Sports injuries are divided into two broad categories, acute and chronic injuries. Acute injuries happen suddenly, such as when a person falls, receives a blow, or twists a joint, while chronic injuries usually result from overuse of one area of the body and develop gradually over time. Examples of acute injuries are sprains and dislocations, while some common chronic injuries are shin splints and stress fractures.
Treatment for a sports injury depends on the type of injury, but minor ones can usually be treated at home by resting, icing, compressing, and elevating (R-I-C-E) the injured part of the body. For more serious injuries, you will need to see a health care provider, and you may need to be set up for a course of physical therapy for rehabilitation and/or fitted for a cast, splint, or brace. In some cases, you may need surgery. A rehabilitation program that includes exercise and other types of therapy is usually recommended before resuming the sport or activity that caused the injury.
While adverse events do sometimes happen when playing sports or exercising, most physical activity is safe for almost everyone, and the health benefits far outweigh the risks.
Who Gets Sports Injuries?
Anyone can suffer a sports injury, but several factors can increase the risk of sustaining injury.
The risk factors for sports injuries include:
- Not using the correct exercise techniques.
- Overtraining, either by training too often, too frequently, or for too long.
- Changing the intensity of physical activity too quickly.
- Playing the same sport year-round.
- Running or jumping on hard surfaces.
- Wearing shoes that do not have enough support.
- Not wearing the proper equipment.
- Having had a prior injury.
- Having certain anatomical features specific to each joint or poor flexibility.
- Taking certain medications, such as fluoroquinolones, a class of antibiotics linked to tendinitis and tendon rupture.
Types Of Injuries
Sports injuries are broadly categorized into two kinds:
- Acute injuries, which happen suddenly.
- Chronic injuries, which are usually related to overuse and develop gradually over time.
In some cases, wear and tear from overuse injuries can set the stage for acute injuries.
Types of Musculoskeletal Injuries
Injuries to the musculoskeletal system that are common in athletes include fractures, dislocations, sprains, strains, tendinitis, or bursitis. These terms are defined below.
- Bone fracture. A fracture is a break in a bone that occurs from either a quick, one-time injury, known as an acute fracture, or from repeated stress, known as a stress fracture. Growth plate fractures are unique to children who are still growing.
- Acute fractures. A fall, car accident, or blow can cause a fracture, and the severity depends on the force that caused the break. The bone may crack.
- Stress fractures. Stress fractures occur largely in the weight-bearing bones of the lower extremity. These include the femur, tibia and fibula, and foot bones.
- Growth plate fractures. The growth plate is an area of cartilage near the ends of long bones, and they enable the bones to lengthen until children reach .
- Dislocation. When the two bones that come together to form a joint become separated, the joint is described as dislocated.
- Sprain. Sprains are stretches or tears of ligaments, the bands of connective tissue that join the end of one bone with another. .
- Strain. A strain is a twist, pull, or tear of a muscle or tendon, a cord of tissue connecting muscle to bone. Athletes who play contact sports can get strains.
- Tendinitis. Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon, a flexible band of fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones.
- Bursitis. Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae (plural of “bursa”), small, fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between a bone and other moving parts, such as muscles, tendons, or skin.
Common Sports Injuries
Most sports injuries involve one or more of the types of musculoskeletal injuries described above. The joints are particularly susceptible because a person’s body places significant demands on them.
Some of the common injuries experienced by athletes and people who have jobs or hobbies that involve doing a repetitive motion include:
- Shoulder Injuries
- Rotator cuff injury. These are the most common shoulder injuries. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint.
- Impingement. This happens when the top of the shoulder blade puts pressure on the soft tissues beneath it when the arm is lifted. Tendinitis and bursitis can develop, limiting movement and causing pain.
- Instability. Shoulder instability happens when the round end of the upper arm bone is forced out of its shallow socket, either partially or completely. O
- Elbow Injuries
- Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). When you play tennis or other racket sports, the tendons in the elbow can develop small tears and become inflamed, causing pain on the outside of the elbow.
- Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis). This is a form of tendinitis that causes pain in the inner part of the elbow. Pain may spread to the forearm and wrist.
- Little league elbow. This is a growth plate injury to the elbow caused by repetitive throwing in youths.
- Ulnar collateral ligament injury. Repeated throwing can cause tears to this ligament on the inner part of the elbow, causing pain and decreased throwing effectiveness.
Symptoms of Sports Injuries
Symptoms of an acute injury include:
- Sudden, severe pain.
- Extreme swelling or bruising.
- Not being able to place weight on a leg, knee, ankle, or foot.
- Not being able to move a joint normally.
- Extreme weakness of an injured limb.
- A bone or joint that is visibly out of place.
Symptoms of a chronic injury due to overuse include:
- Pain when you play or exercise.
- Swelling and a dull ache when you rest.
Cause of Sports Injuries
The cause of an acute sports injury is a force of impact that is greater than the body part can withstand, while a chronic injury is typically due to repeating the same motion over and over again. Sometimes, overuse injuries can degrade tissues and joints and set the stage for an acute injury.