to relieve the pain and inflammation.
- Tendonitis: Tendonitis is inflammation of any of the tendons in the wrist. Tendonitis is usually treated with adequate rest, splinting, ice application, and with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce the inflammation.
- Hook of the hamate fracture: Fracture of the hook of the hamate bone, one of the small bones of the wrist, is another injury common in golfers. The hook of the hamet bone protrudes toward the palm, and is susceptible to injury from the club on a hard hit to the ground as the handle crosses right over the bony hook during gripping the club. A splint or cast may be used if the fracture is seen soon after the injury. If there is continued pain, surgery is usually performed to remove the broken bone fragment.
Any problem causing pain, swelling, discoloration, numbness or a tingling sensation, or abnormal position of the hand, wrist, or elbow that persists for more than two or three days should be evaluated by your doctor to establish the cause and obtain the best treatment as early as possible.