Participating in sports and other physical activities host a plethora of health benefits that can keep your body active and improve your overall health. However, the risk of sports injury will always be present.
What are the main causes of sports injuries?
When you play sports or work out regularly, you are more susceptible to overuse injuries. This term is used to describe an injury that is caused by repetitive trauma, as opposed to a single or specific injury event. These types of injuries usually stem from training errors, which occur when you do too much of a specific activity for too long; as well as technique errors such as having poor form.
Stretching your muscles or ligaments way beyond their limits can cause significant tears. Range of motion refers to the extent of how far a joint can move in each direction before it stops, and not everyone has the exact same range. When you experience a hyperextension injury, this means that there has been excessive movement in a particular joint during stretching.
To put it simply, the joint has been forced to move beyond its physical capacity and normal range of motion. Hyperextension injuries can occur anywhere in the body but are most common in the knees, elbows, neck, fingers, ankles and shoulders.
Inadequate Warm Up
Warming up before engaging in any form of physical activity is essential as it prepares your body from being in a non-active state to being ready to exercise. However, many people overlook this step and proceed with their workouts or sports activities with no proper warm up.
The purpose of warming up is to prevent injuries by loosening your joints and improving blood flow to your muscles for optimal efficiency and flexibility. Additionally, incorporating a cool down after your workout will also help regulate your blood flow after a session of vigorous physical activity. To avoid certain sports injuries, be sure to warm up each time prior to exercising and cool down afterwards.
Improper Use of Equipment or Sporting Gear
As we all know, most sports require the use of certain equipment and apparatus such as boards for surfing, wakeboarding, and snowboarding; rackets for tennis, badminton, or squash; balls for basketball, football, and baseball, and the list goes on. When used incorrectly, this may cause sports injuries in individuals. Donning the proper attire such as wearing appropriate shoes can also help to prevent injuries.
Moreover, faulty equipment may also cause certain casualties such as burns and abrasions, injuries to the limbs and other parts of the body, as well as equipment falling onto the user. To steer clear of these fatalities, make sure that the equipment is properly stored after use, and thrown or replaced if it is damaged and unsafe to use.
Common Types of Sports Injuries
Sprains are caused by the tearing or overstretching of the ligaments in a specific body part. When this happens, your joint will move in an unnatural way and may cause some pain and swelling at the same time. To help stop the swelling, compress the area with a tight bandage and make sure it is elevated. If the sprain is severe, you may be referred to a doctor that specialises in orthopedic surgery or sports medicine.
While sprains are most common in the ankles, they can also occur in other parts of the body such as the back, knees, wrists, and even your thumbs. These are injuries that occur in athletes frequently but can also happen to anyone.
While a sprain is caused by the overstretching or tearing of ligaments, muscle strains are a result of overstretching of the muscles and tendons in the body. Tendons are made up of thick, fibrous connective tissues that connect bone to muscle and are found all throughout the body. When a strain occurs, it may cause pain and limit movement within the affected area.
Strains can also happen to the average person. Besides athletic activities and exercises, these injuries may also be caused by overexertion, prolonged repetitive motion, falling or slipping, and even being in a seated or standing position for extended periods of time.
Shin splints is a cumulative stress disorder, where the pain is dominant at the shin bone, along the front of your lower leg. This injury is caused by excessive amounts of force placed on the shin bone and the muscles surrounding it. On some occasions, the pain from shin splints is so intense that you may need to stop the activity indefinitely.
Compared to other injuries that can happen to anyone, shin splints are most likely to occur only among those who engage in moderate to heavy physical activity. If you participate in strenuous, contact-heavy sports such as tennis, football, or basketball, you are more likely to develop shin splints among others.
Although our bones are strong and have a certain amount of flexibility, bone fractures may still occur in any individual, especially while playing sports. Bone fractures take place when a force stronger than the bone is applied to the bone itself and can often occur from falls, repetitive trauma or a direct blow to the bone.
These injuries can be categorised into four groups according to the severity:
- A closed fracture — When the bone hasn’t penetrated through the skin
- A compound or open fracture — When the bone has broken through the skin and has exposed the fractured bone, putting it at risk of infection
- A partial or incomplete fracture — When the bone hasn’t completely broken into two
- A complete fracture — When the bone has completely separated into two pieces
Bones that are commonly fractured are located in the hand, wrist, foot, ankle and collarbone.
Every so often, sports injuries may cause dislocations in certain parts of the body. A dislocation happens when a bone slips out of a joint, which can be an unsettling sight for some. When dislocations happen, a bone is forced out of its socket and may damage your nerves and ligaments if you fail to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Typically, dislocations are a result of an unbalanced or unexpected impact. Apart from athletes, older persons also have a higher risk of dislocation due to the reduced ability to prevent falls and lack of mobility.
Achilles Tendon Rupture
In comparison to shin splints, Achilles tendon ruptures is an injury that affects the back of one’s lower leg. The Achilles tendon is responsible for allowing you to rise on your toes, point your foot forward and push off your foot as you walk. Fundamentally, you rely on it every time you walk and move your feet.
