Athletes push the limits of their human body in pursuit of their sport, and that often results in injuries. The nature of the injury and where it is will determine how the injury will be treated.
Some of the most common sports-related injuries are, in no particular order:
- Sprains and strains,
- Knee injuries,
- Tennis elbow (epicondylitis),
- Groin pull
- Shin splints
Fractures are also common. Regardless of the injury, an athlete has a key advantage in recovery after an injury due to his or her overall physical condition.
Because their muscles are in top condition, they are able to support the body’s injury much better than someone less fit. Their physical condition also increases their ability to participate and benefit from physical therapy when it is recommended for rehabilitation.
Prevention of these injuries is important, and performing regular warm-ups and stretching before a rigorous workout is excellent prevention.
But sometimes in spite of the best prevention efforts, injuries still occur and require treatment. Here are some of the most common treatments for the injuries discussed above.
Sprains and strains
A sprain is the tearing or wrenching of a ligament. A strain is the tearing or wrenching of a muscle or tendon. A ligament is the tough band of material that attaches bones to each other. Ligaments are the bands that attach muscle to bones. And muscles, of course, are the structures that enable us to have movement and strength.
While sprains and strains are relatively minor injuries, they can be painful. They can most often be treated by using the RICE method. RICE is an acronym which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
- Rest. Take a break from the workouts and games and give your body a chance to heal.
- Ice. Helps prevent and reduce any swelling related to the injury. Twenty minutes on, twenty minutes off is a good general guideline for an icing schedule.
- Compression. Gentle compression can help to control swelling as well. An ACE bandage or elastic sleeve over the injury will keep swelling in check.
- Elevation. Raise the affected area, preferably above the level of your heart when possible.
There are a number of knee injuries caused by strenuous physical activity: dislocation, fractures, ligament injuries, tendon tears and meniscus tears. A knee injury will leave an athlete feeling very unsteady on his feet. The first course of treatment would be the RICE Method discussed previously.
If the pain and difficulty with mobility continue, your doctor may recommend immobilizing the affected leg with a brace or cast, and you may even require crutches to assist you with getting around. You may be restricted from bearing any weight on the leg.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles surrounding the injury to better protect and support that area. And of course, anti inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen, aspirin or Tylenol may be recommended for pain.
While epicondylitis has the more colorful common name, affiliating it with one of the sport of kings, it is a common injury resulting from activity that puts a great deal of strain on the forearm or wrist.
The pain is felt on the back of elbow where the bony prominence can be felt, and also in the forearm. The tendons that attach the muscles to the elbow become inflamed.
The first line of treatment is icing the injured area, rest and the anti-inflammatory medications mentioned previously. If these do not lead to the desired results, your doctor may recommend physical therapy or an elbow splint to relieve the injured tendon.
This is actually a tear injury of the adductor muscles that support the groin and hips and run down the inside of the thighs.
Initial treatment should include ice to the inside of the thigh in the affected area, compression to minimize swelling and anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and swelling.
Therapy may be recommended by your doctor to gently strengthen the area as it heals and protect it from further injury. In some cases, ultrasound therapy may be used for additional relief from injury.
One of the most common injuries in high impact sports and exercise, shin splints is pain that runs down the front of the lower leg. It’s also associated with overpronation (the tendency to run with the ankles moving toward the medial line).
Rest is crucial for shin splints. This is not a condition that improves with a no pain, no gain approach. The RICE method again comes to the rescue, and lower-impact activity is recommended while recovering.
These are some of the more common sports injuries that athletes encounter. While the first line of treatment for these is relatively accessible, it’s important to remind all athletes of the importance of consulting with your sports medical specialist to keep your body as healthy and competitive as possible.
About Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky
Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky, Director of HandSport Surgery Institute, is a seasoned specialist in hand surgery, wrist surgery and microsurgery, sports injuries and arthroscopic and reconstructive surgery of the hand, wrist, elbow and brachial plexus. With more than 20 years of high-level practice and a comprehensive knowledge of the body’s biomechanical linkages, Dr. Pruzansky is able to diagnose patients using a “kinetic-chain approach” that reveals underlying—and often overlooked—issues coming from other parts of the musculo-skeletal system.