How To Treat And Prevent Common Sport Injuries
Playing sport and doing regular exercise is good for your health, but can sometimes result in injuries.
Overuse or repetitive movements may be the number-one cause of sports injuries.
Up to $2 billion is the estimated total burden each year of sports injuries in Australia.
Caroline Finch, leading sports epidemiologist says that up to 50% of sports injuries are preventable.
A sport injury generally involves one or more muscle, tendon, or ligament.
Common Sport Injuries
An ankle sprain is a damage to the ligaments that connect bone to bone and help stabilise the ankle joint. It is caused by a sudden stretch such as when your foot rolls, twists or turns beyond its normal range of motion.
Symptoms include swelling, bruising, and pain on weight bearing. The person may hear an audible ‘snap’ or ‘pop’, due to the tearing or stretching of the ligaments.
Following an ankle sprain, the ankle joint may become unstable and take a long time to recover.
Sports requiring jumping, turning and twisting movements and sudden change of direction, such as basketball, volleyball, netball and football, soccer, and tennis are particularly vulnerable to ankle sprains.
More severe strains may need firmer immobilisation in a cast or brace.
A complete tear of all ligaments may result in a dislocation of the ankle joint and an accompanying fracture.
Hamstring muscles are very susceptible to tears and strains.
The major cause of hamstring injuries is an imbalance between the quadriceps muscle and the hamstring muscles (located at the front and back of the thigh respectively).
The quadriceps are a very large, strong group of muscles which help to extend (straighten) the leg. These muscles may forcibly overstretch the hamstring, placing excessive tension on the hamstring muscles.
Strained hamstring are categorized into three groups:
Grade 1 – hamstrings are overstretched, without tearing of muscle or tendon fibres. There is increased tightness in the muscles and pain may be experienced.
Grade 2 – There is a presence of a tear in the tendon strings and the muscles of the hamstring group which reduces the muscle strength and flexibility. Pain is more immediate and severe. Limping is likely during walking as there may be difficulty straightening the knee.
Grade 3 – There is a rupture of the tendon and the muscles in the hamstring group, and severe loss of strength. Sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh and walking is not possible without a pain. Some cases might require surgery.
Meniscal tears are among the most common knee injuries.
Two ‘C’ shaped pieces of cartilage act as “shock absorbers” between your thighbone and shinbone. These are called meniscus. They are tough and rubbery to help cushion the joint and keep it stable.
The meniscus in the knee is usually damaged by a twist occurring on a slightly flexed knee.
A partial or total tear of a meniscus may occur when a person quickly twists or rotates the upper leg while the foot stays planted.
Repeated or prolonged squatting can also tear the meniscus.
You might feel a “pop” when you tear a meniscus. Most people can still walk on their injured knee.
Many athletes keep playing with a tear. Over 2 to 3 days, your knee will gradually become more stiff and swollen.
Pain is usually experienced when a meniscus is injured, particularly when trying to straighten, bend or twist the knee.
Severe, sharp pain, and swelling may occur soon after the injury or several hours later as a result of inflammation.
Clicking, popping or locking of the knee may also follow a meniscus injury. In some cases, after the initial swelling and pain, the joint settles down and normal activities can be resumed.
If the tear is minor and the pain and other symptoms cease, a muscle-strengthening program may be recommended.
A large tear produces a flap of meniscus that may interfere with normal joint mechanics and cause further damage leading to greater risk of degenerative arthritis.
Shin splints is a general term used to describe exercise-induced pain in the front of the lower legs, or shins.
The most common cause for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).
MTSS is the result of frequent and intense periods of exercise when your body is not used to it. Suddenly increasing the distance and/or pace that you run are also common causes.
Tibial stress syndrome causes dull pain and tenderness over the shin bone.
Stress fractures can also occur in this area.
Top Ten Causes And Risk Factors For Sport Injuries
- Previous or existing injury especially if poorly rehabilitated
- Lack of strength, stability or balance
- Lack of, or extreme joint flexibility
- Poor technique
- Increased age
- Inappropriate, inadequate, or no warm-up
- Wearing inappropriate footwear and improper equipment
- Muscle fatigue
- Muscle strength imbalance
Treating a Sport Injury
The immediate treatment of any soft tissue injury consists of the RICER protocol – rest, ice, compression, elevation and referral.
RICE protocol should be followed for 48–72 hours.
Rest — no further exercise or stretching or quick movements.
The aim is to reduce the bleeding and damage within the joint. The affected part of the body should be rested in an elevated position with an ice pack applied for 20 minutes every two hours (never apply ice directly to the skin).
Compression bandage should be applied to limit bleeding and swelling in the joint.
Avoid any of the HARM factors in the first 48 hours to prevent increased swelling and help your recovery:
The major goal of the rehabilitation program is to normalise walking, pain-free range of motion, prevent muscle wastage and maintain cardiovascular fitness.
Time frames for rehabilitation and return to sport vary depending on the nature and severity of the injury.
To encourage recovery and healing of the tissues, use MH Enhance Tissue Regenex.
Use natural anti-inflammatory Heel Traumeel gel to provide effective immediate relief of soft tissue injuries.
Maintains muscle and joint flexibility with proper warm up and stretching exercises using TheraBand Elastic Resistance Bands.
To support musculoskeletal health and prevent injuries and disability have the Emed Musculoskeletal Profile. This profile will help you to achieve best outcomes of exercise and sport activities.
How to Prevent Sport Injuries
- Warm up thoroughly
- Stretching and cooling down after every training session and competition
- Wear appropriate footwear
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after sport activities or exercise
- Tape or strap vulnerable joints, if necessary
- Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of training
- Try to avoid exercising in the hottest part of the day, between 11am and 3pm.
- Maintain a good level of overall fitness.
- Cross-train with other sports to ensure overall fitness and muscle strength.
- Don’t exert yourself beyond your level of fitness.
- Allow adequate recovery time between sessions
- Undertaking flexibility, balance, stretching and strengthening exercises in weekly training programs
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- How to Prevent and Treat Shoulder Injuries
Caroline Finch and Neville Owen, Sports injury Prevention Research Unit, School of Health Sciences, Deakin University and Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, University of Wollongong NSW.