Sports offer benefits to both our physical and mental health. For example, playing sports or performing physical activities is an excellent way to stay in shape. Not only that but exercising is also a great way to relieve stress and anxiety.
However, an inevitable aspect of playing sports is injury. That’s right: whether you’re an athlete, a weekend warrior, or a CrossFitter, you will get injured at some point.
There are two primary types of sporting injury: acute and chronic. Some of the most common injuries are caused by factors like overtraining, body impact, skipping warm-ups, and poor technique.
Today we look at the most common sporting injuries, examine their causes and, importantly, look at ways to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Common types of sports injury
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the vast majority of sporting injuries are caused by body impact with another player or overuse of the muscles and joints. Luckily most injuries are not severe and only involve minimal trauma to the ligaments, bones, tendons, and muscles.
The most common sporting injuries are:
A strain is when your ligament becomes torn or overstretched. Think of your ligaments as rubber bands that, when stretched, can either break or become less elastic. Ligaments are crucial because they hold together our bones and cartilage. The most common strains occur in our wrists, knees, and ankles.
A contusion is a soft tissue injury generally caused by a knock from another player, such as an opponent’s knee, into your quadriceps, resulting in a bruise or contusion. These are painful and are followed by inflammation and the onset of a bruise.
A strain occurs when the muscle or tendon is torn, twisted, or pulled. Most strains are the result of excessive force, overstretching, and overuse. Tendons are tough fibrous tissue that connects pour muscles and bones. Below are three common types of strains.
Tennis Elbow: A strain that results in continuous pain in the elbow caused by overuse or the tendons of the wrist being pulled away from your hand.
Baseball Elbow: A strain that results from overuse and or the tendons of the wrist being pulled toward the palm as opposed to away from the palm, like tennis elbow.
Lower Back Strain: A strain that results from sudden explosive movements like twisting or lifting heavy objects. Factory workers and athletes in sports such as golf, tennis, basketball, and weightlifting are at greater risk of lower back strains.
When excessive force is placed on a ligament, it can result in both ends of the bones becoming disconnected from the ligament. Hence the name dislocation.
Typically caused by excessive force or the result of a nasty fall, fractures or broken bones can vary from hairline fractures to compound fractures. Most of these injuries occur in contact sports like Australian Football, Rugby, MMA, and American Football. There are also stress fractures, which result from overuse and generally happen in the shins and lower legs of runners and gymnasts.
Sports injury treatment
The most common, well-known, and effective way to treat soft tissue injuries is the RICER method. In years past, the method was known as RICE, but the addition of referral now results in the acronym RICER which stands for:
The RICER method is best used immediately after a soft tissue injury as it can help reduce inflammation and pain. You should continue with the RICER method for at least 24-48 hours after the injury or until you can see your local healthcare provider.
If your injury shows the following signs, seek medical care immediately
Cracking sounds when trying to move
Deformities like bumps
Unable to place weight on the injury
Heat stroke symptoms like nausea and dizziness
More severe sporting injuries like fractures and dislocations will require immediate attention, with fractures more than likely requiring surgery to fix the bone.
How to prevent sports injury
The most effective way to reduce the risk of sporting injuries is by preventing them. Most gym-goers do not warm up correctly, and many don’t warm up at all. Muscles that are cold are far more prone to strains and sprains, which can result in injury.
Here are four simple tips to help prevent sporting injuries:
1Learn the correct technique
Learning the correct technique is the easiest way to prevent injury while also improving your own efficiency and athletic performance. For instance, bending at your knees and maintaining a strong core will help mitigate the chance of injuring your lower back.
2Get the proper quality gear
Ensure you have the proper gear specific to your chosen sport. For instance, if you’re a cyclist, have dedicated cycling shorts with a chamois. Likewise, invest in a good pair of running shoes if you’re a runner. Inappropriate clothing, particularly footwear, can cause knee and ankle injuries, so they are worth the money.
Fitness is fun, exciting, and addictive, but these benefits can lead to gym-goers pushing past their limits far too often. Overtraining is one of the most common ways people injure themselves. Remember to schedule at least two days each week for rest and recovery. Beginners should avoid working out on back-to-back days.
4 Always cool-down
Just as you shouldn’t skip your warm-up, you should also never skip your cool-down. A cool-down should include dynamic and static stretching and a minimum of 5 minutes of low-impact cardio. A cool-down only takes 10 to 15 minutes and goes a long way in preventing injury.
Let’s sum it up
Injury is an unfortunate aspect of playing sports, so it’s critical to learn how to treat one when it occurs. Each injury is different, and, as such, they require different treatment strategies. Some injuries may also present as a sprain when you’ve broken a bone.
Physiotherapy is an excellent way to recover from injury and can help strengthen the injured area to prevent further damage. Remember, though, only return to your sport or physical activity after you receive the all-clear from your GP.
As we’ve seen, the most significant risk factor for a soft tissue injury is having previously injured the same muscle. This is why it’s imperative to allow your body time to fully recover while focusing on strengthening and improving your range of motion.
Want to learn more?
In this informative lecture, Lars Engebretsen, MD, Ph.D., from the University of Oslo Medical School, provides valuable and practical information on injury prevention. He discusses common reasons why most people suffer injury, such as fundamental mistakes like insufficient warm-up and more complex issues like overtraining and even the role mindset.
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