No matter what caliber athlete you are, from weekend warrior to professional, there’s always a chance you might succumb to sports injuries.
Unfortunately, injuries are a common experience on the field. Accidents, bad habits, poor training, and improper gear can all cause injuries. Not to mention, it’s always imperative to go for a sports physical prior to starting any athletic endeavor.
In this article you’ll learn the nine most common sports injuries, what causes them, how to treat them, and the effect they may have on your athletic career.
9 Common Sports Injuries With Causes and Treatment
When you have a minor muscle or tendon tear, it’s called a strain. Think pulled hamstrings, pulled groin muscles, or strained quadriceps.
Usually, sudden movement (like sprinting or cutting) or moving a joint past its normal range of motion causes strains. The symptoms of strains are pain, inflammation, swelling, and stiffness.
Strains typically heal on their own with rest. But if you keep playing with a strained muscle or tendon, you risk a more serious injury.
What’s the difference between a sprain and a strain? Sprains involve ligaments (the fibrous connective tissue that connects bone to bone), while strains involve muscles or tendons (which connect muscle to bone).
A sprain is a minor ligament tear. Common sprains include twisted ankles and sprained knees, wrists, and ankles. Like strains, sprains are usually caused by moving the wrong way.
Sprains can be very painful, and may require immobilization to fully heal. Also, repeated sprains set you up for worse sprains down the road, so it’s a good idea to see a physical therapist for rehab exercises.
#3 Plantar Fasciitis and Shin Splints
Plantar fasciitis and shin splints are different issues, but they’re both overuse injuries caused by sprinting or running. The primary causes of these injuries are wearing shoes that don’t fit your feet well, and running on hard surfaces with poor form.
If you have plantar fasciitis, you’ll experience sharp pain when walking or running, whereas shin splints cause pain in the front of your lower leg.
Overuse injuries can only get better with rest, so you’ll need to cut back on volume for a while. It’s also smart to refine your running form and try a new pair of shoes.
#4: Tennis Elbow
You don’t have to be a tennis player to get tennis elbow. You can also get it from playing golf, baseball, hockey, or lacrosse.
Tennis elbow is caused by repetition. It’s an overuse injury that results in weakness and pain in your lower arm.
You can use foam rolling, self myofascial release, rest, and physical therapy exercises to prevent or treat tennis below.
#5: ACL Tears and Other Knee Injuries
Your knees are complicated, delicate joints. They’re prone to impact and wear and tear during sports. Tears to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or other parts of your knee are painful and often require surgery. They can even end your sports career.
Women are two to eight times more likely to experience ACL tears than men[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11727468]. Doctors think this is due to the unique angle between their hips and knees.
You can limit your risk of serious knee injuries by staying in shape year round, knowing your limits, and using conditioning exercises to strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps.
#6: Back Pain and Back Injuries
Unlike animals that run on all fours, the human back is delicate due to our bipedal posture.
Nearly every sport places stress on your back and spinal column, which sometimes results in pain and inflammation of your vertebrae and back muscles.
If you don’t address these issues, you may experience ruptured or fused discs or painful muscle imbalances.
Back injuries can also be caused by sudden impacts like falling or tackling.
You can reduce your risk of back problems with strength and flexibility exercises. If you’ve already injured your back, see a chiropractor or orthopedist.
Fractures are broken bones. If the bone breaks through the skin, the fracture is said to be an open or compound fracture.
Impact and contact sports like football and wrestling commonly cause bone fractures. Other causes include falls or weakened muscles caused by other injuries. Fractures of the arms, legs, and feet, are the most prevalent.
They can be painful, usually take weeks of immobilization to heal, and sometimes require corrective surgery.
While fractures are a risk you can’t avoid altogether, you can reduce your chances by addressing strains and sprains, warming up, maintaining strong and flexible muscles, practicing good technique, and wearing protective padding.
A dislocation is a joint injury that forces the end of a bone out of position. You can dislocate your shoulder, knees, ankles, hip, elbows, jaw, finger, and toe joints.
The most common causes of dislocations include falls or impact during contact sports. You’ll know if you dislocated a joint: it will be swollen, extremely painful, and noticeably deformed. You may not even be able to move it.
A dislocated joint is a medical emergency, so you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. The treatment depends on which joint is dislocated and how severe it is. Doctors use manual manipulations, splints, slings, and physical therapy to treat dislocations.
Usually a dislocated joint is usable within a few weeks, once it’s addressed by a medical professional.
Last but not least, concussions are a type of serious sports injury that all-too-often goes undetected. Concussions are most common in contact sports like football, but can also occur in soccer and other sports.
A concussion happens due to sudden acceleration of the brain following impact to the head. As a result, concussions can damage the brain as well as the tissue that holds it in place. Severity of concussions ranges from mild to severe.
Signs and symptoms include different-sized pupils, ringing ears, headache, dizziness, sleepiness, and sudden loss of consciousness. Never go to sleep after a concussion.
Concussions usually get better on their own after a few weeks of rest, but it’s extremely important not to play after a blow to the head. Anyone who’s experienced head trauma should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. Long-term, repeated concussions can lead to permanent damage.