Sport and exercise are crucial to our health and well-being – but that doesn’t mean there are no risks involved and there’s always the potential to sustain sports injuries when we’re exercising or taking part in sporting activities.
Given the wide variety of sports out there, it goes without saying that the nature of sports injuries can vary a lot, and more or less any part of the body can be susceptible to an injury of some kind. Sometimes these injuries are the result of an accident, while in other cases there are steps you can take to avoid certain ailments.
What Causes A Sports Injury?
Sports injuries can have various causes, including:
- Accidents – Accidents happen. You could experience a fall or a blow to the head or body when you’re playing sports certain sports.
- Overexertion – If you push yourself too hard when you’re exercising, this can result in an injury.
- Insufficient warm-up – It’s important to stretch and warm up your muscles before taking part in sports or starting a workout.
- Bad technique – Certain activities can lead to injury if done incorrectly with poor form or technique.
Types Of Sports Injury
Our bodies are made up of many different tissue types including muscles, joints, bones, tendons and ligaments, all of which are linked together to enable us to move. Because of this complex structure, sports injuries can take many different forms.
Soft tissue injuries
Sports injuries very often involve soft tissues such as your muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Strains and sprains are by far the most common type of sports injury, and they can range from mild to severe.
- Strain – A strain usually takes the form of a pulled muscle, which is the consequence of overstretched or torn muscle tissues. If you experience the same issue in one of your tendons, which link up bone to muscle, this is also known as a strain.
- Sprain – If you overstretch, tear or twist a ligament, this results in what’s known as a sprain, which is another very common sports injury. Our ligaments are the fibrous tissues which connect our bones.
Ligaments and tendons are very strong which means a complete rupture is rare. This type of injury causes very severe pain and often requires surgery.
If you’ve experienced a strain or sprain then symptoms usually include pain and tenderness, and sometimes bruising and swelling as well.
Particularly common places to experience strains and sprains from sport include the back, groin, hipes, hamstrings, and calves.
- Shin splints – If you’re a keen runner or you spend a lot of your time jogging about on the football pitch, you could be more likely to experience this ailment. Known medically as medial tibial stress syndrome, it involves inflammation of the muscles, tendons and bone around the tibia.
- Heel pain – There’s a thick band of tissue under the sole of the foot and runners will often find that this can become inflamed and cause pain. A damaged Achilles tendon can also lead to heel pain, which is severe if the tendon is torn.
Common joint injuries
Certain joints are particularly susceptible to sports injuries:
- Knee injuries – Our knees are subject to a significant amount of wear and tear, not only during sport and exercise but in daily life too. When it comes to knee sprains, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is very frequently affected. Connecting your thigh and shinbone, it’s often torn when taking part in sports like football and basketball, which require sudden stops and turns. Runner’s knee is another common sports injury which results in a dull ache in the knee cap.
- Tennis elbow – Just as the name suggests, racket sports are often a culprit here and this type of sports injury tends to be the result of repetitive strain on the muscles and tendons surrounding your elbow joint. Take a look at our dedicated guide to tennis elbow if you think you’re suffering from this ailment.
- Ankle – Any sports which involve running and jumping can increase the risk of a sprained ankle, which is something most people have experienced at some point.
- Wrist – A complex joint, the wrist is susceptible to injury during racket sports and even activities like horse riding and fishing.
Head injuries can be the result of a fall or a knock to the head. There’s the potential for these to be extremely serious, so if you’ve had a severe blow or you’re experiencing like symptoms like confusion, blurred vision or vomiting, the NHS advises that you seek immediate emergency treatment.
Like head injuries, broken bones can be caused by a fall or blow and it’s advisable to head to A&E if you think you’ve broken something. Bruising, swelling and pain are the usual symptoms.
Treating a Sports Injury
How you need to treat your sports injury depends on its nature and severity. More serious head injuries or a broken bone will require immediate medical treatment.
However, sprains and strains can very often be treated by yourself at home. Rest is essential and it goes without saying that it’s a good idea to avoid taking part in the sport or exercise that led to your injury until it’s fully healed. The NHS recommends PRICE (protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation) therapy for two to three days.
If you’re suffering from a sports injury that’s chronic or long-term, physiotherapy can often be a useful treatment method to rehabilitate injured tissues and a physiotherapist will devise an appropriate plan for you.
Some injuries can be self-treated whilst others require prompt medical attention. You should seek advice from a health professional if: the injury causes severe pain, swelling, or numbness; you can't tolerate weight on the area; the pain or dull ache of an old injury is accompanied by increased swelling or joint abnormality or instability.