Sports Injuries

What are sports injuries?

Sports injuries are injuries that most commonly occur during sports or exercise. Sports injuries may occur because of accidents, poor training practices or with use of improper gear. Injuries may also be caused when an individual is not medically fit or because of insufficient warm up and stretching exercises.

Some of the common injuries suffered by sports personalities include:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Swollen muscles
  • Knee injuries
  • Fractures
  • Joint dislocations
  • Pain along the shin bone
  • Achilles tendon injuries

How does an acute injury differ from a chronic injury?

Sports injuries are generally classified in two types – acute and chronic.

Acute injuries are the sudden injuries that occur during playing or exercising and include sprained ankles, strained backs, and fractured hands. Individuals with acute injuries may present with signs such as,

  • Sudden, severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Unable to place weight on lower limb, on leg, knee, ankle or foot
  • Tenderness in an upper limb, may be in arm, elbow, wrist, hand or fingers
  • Unable to move a joint as normal
  • Extreme limb weakness
  • Visible dislocation of bone or joint

Chronic injuries happen from overusing one part of the body for playing a sport or exercising, preferably when practiced for a longer duration. Signs of chronic injury include:

  • Pain when performing an activity
  • Swelling
  • Dull ache when at rest

What should I do if I suffer an injury?

Regardless of the type of injury, acute or chronic, avoid working through the pain of an injury. On experiencing pain from a particular movement stop playing or exercising. Continuing the activity may worsen the condition. Some injuries may require immediate medical intervention while others can be self treated.

When is the medical intervention required?

Consult your doctor if:

  • You experience severe pain, swelling, or numbness
  • You can’t tolerate any weight on the area
  • Pain or dull ache of an old injury
  • If pain is accompanied by swelling or if you feel the joint as unstable

When to treat the injury at home?

If you don’t have any of the signs that require medical intervention, a safe treatment may be obtained at home. If pain or other symptoms get worse, please consult your sports surgeon. Use the Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) method to relieve pain, inflammation and for quick healing. Follow the RICE procedure immediately after an injury and continue for at least 48 hours. The RICE procedure is,

  • Rest – Reduce regular exercise or activities. If your ankle, knee or foot is injured, take weight off of it. A crutch can help and use the crutch on the part other than the injured limb. For an instance, if left part of the body is injured use the crutch on right side and vice versa. This will help you lean away and relieve weight on the injured part.
  • Ice – Apply an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes, four to eight times a day. You can use a cold pack, ice bag or plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel. Take care to avoid cold injury; do not apply the ice for more than 20 minutes.
  • Compression – Compression (applying even pressure) on the injured area reduces swelling. Injured are may be compressed using elastic wraps, special boot, air cast, or splints. Your sports surgeon may suggest you the device appropriate for your condition.
  • Elevation- Raise the injured area to the level above your heart, this helps in reducing the swelling. Pillow can be used for elevation.

What are the various approaches for treating sports injuries?

More often, every sports injury requires RICE treatment. In addition, your sports surgeon may recommend the following treatments:

Use of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduces the inflammation and pain. Some of the common NSAIDs used are aspirin, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, or naproxen sodium. These are available as over the counter drugs. Acetaminophen may also be recommended.


It is a common treatment for all sports injuries. Avoid the movement of injured part to prevent further damage. Slings, splints, casts and leg immobilizers are used for immobilization.


Severe injuries may require surgery such as the torn tendons and ligaments or dislocated and broken injuries.


Rehabilitation involves exercises and is an important part of sports injury treatment. Early mobilization starts with gentle range of motion exercises and then moves on to stretching and strengthening exercises. Avoid painful activities and concentrate on those exercises that will improve function in the injured part. Don’t resume your sport until you are sure you can stretch the injured tissues without any pain, swelling, or restricted movement.


All injuries need time to heal so proper rest helps the process. So you must also take time to rest after an injury.

Other therapies

Electro stimulation, cold packs, heat packs, ultrasound treatment and massage are the other therapies help the healing process.

How to prevent sports injuries?

Practicing the below mentioned preventive tips can help you avoid sports injuries:

  • Avoid bending knees past 90 degrees when doing knee bends
  • Avoid twisting the knees when you stretch an keep your feet flat as much as possible
  • Land with your knees bent when you jump
  • Warm up exercises are compulsory before any sport
  • Avoid extreme warm up exercises
  • Relax well after hard sports
  • Use appropriate sports gears
  • Use the softest exercise surface available
  • Run on flat surfaces

For adults

  • Don’t be a “weekend warrior” packing a week’s worth of activity in a day or two
  • Learn to do your sport right
  • Use safety gear
  • Accept your body’s limits
  • Increase your exercise level gradually
  • Strive for a total body workout of cardiovascular, strength-training, and flexibility exercises

For parents and coaches

  • Try to group children according to their skill level and body size, not by their age, preferably for contact sports

  • Match the child to the sport, and don’t push the child too hard to play a sport that may be a hard to your child
  • Choose sports programs that have certified athletic trainers
  • See that all children get a physical exam before playing
  • Don’t make the child play when injured and get the child medical attention if needed
  • A safe environment should be provided for sports

For Children

  • Be in proper condition to play the sport
  • Get a physical exam before playing
  • Follow the rules of the game
  • Know how to use athletic equipment
  • Wear appropriate protective gear
  • Avoid playing when you are very tired or in pain
  • Make warm-ups before and cool downs after you play

What are the recent advances in treating sports injuries?

Researches in sports medicine explored many new ways of treatment.

Arthroscopy – It uses a small fiber optic scope put through small cuts in the skin to see inside a joint.

Targeted pain relief – Special patches containing pain relievers are applied at the site of injury.

Advanced imaging techniques – Diagnostic tools such as X-rays will lead to better diagnosis and treatment.