If you actively play sports or you occasionally take part in strenuous exercise activities, such as marathons, you may have experienced getting a sports injury. This is a normal occurrence among people who live active lifestyles. Sports activities are physically demanding, so they can put your body through intense stress and strain.
Children are more prone to sports injuries than adults, but you may still be at risk of getting injured even if you’ve been active for several years now. In particular, you’re considered to be highly at risk of injuries if any of the following applies to you:
- You’re not consistently active.
- You don’t do proper warm-ups before your workouts.
- You play contact sports.
Though injuries are common in sports, there are various things you can do to mitigate the chances of it occurring or prevent it from getting worse. This article discusses different ways to treat and prevent common sports injuries.
1. Muscle Strain
Also known as a pulled muscle, muscle strain usually happens when you overstretch and end up tearing your muscle fibers or tendons. You may experience pain, swelling, and difficulty using the affected muscle.
The most common muscle groups that are prone to strain are calves and hamstrings, especially for people who participate in activities that involve a lot of running. Some factors that contribute to strains are poor muscle conditioning and muscle fatigue. Also, if you’ve had previous knee or pelvic injuries, you may be more vulnerable to muscle strain.
- Thoroughly warm yourself up before participating in any physical activity, especially intense workouts.
- Make sure that all previous injuries are healed before you participate in any sport or activity.
- Hydrate yourself regularly during and after an activity.
- Eat potassium-rich foods like bananas or avocados to prevent muscle fatigue.
- Follow the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
- Use over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
- Apply heat on the affected area every three days to restore blood circulation.
For severe cases, you should call your doctor immediately to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. You may also want to look into regenerative medicine here to see if it can help improve your condition.
2. Ankle Sprain
This usually happens when your ankle joint is forced out of its normal position. A sprained ankle may occur when you use ill-fitting or inappropriate footwear for an activity, step on an uneven surface, or make an improper landing after a jump. This may result in swelling, bruises, or discomfort in the affected area.
- Wear a brace for support if you have weak or unsteady ankles.
- Perform strengthening and conditioning exercises.
- Avoid using high heels.
- Use comfortable footwear.
- Always do warm-ups before exercising.
- Always pay attention to the surface you’re walking on.
- Apply the RICE method.
- Use over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help facilitate the pain and reduce further swelling.
- Apply elastic bandages around the affected area, but make sure it’s not too tight, as it should still allow blood to flow properly.
For severe sprains, you should call your doctor and check if a surgical operation is necessary.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that occurs when your head experiences a sudden blow, hit, or jolt with enough force to make the brain and head move back and forth rapidly. This usually happens in contact sports, particularly football, and it could render you unconscious.
Symptoms of a concussion may include memory problems, altered mental state, drowsiness, blurred vision, headache, nausea or vomiting, balance problems, or a low level of alertness.
- Wear protective gear or a helmet during sports activities.
- Make sure the helmet fits your head properly.
- Always follow the advice of your professional training coach for safe playing rules.
- At your doctor’s recommendation, take medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help manage the pain.
- Get plenty of rest for your body and your brain.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages, as they may slow down your healing process.
- If you’re experiencing bleeding and swelling, your doctor may require you to undergo surgery or other medical procedures.
4. Achilles Tendinitis
If you often participate in activities that involve intense jumping or running, you should be aware of this condition, as it can result from overuse of your Achilles tendon. You may experience pain, swelling, and stiffening of the affected area. Oftentimes, the pain is much worse in the morning.
Achilles tendinitis is especially common for those who participate in tennis, basketball, or running.
- Always perform warm-up exercises before engaging in an activity.
- Wear properly fitted and comfortable shoes.
- As much as possible, avoid wearing high-heeled footwear.
- Stretch your calf muscles every day to improve agility and make it less prone to injury.
- Combine intense activities such as basketball with low-intensity sports like swimming to relax your tendons.
- Apply ice to the affected area for about 15–20 minutes, then let it warm. This will reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Wrap your Achilles tendon with a bandage to compress the injury, but not too tightly, as it might restrict blood flow.
- Rest for a few days until you feel no pain when you walk.
- At your doctor’s recommendation, use crutches if you have to walk a long distance.
