Athletics are a fun way to stay healthy and active. The benefits of playing sports are numerous and include cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health. However, the risk of personal injury is also present. This is not to say that you should stop playing sports. Instead, you should understand the risks and also how to prevent them.
What is a Sports Injury?
Sports injuries result from acute trauma or repetitive stress associated with athletic activities. Sports injuries can affect bones or soft tissue (ligaments, muscles, tendons). A sports injury, such as a bruise, sprain or strain, can lead to acute but temporary pain and can, in some cases, develop into chronic pain that lasts longer than three months. Chronic pain for young athletes can involve shoulder problems, broken bones or injuries to the knees and ankles, ligaments, brain or spinal cord.
Young athletes, especially those younger than 8, are more prone to sports injuries than adults due to ongoing growth spurts, slower reaction times and still-developing hand-eye coordination. Most youth sports injuries result from outdated or ill-fitting sports gear, improper technique, inadequate warmup or overuse of specific muscles.
Here are the most common sports injuries and how you can prevent them from happening to you.
A concussion can be defined as injury to the brain, due a blow to the head where the brain is jarred or shaken. Concussions are a very common sports injury and can have dangerous effects if severe or left untreated. Concussions happen when the head forcibly hits something hard, which can cause swelling in the head. An athlete who experiences a concussion should seek out a certified athletic trainer or a physician with experience treating concussions.
Common concussion symptoms can include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Sensitivity to light
- Delayed response to questions
To prevent concussions, athletes should wear the proper safety attire when playing contact sports and also play carefully. Safety and health come first and although trying your best and pushing yourself are a part of growing as an athlete, taking chances that are too risky can lead to injuries.
A fracture can occur when a bone is hit with great force and impact. Typically, athletes can often tell right away if a fracture has happened as they can experience severe pain. In extreme cases, the bones may protrude.
To prevent bone fractures, you should do strengthening exercises to build up the bones and muscles around them. This will make them stronger and less prone to injury while you play sports. Also, make sure you wear the proper attire and follow the rules of the sport you are playing.
Joint dislocations happen when one or more bones in a joint are pushed out of their normal socket. Dislocations occur frequently in football and other contact sports, although stretching too far can also cause them. Hands and fingers are the most commonly affected areas with this type of injury, but dislocations can also occur in your shoulders, knees, hips, and elbows.
Dislocations require immediate medical care in order to realign the joint. Lingering pain and other symptoms can occur if the soft tissue around the affected joint is damaged. If you have experienced a dislocation, visit your doctor or an urgent care center immediately to have the joint reset and avoid long-term damage.
To prevent dislocations, wear proper safety gear when playing sports. Perform exercises to strengthen your upper body. Also, play safely; dislocations happen when you fall on the joint so the less you fall, the lower your chance of a dislocation.
The ACL, anterior cruciate ligament, is one of the major stabilizing ligaments of the knee. The most common cause of sports injuries for an ACL strain is slowing down and trying to cut, pivot or change directions. Ligaments on the inside of the knee are often torn with the ACL injury, making it a devastating event.
A slight ACL strain or tear can be healed without surgery using rest and ice, as the scar tissue helps heal the ligament and the knee becomes more stable. A complete ACL tear would require surgery and a few months of recovery time with aggressive physical therapy before the athlete would be able to return to activity.
To prevent ACL tears, maintain a healthy weight so the ligament does not have excessive pressure on it. When the ligament gets tight (after several hours of little movement) it becomes more vulnerable to tears when a sudden twist happens. Make sure to do warm ups and stretches so the ligament can stretch and be flexible before you play your sport.
Shin splints are characterized as pains that radiate down the lower leg usually while running. In some cases, shin splints can indicate a small stress fracture in the shin bone, however this is rare. When a stress fracture is present, pain will usually continue despite rest. In these cases, you will want to visit a doctor. Otherwise, shin splints can be managed by rest, ice, and over the counter pain medications.