If you overstretch your Achilles tendon, there is a possibility that it may rupture partially or even completely. Once this occurs, you will experience an immediate sharp pain in the back of your lower leg and ankle, which is likely to influence your ability to walk properly. If you hear a ‘pop’ sound in your heel when the injury happens, do seek medical advice immediately.
Rotator Cuff Injury
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint that aids in movement around the area and helps stabilise the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries are usually a result of overuse or acute injury.
Athletes such as tennis or volleyball players are at risk of these injuries due to the nature of their sport, which requires them to make overhead movements such as serves.
Diagnosing Sports Injuries
Before a Physical Examination
Generally, most acute and chronic sports injuries can be diagnosed by orthopedists, sports physicians, physical therapists and athletic trainers. Prior to undergoing a physical examination, you will need to provide your medical history, details on how the injury occurred and the symptoms you are experiencing.
During the Physical Examination
At this stage, your healthcare professional will ask you about the degree of pain or tenderness while palpating the injured area. You may also be asked to move the area to test the range of motion. During a physical examination, take the time to inform your doctor in detail about the ongoing pain and symptoms you are facing or any concerns you may have for an accurate diagnosis.
Based on the suspected injury from the information shared during the physical exam, medication may then be prescribed to cure the injury internally. Various tests may also be conducted to rule out any severities such as broken bones. For injuries including tissue damage, additional diagnostic imaging tests may be carried out as well such as:
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan — This test gives doctors a closer look into broken bones and soft tissue, and can reveal deformities in complex joints.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) — This technique is used for diagnostic imaging of sprains, fractures, muscle injuries, joint damage and head injuries sustained during sports and other physical activities. Furthermore, musculoskeletal structures like muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments can also be examined through this method.
- Ultrasound — Ultrasounds take real-time images of soft tissues and can identify tendon damage.
Sports Injury Treatment
When treating mild sports injuries that are not as severe and fatal, doctors would usually advise their patients to stay at home and avoid any physical activities temporarily in order to recuperate and may provide prescription and over-the-counter medication to help with any pain or swelling. Depending on the type of injury, physical therapy or rehabilitation may also be advised to regain comfortable and pain-free movement in the affected area.
On top of recovering at home with rest and medication, using the R.I.C.E method can also treat mild to moderate injuries and can be done at home to complement your treatment. It stands for:
- Rest — Rest the injured area as much as possible and avoid any exertion that may cause pain. Continued use of the injured area may delay the healing process, increase the pain or swelling, and even worsen the injury.
- Ice — Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, ice is useful in reducing swelling and pain for most sports injuries. During the first 48 hours after the injury has occurred, ice the area for 10 to 20 minutes, three or more times a day.
- Compression — Compression or wrapping the affected area with a compression bandage can significantly reduce the swelling of the injury. Ensure that the bandage is not too tight to the extent where it interrupts the blood flow and causes discomfort. Some signs that the bandage may be too tight include a tingling sensation, numbness and increased pain.
- Elevation — Finally, keep the area elevated at an angle above the level of your heart. Doing so can significantly reduce pain. You can choose to do this step either in a seated position or lying down.
Preventing Sports Injuries
You can easily reduce your risk of sustaining a sports injury in just a few simple steps.
Always Warm Up & Stretch Beforehand
The purpose of warming up before engaging in sports and other related activities is to prepare yourself physically for the more strenuous activities that you will be putting your body through afterwards. By doing so, it will enhance your blood flow and increase muscle elasticity, ultimately reducing the risk of sports injuries.
Contrary to popular belief, avoiding exercise entirely can actually increase your risk of sports injuries. Consistent physical activity helps condition your body for sports, making you less prone to common injuries.
Don’t Push Your Body Beyond Its Limits
If you do hurt yourself, make sure to listen to your body and give it what it needs in order to recover—don’t overdo it! Once you return after recovering, it may be best to ease yourself back into the sports instead of jumping right back into it with the same intensity.
When should I seek medical attention?
It may not be necessary to see a doctor for common minor sports injuries that can easily be healed with rest and other home remedies. However, if there are signs of pain and swelling on the injured area that has yet to subside after 24 to 48 hours of the rice method, you should call your doctor immediately.
On the other hand, going to a clinic and seeing a doctor physically may not be the most viable solution, especially for individuals who have difficulty walking and are experiencing intense pain. Fortunately, you can get the best house call doctors for all your medical needs with Homage.
With the help of our professional house call doctors, you can receive quality medical care at your doorstep. From consultations to medication prescriptions, and even basic surgical procedures, you can request a house doctor for a variety of different medical needs 24/7 through our mobile app. Stay at home and let our doctors come to you instead.
Should your doctor recommend physiotherapy as part of your recovery process, you can choose to have it done at home as well. Our experienced home physiotherapists can customise a personalised plan for you, so you can focus on recovery in the comfort of your home.
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