If the suggested treatments don’t work, you should visit your doctor for a complete diagnosis. Your doctor may require you to undergo surgery to prevent the condition from worsening.
5. Shin Splints
Shin splints occur when your front lower leg muscles surrounding the shin bone become inflamed. This usually happens to people who participate in strenuous sports such as running, tennis, basketball, or soccer.
Symptoms of shin splints may include the following:
- Intense stabbing pain in the shin bone area
- Swelling in the lower leg
- Numbness in the feet
- Soreness on the inner part of the leg
- Wear proper and comfortable athletic shoes.
- Avoid performing activities on uneven surfaces.
- Always warm up before a workout or activity.
- Engage in strength training to strengthen the calf muscles.
- Do not engage in any activity while in pain.
- Keep your legs elevated above heart level.
- Apply a cold compress on the affected area to reduce swelling.
- Take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to ease the pain.
- Massage your shins with foam rollers.
- Wear compression bandages, but don’t put it on too tightly.
Shin splints don’t usually require surgery, but if your condition persists for several months, you should call your doctor to see what should be done about it.
6. Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
This is a condition that causes pain outside and around the elbow. It usually happens when you overuse your forearm muscles near the elbow joint due to repetitive movements. As the name suggests, tennis players typically experience this condition when they repeatedly use backhand strokes with poor mobility.
Symptoms for tennis elbow may include pain and weakness in the forearm, which makes it difficult for a person to perform simple tasks, such as holding a cup of coffee or turning a doorknob.
However, don’t be deceived by its name. Tennis elbow is also common among other people who perform tasks that involve a lot of arm movements, such as carpentry, plumbing, or painting.
- Refrain from engaging in any activity if you feel elbow pain.
- Do stretching and warm-up exercises regularly to condition your muscles.
- Apply a cold compress to your elbow after strenuous activities.
- Practice proper posture and technique, especially in golf and tennis.
- Use the right equipment; don’t use something too large or too heavy for you.
- Apply ice to the affected area for 20 to 30 minutes every three to four hours for about two to three days or until you no longer feel any pain.
- Wear an elbow strap to protect the injured tendon.
- Take medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin to help alleviate pain and swelling. However, don’t use them too often, as overuse may cause bleeding and ulcers.
- Perform range-of-motion exercises to reduce stiffness and improve flexibility.
If the condition persists for two to four months, consider asking for professional treatment. Your doctor may advise you to have surgery to remove the damaged part of your tendon.
7. Runner’s Knee
Runner’s knee is a general term used to describe various conditions that cause intense pain around the knee. Runner’s knee can be used to refer to any of the following:
- Patellofemoral malalignment
- Anterior knee pain syndrome
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome
- Iliotibial band syndrome
Symptoms of runner’s knee may include the following:
- Pain when walking, running, or climbing stairs
- Pain when standing up or sitting down
- Pain during squats
- Grinding and swelling of the knee
This condition usually happens when there’s a misalignment or trauma in the kneecap, overuse of the knee, partial dislocation of the knee, or arthritis.
- Stay in good shape. If you’re overweight, ask your doctor if you need a weight loss plan.
- Always perform stretching exercises prior to workouts and activities.
- Always wear proper and comfortable training shoes.
- Run properly. Apply the correct posture and technique when running.
- Protect the affected area from receiving further stress.
- Reduce pain and swelling by applying ice to your knee for about 30 minutes.
- Use elastic bandages to compress your knee, but make sure it’s not too tight to prevent swelling around the compressed area.
- Elevate your knee above heart level. You may do so by placing a pillow under your knee when lying or sitting down.
- On your doctor’s recommendation, take nonsteroidal medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen.
Also, your doctor may advise you to undergo surgery if you need to realign your kneecap or if your cartilage is damaged.
Engaging in sports or any physical activity is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, you have to consider several factors, such as using proper equipment or wearing protective gear, to prevent and mitigate the effects of possible injuries. You also have to listen to your body and stop what you’re doing when you feel the first signs of pain, stress, or discomfort. With the information given above, you can better treat and prevent any sports injuries you might sustain, and thus continue to enjoy playing the sports you love.