Whether you are an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, if you play sports, you’ve probably faced an injury at some point. Common sports injuries include sprains, strains, swollen muscles, shin splints, rotator cuff injuries, knee injuries, fractures, and dislocations.
Some sports problems are acute injuries, the result of a sudden event that causes very noticeable symptoms. Others are chronic, overuse conditions that may have more subtle signs either at first or consistently over time.
A sports injury can be caused by an accident, impact, poor training practices, improper equipment, lack of conditioning, or insufficient warmup and stretching. Muscle sprains and strains, tears of the ligaments and tendons, dislocated joints, fractured bones, and head injuries are common.
While joints are most vulnerable to sports injuries, any part of the body can get hurt on the court or field. Here is a closer look at common injuries for different parts of the body like shoulder, elbow, wrist, finger, spine, things, knee, ankle, foot, hip and groin.
Causes of Sports Injury
Sports injuries typically fall into two categories, acute or chronic, and can stem from direct impact, loading (putting more force on a joint than it can handle), or overuse.
An acute injury is the result of an incident or accident that results in noticeable symptoms. For example, a slip, fall, tackle, or collision can result in an acute injury. While some accidents are just a part of playing sports, others may be avoided by having proper gear and equipment and safe playing conditions. For example, playing soccer on wet leaves can lead to slipping and falling.
A chronic injury is a longer-term injury. It may begin as an acute injury that does not heal completely or may be caused by overuse or improper form. Many athletes play through pain, which can lead to chronic injuries.
Symptoms of Sports Injury
Pain is the primary symptom of a sports injury. It is the body’s signal that something is wrong and can differ based on the type of injury.
The immediate onset of pain from an acute injury that does not subside should be seen by a sports physician. An example of this is rolling your ankle and not being able to put weight on it or colliding with a person or object and not being able to move your arm.
Other times, pain onset is delayed. This is particularly common in overuse injuries. A joint may feel a little tender immediately after a sport, but the pain continues to intensify over the course of hours. Tenderness, when pressure is applied to the area, can be an important indicator that a serious injury has occurred.
Swelling is a sign of inflammation, which is your body’s effort to respond to injury and initiate the healing response of the immune system. While swelling is not necessarily a bad thing, it can cause discomfort.
In the very early stages after injury, you may not notice swelling or any restriction in your ability to move. Swelling often occurs gradually as healing blood and fluid are sent to protect and heal damaged tissue or bone.
There are a few types of swelling, and what you experience can tip your doctor off as to the type of injury:
- Effusion: Swelling within a joint
- Edema: Swelling in the soft tissues
- Hematoma: Swelling due to bleeding in the soft tissue
While pain can be difficult to quantify, mobility can often be measured by checking the range of motion. This is especially true in injuries to the limb because you can compare the injured joint to its opposite healthy one.
A limited range of motion can be a clear indication of the severity of an injury. An initial period of rest is typically recommended for lack of mobility in acute injuries followed by gentle movements building up to more exercise. See a sports doctor or physical therapist to assess and treat mobility problems prior to resuming sports activity.
An unstable joint feels loose or like it wants to buckle or give out. This is often a sign of a ligament injury (like an ACL tear) as the injured joint is not adequately supported after it has been damaged.
Numbness and Tingling
Numbness or tingling is a sign of nerve irritation or injury. Sometimes nerves are directly damaged; other times a nerve can be irritated by surrounding swelling or inflammation. Mild tingling is usually not a major problem, whereas the inability to feel an injured body part is more of a concern.
Redness at the injury site can be due to inflammation, and abrasion, allergy, or infection. If you have unexplained skin redness, particularly if the area is also hot to the touch, you should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Confusion or Headache
Even a mild head trauma can lead to a concussion, which can result in cognitive symptoms, such as confusion, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems, as well as headache, dizziness, nausea, and irritability.
A concussion can have serious consequences and should not be ignored. If a blow to the head causes any immediate symptoms or loss of consciousness, seek medical attention even if the symptoms pass.
Treatment of Sports Injury
Sports injuries diagnosis, prevention, and treatment are the most important issues of sports medicine. Fortunately, sports injuries are often treated effectively, and people with damage recover and return to the sport in a satisfactory condition. Meanwhile, many sports injuries and complications can be prevented. In general, sports injuries include acute or chronic injuries. Given increases in popularity, sports medicine doctors use stem cells to treat a wide variety of sports injuries, including damage to tendons, ligaments, muscles, and cartilage. Stem cell therapy to an injured area could be done through the direct surgical application and injection. Stem cell therapy holds the potential for repair and functional plasticity following sports injuries compared to traditional methods. Using stem cell treatment might restore function, regeneration, and promote growth.