A sports injury can be acute (sudden) or chronic (develop over time).
Sports injuries are common and can occur throughout your body to bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and other structures. Exercise is important to good health, but people often get hurt when participating in sports or other physical activities. A sports injury involves damage to part of your body due to sports, exercise or athletic activities.
Sports injuries can happen to anyone, particularly people who:
- Are out of shape.
- Don’t wear proper protective equipment.
- Exercise without warming up and cooling down.
- Participate in contact sports that may involve tackling or collisions.
- Take part in activities that involve jumping, running and pivoting or changing direction quickly.
Body parts mostly affected due to Sports Injuries are:
- Achilles tendon: The Achilles tendon is a thick cord that connects the back of your lower leg (calf) to your heel. It helps you walk. But the tendon can become swollen, inflamed and stiff. It can even tear. This is called Achilles tendinitis or Achilles tendon rupture.
- Ankle: Your leg and foot join together at your ankle. It contains three joints, as well as several bones, cartilage, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Ankle pain is often caused by a sprained ankle.
- Elbow: Your elbow is the joint that acts as a hinge between your upper and lower arm. People often experience pain in their elbow from repeat motions and overuse (for example, tennis elbow and Little League elbow).
- Head: Your head includes your face, skull and brain. One of the most common head injuries is concussion.
- Knee: Your knee is a complex joint that acts as a hinge between your thigh and lower leg. It contains bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons. Knee pain can be caused by jumper’s knee or runner’s knee. Other common injuries include meniscus tear and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.
- Shoulder: Your shoulder connects your upper arm to the trunk of your body. It contains your rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons that keep the upper arm in your shoulder socket. Rotator cuff tendinitis and rotator cuff tears are common sports injuries.
The most common sports injuries are:
- Broken bone: A broken bone (bone fracture) can happen when sudden force is applied to a bone.
- Cartilage tear: Cartilage is a tough but flexible shock absorber that covers and protects the ends of some bones. Cartilage injuries can occur in joints such as your knee and shoulder.
- Concussion: A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump or blow to your head.
- Dislocation: Dislocation occurs when the end of a bone moves out of its normal position in a joint. For example, if your shoulder pops out of its socket, it’s dislocated.
- Tendinitis: Tendinitis occurs when your tissues that connect muscles to bones (tendons) become swollen and inflamed. It’s caused by repetitive movements over time. An example is jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis).
- Sprains: A sprain happens when a ligament stretches too much or tears. Ligaments connect bones and stabilize joints. These injuries can be mild or severe, and they’re common in your ankle, knee and wrist.
- Strains: A strain occurs when you overextend a muscle and it stretches or tears. Examples include hamstring strain, back strain and abdominal strain.
Causes of Sports Injuries
- Accidents, such as a fall.
- Bad habits with exercise, such as not warming up or stretching enough.
- Lack of safety equipment, or gear that’s damaged or worn incorrectly.
- Shoes that don’t fit well or provide enough support.
- Sudden start to an exercise program or significant increase in physical activity that your body isn’t used to.
Symptoms of Sports Injuries
- Aches, pain or tenderness.
- Deformity, such as a bone or joint looking out of place.
- Decreased range of motion.
- Grinding, cracking, clicking or popping noise.
- Inability to bear weight on your hip, leg or foot.
- Skin that’s warm to the touch.
- Stiffness or weakness.
- Trouble moving a body part normally (for example, you can’t move it as far or it locks up when you try to move).
To diagnose a sports injury, our Orthopedic Specialist performs a physical exam. They’ll ask questions about what happened and what symptoms you’ve had. They’ll also look at the injured area, possibly testing how it moves.
Depending on the type of injury you have and how severe it is, your healthcare provider also may recommend imaging tests. An X-ray, CT scan or MRI can create pictures of the structures inside your body. The images will help your healthcare provider understand, diagnose and treat your specific injury.
Treatment for sports injuries varies widely, depending on the type and severity. Many sports injuries heal in a few days or weeks with rest and at-home strategies.
But for more serious injuries, treatment may involve:
- Immobilization with a cast, splint, sling, walking boot or other medical device.
- Injections to reduce swelling and pain.
- Prescription anti-inflammatory medications.
- Surgery to correct fractures or repair ligament, tendon or cartilage tears.
- Physical therapy (also called rehabilitation or rehab) to heal and strengthen injured body parts.