Sports Injuries

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Sport is good for physical health and mental wellbeing. However, playing sport puts people at risk of injuring themselves and certain high impact sports in particular are a common cause of injuries.

There are many different types of sports injuries but among the ones we see most frequently are strains, sprains, shin sprints, anterior cruciate ligament tear, labral cartilage tears, tennis elbow, fractures and muscle tendon bursitis.

There are many different types of sports injuries but among the ones we see most frequently in our clinic are:

    • Strains – These are injuries to the muscles (pulled muscles) and tendons. Overstretching a muscle can cause tears in the muscle fibres or tendons. Groin strain is an injury to the groin or inner thigh muscle and is common in sports like football and hockey. Hamstring strains, affecting the muscles in the back of the thigh, are also common and can be slow to heal.
    • Sprains – Overstretching ligaments (which connect bones to joints) can cause them to tear or deform. Ankle sprains can happen when the foot turns sharply inwards causing the ligaments on the outside of the ankle to stretch and tear.
    • Shin splints are pains in the front of the lower legs. They are often caused by running over long distances or on hard surfaces like roads.
    • An anterior cruciate ligament tear is a severe injury which normally requires surgery. The ACL attaches the leg bone to the knee and can become torn if the knee is hit from the side or there is a sudden sharp change of direction.
    • Labral cartilage tears can occur around the hip socket, causing pain in the hip and a clicking sound when moving.
    • Tennis elbow is caused by repetitive movements of the elbow which can cause irritation of the tendons or tiny tears.
    • Fractures – These can vary in severity. In sportspeople, stress fractures are common, which are cracks in the bone caused by overuse. In contact sports or sports that can lead to falls and collisions, you may fracture a bone in one or more places. You may have an open fracture (where the bone pierces the skin) or a closed fracture and a fracture where the bones remain aligned or are displaced. Hip and ankle fractures are common sporting injuries.
    • Muscle tendon bursitis is a painful condition caused by inflammation of the bursa, which are fluid filled sacs that are located between tissues to prevent friction.

Causes of sports injuries

Common causes of sporting injury include:

  • Being out of condition which can lead to a loss of strength and flexibility. It is important to exercise regularly and, if you have had a break, to build up gradually and not to try and do too much too quickly.Increasing the intensity of your training too suddenly can cause injuries such as shin splints.
  • Repetitive movements can irritate the tendons, leading to conditions like tennis elbow. It is important to stop if you experience pain and not to push through it as this can lead to a worsening of the problem.
  • High impact collisions and falls.
  • Wearing the wrong footwear or not wearing sufficient protective equipment.
  • Poor technique.
  • Exercising when tired.

Diagnosis of sports injuries

In addition to a physical examination to ascertain the location and extent of pain, your doctor may suggest a range of diagnostic tests including:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI scan

Contact us

For evidence-based orthopaedic care you can trust, make contact for an initial consultation.

Treatment of sports injuries

Treatment varies according to the type and severity of the injury. Our approach is always to recommend the least invasive approach first – such as rest, ice, anti-inflammatories and immobilisation. This is because surgical procedures carry a greater risk of complication and can have a longer recovery period that non-surgical approaches. For severe injuries, however, surgery may be needed immediately.

Common treatments for sporting injury include:

  • The RICE method:
    • Rest is important to avoid making the problem worse
    • Ice can reduce swelling. Apply it for 20 minutes every one or two hours during the first 24-48 hours after injury.
    • Compression with an elastic bandage can help reduce swelling
    • Elevating the affected area above the area of the heart can also bring down swelling.
  • Painkillers and anti-inflammatories should be used alongside RICE and it is important not to return to training too quickly or you can exacerbate the problem, which may result in long-term issues.
  • Immobilisation using a splint, brace or cast may be needed to hold fractured bones in place while they heal.
  • Exercises recommended by a physiotherapist can help to build strength and flexibility and are an important part of the rehabilitation process.
  • It is important to seek medical help if you are unable to put weight on the injured limb or if there is bleeding or obvious deformity. If an injury fails to respond to RICE treatment you should also see a doctor.
  • In some situations, injection therapy can be used to help with pain relief (e.g. a steroid injection) while recovery is underway or to enhancing the healing process after a sports injury (e.g. PRP injection)
  • Some injuries, such as fractures, may require surgery. If the bones have become displaced during the fracture you may need internal fixation with metal plates, screws or pins, to hold the broken pieces of bone together while they heal.
  • If there is severe damage to the hip or knee joint you may require joint replacement surgery. You may be given a partial or a total joint replacement, depending on the extent of the damage.

Prevention of sports injuries

Not all sporting injuries are preventable however there are some sensible steps you can take to minimise your risk of getting injured. These include:

  • Maintaining a good level of fitness, as many injuries occur when people are out of condition.
  • Warming up thoroughly to increase the blood flow to muscles which can help prevent damage.
  • Building up gradually and stopping when you feel tired.
  • Wearing the correct footwear and protective equipment.
  • Having professional coaching so you can learn good technique.
For evidence-based orthopaedic care you can trust, make contact for an initial consultation.