Sports injuries are commonly caused by overuse, direct impact, or the application of force that is greater than the body part can structurally withstand. There are two kinds of sports injuries: acute and chronic. An injury that occurs suddenly, such as a sprained ankle caused by an awkward landing, is known as an acute injury.
Chronic injuries are caused by repeated overuse of muscle groups or joints. Poor technique and structural abnormalities can also contribute to the development of chronic injuries. Medical investigation of any sports injury is important, because you may be hurt more severely than you think. For example, what seems like an ankle sprain may actually be a bone fracture.
Some of the more common sports injuries include:
- Neck and back strain- this may involve joint sprains and/or muscle strains
- Ankle sprain – symptoms include pain, swelling and stiffness.
- Bruises – a blow can cause small bleeds into the skin.
- Concussion – mild reversible brain injury from a blow to the head, which may be associated with loss of consciousness. Symptoms include headache, dizziness and short term memory loss.
- Cuts and abrasions – are usually caused by falls. The knees and hands are particularly prone.
- Dehydration – losing too much fluid can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- Dental damage – a blow to the jaw can crack, break or dislodge teeth.
- Groin strain – symptoms include pain and swelling.
- Hamstring strain – symptoms include pain, swelling and bruising.
- Knee joint injuries – symptoms include pain, swelling and stiffness. The ligaments, tendons or cartilage can be affected.
- Nose injuries – either blood nose or broken nose, are caused by a direct blow.
- Stress fractures – particularly in the lower limbs. The impact of repeated jumping or running on hard surfaces can eventually stress and crack bone.
Treatment for sports injuries
Treatment depends on the type and severity of the injury. Always see your osteopath or doctor if pain persists after a couple of days. What you may think is a straightforward sprain may actually be a fractured bone.
Osteopathy can help to rehabilitate the injured site and, depending on the injury, may include exercises to promote strength and flexibility. Returning to sport after injury depends on your osteopath’s or doctor’s assessment.
Trying to play before the injury is properly healed will only cause further damage and delay recovery. The biggest single risk factor for soft tissue injury is a previous injury. While the injury heals, you can maintain your fitness by choosing forms of exercise that don’t involve that part of your body, if possible.
Prevention of sports injuries
You may reduce your risk of sports injuries if you:
- Consult your osteopath for advice and treatment.
- Warm up thoroughly by gently going through the motions of your sport and performing slow, sustained stretches.
- Wear appropriate footwear.
- Tape or strap vulnerable joints, if necessary.
- Use the appropriate safety equipment, such as mouth guards, helmets and pads.
- Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after the game.
- Try to avoid exercising in the hottest part of the day, between 11 am and 3 pm.
- Maintain a good level of overall fitness, particularly in the off season (in the months between playing seasons for a sport).
- Cross-train with other sports to ensure overall fitness and muscle strength.
- Ensure training includes appropriate speed and impact work so muscles are capable of the demands of a game situation.
- Don’t exert yourself beyond your level of fitness. Gradually increase intensity and duration of training.
- Use good form and technique.
- Cool down after sport with gentle, sustained stretches.
- Allow adequate recovery time between sessions.