Complete guide: What is a sports injury, its causes, management and recovery?
Remember when we were kids, our parents would tell us to only concentrate on our studies. Extracurricular activities like playing sports or learning music were given less importance. Thankfully, this thinking has changed now and sports has gained prominence. People understand the contribution of athletics and games for a healthy life. However, it may also lead to injuries. In this article, Dr Reetadyuti Mukhopadhyay, Sports Injury Specialist at the CK Birla Hospital explores what is sports injury.
What are the causes of sports injuries?
Those who participate in regular physical activities have reduced risks of complications. Nonetheless, getting injured while playing sports is also natural as no one is immune to injuries. With an increased participation in sports events at school levels, sports injuries are also quite common in children. Dancers and gym-goers are also at a high risk of sports injuries.
There are different reasons and factors that lead to a sport-associated injury. Listed below are some of what are the main causes of sports injuries:
- Lack of good quality sporting gear
- Improper warming-up activities
- A sudden increase in the intensity of exercise
- Neglecting pain and continuing activities despite the discomfort
Every individual is different and so is their physical structure. There may be one or two weak points in everyone that are more prone to injuries. Being unaware of these physical limitations can cause injuries that might restrict sports activities and cause pain and discomfort.
What are the most common sports injuries?
Sports injuries can be broadly classified into minor and major injuries. The differentiation is done based on the severity and complexity of the injury. The most common first-aid technique on how to recover from sports injuries is using the R.I.C.E. approach, i.e. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Minor sports injuries
1. Ankle sprain
It is one of the most common sports injuries. A sprained ankle occurs when the ankle twists or rolls awkwardly. This awkward movement of the ankle can tear or stretch the ligaments holding the joints together. This can cause pain and discomfort.
Most sprained ankles cause tears on the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.
The best treatment for a sprained ankle is keeping the ankle compressed in the first 24 hours. The elevation should keep the ankle above the heart level to help in reducing swelling.
Ice packs should be applied to the affected area intermittently. Slowly after 24 hours, mild pressure can be applied on the ankle. Rest and correct care are the only ways to heal up from a sprained ankle and resume normal activities.
Also, read: Common foot and ankle injuries amongst athletes
2. Groin pull
A groin pull injury is the result of too much pressure on the muscles of the groin and thigh area. This type of sports injury is typical in activities which require a lot of jumping and running such as football and hockey.
A groin pull causes pain and tenderness to the inside of the thigh. It also causes pain during the movement of the knee. The severity of this type of injury depends on the level of strain put on the groin muscles.
The best cure for a groin pull is to rest and to apply ice packs. The groin muscles heal once all the pain and swelling reduces. To rule out other complications associated with this sports injury, doctors take X-rays along with a physical examination of the injured area.
Depending on the results of the X-ray, doctors may prescribe painkillers.
3. Hamstring strain
Hamstrings are a group of three muscles that run along your thigh. A hamstring strain happens when one or more of these muscles is overloaded with pressure.
Excessive pull on these muscles can lead to a tear. Even the slightest pain caused in the hamstring requires clinical intervention. The more severe the hamstring pull, the harder it becomes to walk or even stand.
Similar to groin pulls and ankle sprain, hamstring strains heal on their own, given enough time. Patients should avoid putting weight on the injured leg. Applying ice packs reduces swelling and decreases pain.
The affected area should be compressed with a bandage to allow for a faster healing. However, a severe sports injury to the hamstring requires surgery to fix the muscles internally.
Strengthening exercises and stretching are some tips on how sports injuries can be prevented.
Major sports injuries
ACL stands for the anterior cruciate ligament. The ACL injury acts as a connecting muscle between the thighs and the shin. It is one of the vital ligaments that secure the knee joints. An ACL injury occurs when a sudden jarring movement to the knee pops it out of the joint.
The injury causes swelling at the knee and makes it difficult to stand or walk.
Imaging tests like X-rays and MRIs offer a proper look into the severity of the injury. Unfortunately, most ACL injuries require surgery to regain full function of the knees – especially so for young athletes.
Even after surgery, the patients need physiotherapy as specific exercises help in restoring knee functions and adding strength to the leg muscles.
2. Broken bones
Broken bones or fractures are quite common in those pursuing sports. However, the severity of the injury depends on the way the bones are broken. Due to the repetitive nature of movements during certain sports, stress fractures that cause a slight break in the bone are quite common in players.
Severe fractures also occur due to a sudden and forceful push against bones while participating in sports.
A stress fracture usually requires six to eight weeks to heal completely. The affected area is compressed and iced to reduce swelling. A severe fracture involving broken bones, either wholly or partially, requires surgery to align the bones back together.
As bones take between six to twelve weeks to heal completely, the physician will check the patient periodically to assess healing after surgery. Depending on how fast the bones heal, physiotherapy exercises are done to strengthen the bones.
3. Chronic sports injuries
These injuries are a result of constant, repetitive, and prolonged use of muscles as in sports like running, cycling, and swimming. Stress fractures, runner’s knee, and tennis elbow are also common sports injuries.
The major cause of these chronic injuries is the lack of proper training given to athletes.
As chronic injuries are subtle and develop over time, patients must report even the slightest discomfort and pain to the doctors for evaluation.
Along with resting the affected area, most chronic injuries can be alleviated with the use of medication accompanied by physiotherapy.
How sports injuries can be prevented?
Sports injuries are unpredictable and hence, unavoidable. However, you can reduce the occurrence of injury with a few preventive measures.
Here’s how sports injuries can be prevented:
The foremost thing to do to reduce the occurrence of sports injuries is to invest in good quality sporting gear. You should also develop a correct fitness regime that focuses on core exercises and stretching all the relevant muscles.
Sportspersons, gym-goers, and dancers can benefit immensely with guidance from trainers who excel at providing such support. Sports therapy is a compulsory part of an athlete’s fitness protocol that seeks to reduce the impact of sports injuries.
Therapy also involves rehabilitation of the players to resume their normal activities as soon as possible.
It is nearly impossible to survive in this competitive arena without going through a sports injury. The best way to combat common sports injuries is by acknowledging the directives given by the trainers and orthopedic doctors. The above article offers insights on what are the main causes of sports injuries and how to recover them.
For more information or personalised guidance on how to deal with sports injuries, you can visit the CK Birla Hospital.