When playing any type of sport, whether it be high or low contact, athletes should be aware of the risk of injuring themselves.
According to WebMD, the seven most common sports injuries are the following: ankle sprain, groin sprain, hamstring strain, shin splints, knee injuries such as ACL tear and Patellofemoral, and tennis elbow.
Most of these injuries involved a sprain of some point. A sprain is an “injury to muscle fibers or tendons, which anchor muscles to bones” according to Dr. Matthew Hoffman. He says sprains are often referred to as pulled muscles and that’s because that’s truly what a sprain is. A strain is caused when ligaments are stretched past their normal range and it can tear them, which then causes the pain. This is common in overuse of muscles.
Strains are common in people not only who play sports but also people who do any type of physical activity, even walking. Margot Putukian, the director of sports medicine at Princeton University, says every activity should being with a “gentle warm-up”. This allows the muscles to increase blood flow and flexibility therefore helping to prevent the muscle from being over-extended. Slightly working the muscles that will be targeted during the activity is key to preventing the most common sports injuries. Dr. William Roberts says another key factor is stopping when you are tired, since muscle fatigue increases your risk of injury just as much as not warming up.
Below is the list of the most common sports injuries and how to heal them.
- For ankle sprains, Dr. Hoffman says to prevent and treat them it is important to exercise to build strength in the weak ligaments that surround your ankle. If you do sprain your ankle, it’s important to talk to your doctor or physical therapist to learn about exercises that can help you regain strength and increase flexibility after your injury heals.
- For a groin pull, compression, rest and ice is what Dr. Marvin Royster recommends. But, if there is any swelling around the pull, make sure to see a doctor as this could mean a more serious injury.
- A hamstring pull is one of the hardest sports injuries to heal due to the constant stress we put on our hamstrings from every day activity, such as walking says Dr. Royster. It can take anywhere from 6-12 months and are prone to re-injury due to most athlete’s inability to stay inactive for such a long period of time.
- Shin splints are common when an athlete begins training with long runs on paved roads. Shin splints are pains along the front of your leg, on your shin. Dr. Hoffman says the best way to heal this injury “is rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medicine” but make sure to see a doctor if pain is still present after rest.
- An ACL tear is when the ligament that holds the leg bone to the knee (the ACL0 tears. If you suspect any type of injury to your ACL, you should see a doctor immediately says Dr. Hoffman as these are very severe injuries.
- Patellofemoral is not as severe as an ACL tear, but can still cause discomfort. According to Dr. Hoffman, his injury is caused when “repetitive movement of your kneecap (patella) against your thigh bone (femur), which can damage the tissue under the kneecap”. However, just six weeks of low-impact exercise can help heal this injury.
- Tennis elbow is caused from constant use of the elbow, like in tennis or golf swings. This can irritate the tendons in the elbow and cause some pain. Dr. Hoffman recommends just staying off the tennis court of golf course until pain disappears.
Playing the sport you love doesn’t always mean injury, but it is very important to listen to your body and rest when you feel you should. It could negatively effect you in the long run if you ignore the signs of a sports injury. Don’t forget that if you cannot put any weight on the injured body part without serious pain, the joint looks crooked, or there is any discoloration other than typical bruising, it is time to see a doctor.