To prevent shin splints, wear shock-absorbing, supportive, and comfortable shoes. Also, adequately stretch and warm up before playing. Finally, increase intensity gradually. Shin splints can happen when too much pressure is put on the legs too quickly.
Your back and spinal column undergoes some level of stress with almost every sports activity. Over time, this stress may accumulate into inflammation around the vertebrae and back muscles, sometimes causing injuries to the discs and frequently causing upper or lower back pain. Sometimes a sudden jarring impact may also cause an acute injury to the back. Back treatments vary widely depending on the condition, ranging from rest to physical therapy to surgery. The best way to reduce your risk of back pain and injury is to keep your back muscles strong and flexible with regular low-impact activities, warmups and even good diet.
To prevent back pain, make sure you stretch before every activity you do. This will help get your back muscles ready for activity and prevent injuries because of sudden and forceful movement. You should also perform exercises that strengthen the back muscles and accommodate spinal alignment.
The majority of sports injuries involve the lower body, particularly knee injuries. One of the most common knee injuries is called patellofemoral syndrome. This sports injury is just like knee injuries, sprains, and strains. Patellofemoral Syndrome is also commonly referred to as runner’s or jumper’s knee. This type of injury occurs when the knee joint hits the leg bone repeatedly. It can also happen when you fall onto your knees. The patella, or kneecap, should travel in the groove at the end of the femur or thigh bone. Sometimes, a fall onto the knee can cause swelling, leading to a muscle imbalance of the two major muscles that aid in proper tracking of the kneecap in the groove.
To prevent further sports complications, avoiding activities that can stress the knee joints further is recommended. RICE therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) have also been known to help.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and physical therapy are also treatment options that have been proven to provide relief. While very rare, surgery can also be an option in severe cases that do not respond to other treatments.
One common sports-related injury is tennis elbow which occurs when repetitive use of the elbow makes tiny tears in the tendons. This can occur due to playing tennis, golf, or any other sport that requires repetitive motion. In most cases, the condition affects the outside of the elbow. Tennis elbow can usually be treated by simply resting the area until the pain has subsided.
To prevent tennis elbow, avoid repetitive motions with the arms. Take frequent breaks and stretch out your arm muscles and tendons. Do warm ups, stretches and strength exercises to strengthen the arm’s muscles and tendons.
The hamstring muscle is located on the back of the thigh. Unfortunately, the hamstring muscles are susceptible to a strain, which is also called a pulled muscle. Poor stretching techniques or lack of stretching can be the cause of a hamstring tear/strain.
To prevent a hamstring strain, be sure to do stretches and warm up activities before playing your sport. This will help loosen up the hamstring so it is not as tight and susceptible to injury. Additionally, take your time in increasing the intensity at which you play. The hamstring has to get used to the level of intensity you put on it.
Groin pulls occur when a side to side pushing off motion strains the inner thigh muscles known as the groin. This type of injury is especially prevalent in hockey, soccer, football, and baseball. The majority of groin injuries do not need to be seen by a doctor, unless there is significant swelling. Instead, groin injuries can usually be resolved by compression, ice, and especially, rest.
It is much easier to improve groin mobility before an injury rather than afterwards. Preventing a pulled groin starts with awareness of your current groin mobility, implementing the right types of training and movements while avoiding static stretches and passive movements. You must also know how to warm up properly and when to use compressive garments for the groin muscles.
A Word From Ventura Orthopedic Today
Taking part in sports and recreation activities is an important part of a healthy, physically active lifestyle for kids. But injuries can, and do, occur. More than 2.6 million children 0-19 years old are treated in the emergency department each year for sports and recreation-related injuries.
Thankfully, there are steps that parents can take to help make sure kids stay safe on the field, the court, or wherever they play or participate in sports and recreation activities. If you are concerned about your child’s health, our specialists are always willing to help you reach your optimal health.
The experienced and dedicated orthopedic surgeons at Ventura Orthopedics are here for you. We are committed to helping you through any procedure until optimum health, strength and mobility are restored. Call us today at 800-698-1280 to schedule an appointment.