Staying Healthy and Avoiding Injuries in Sports

Sprains and Strains

Both sprains and strains are common injuries for individuals who participate in sports. A sprain is best-described as a trauma or injury to ligaments. The injury is caused when a ligament is over or improperly stretched. Often, this occurs as a result of a fall or if a part of the body such as an ankle is twisted. Strains are stretched or torn tendons or muscle fibers and they are frequently a result of overuse or overstretching. These injuries affect the body by causing varying degrees of pain and swelling. In more severe cases, they can affect a person’s ability to move and may cause damage to nerves and surrounding tissue. If someone suffers from a sprain or strain they should stop the activity that caused the injury and rest the area in question by restricting activity for 48 to 72 hours. In addition, one should use ice packs approximately every 60 to 90 minutes for roughly 15 minutes at a time. The area should also be wrapped in an elastic compress bandage and elevated whenever possible. A doctor’s care should be sought if the injury worsens within the first 24 hours, if function does not return in full, or if the swelling or pain does not diminish. It is possible to avoid these types of injuries with regular conditioning workouts for improved strength, by performing proper warm-up routines prior to strenuous activities, and by using supportive footwear.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are varied and, depending on the injury, can affect the bone, ligaments, tendons, or cartilage. These injuries can be tears, fractures, dislocation, or inflammation and can cause a person to suffer from pain, swelling, and immobility. In the long-run, particularly if not properly treated, they may affect the body by causing chronic pain, knee instability, a higher risk of arthritis, and damage to tissue. Injuries are often caused by stress, twisting, or a trauma. Common injuries to the knee include injuries to the medial cruciate ligament (MCL), the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), Meniscal cartilage tears, bursitis, dislocated kneecap, and Iliotibial band syndrome. Knee injuries often happen as a result of an accident; however, an individual can take steps to avoid these accidents by wearing the proper footwear for the sport or activity that they are participating in. In addition, warm-ups, strengthening training, and watching one’s form during certain activities can also reduce the risk of knee injuries. If one injures their knee they should see a doctor to determine the exact type of injury and prevent further damage and receive specific care instructions. Initially, the individual should control the swelling by taking weight off of the knee, resting it, applying ice to the area, and by using a compress wrap. The knee should also be elevated when possible.

Swollen Muscles

Swollen muscles are a symptom caused by a wide range of potential problems. When an injury occurs, the body often responds with swelling, which can be described as an abnormal enlargement of the muscle. This is typically caused by fluid build-up in the muscle tissue. It may be associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), muscle strains, overuse, myositis, or other conditions or injuries. Swelling, if untreated, can affect the body not only by causing pain, but it can affect the arteries and veins, decrease blood circulation and diminish muscle elasticity. It may cause scarring of the tissue, increase one’s risk of infection and, depending on its location, it can make it difficult for a person to walk. Self-care depends on the cause of the swelling and one should ideally speak with their doctor to confirm the best way to manage it. Often, elevating a swollen appendage to a level higher than one’s heart may help to decrease the swelling and wearing compression sleeves or stockings may also prove helpful. To avoid or reduce the risk of sport-related muscle swelling the individual should stretch and perform warm-up exercises before engaging in strenuous activities and properly cooling down when finished. It is also important to understand and use proper technique when engaging in sports.

Achilles Tendon Injuries

The Achilles tendon is a tendon that reaches from the heel to the calf. This, the largest tendon in the body, allows a person to perform actions such as pointing their toes. Achilles tendinitis is a type of overuse injury that is common in people who play tennis or basketball or who are runners. Other injuries include ruptures and tears, which can be caused by overly vigorous activity, tight tendons, prematurely increasing the intensity of physical activity and from severe cases of Achilles tendinitis. If not properly treated injuries can result in complications such an infection, severe pain, difficulty walking, and heel or tendon deformity. Rest, ice, and elastic bandage compressions are just a few of the ways that one can take care of themselves if they have this type of injury. To reduce the risk of stretching the tendon further, a person may be advised to wear a heel lift in their shoe. Ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be used to manage the pain of minor or moderate injuries. Individuals should always follow the care instructions that are given by a doctor, which may include strengthening exercises. This type of injury can potentially be prevented by wearing properly fitting and supportive shoes, slowly increasing the intensity of one’s workout, and discontinuing the strenuous activity if there is a tight or painful sensation in the calf or heel. People may also potentially avoid an Achilles tendon injury by reducing how often or far they run uphill.

Pain Along the Shin Bone

The lower half of the leg consists of two bones. The largest of these is called the tibia or the shin. Shin pain may be caused by too much exercise, softer bones, and even the way in which a person’s body moves. Injuries that commonly cause pain along this bone include stress fractures, compartment syndrome, and shin splints. Shin pain, depending on its cause, may be localized and sharp or it may feel like an ache. Problems that may arise alongside shin pain may include a decrease in sensation, bleeding, severe and uncontrolled pain, or even paralysis. In efforts to prevent shin splints and other injuries that cause pain one should take steps such as gradually increasing the intensity of activities and by wearing appropriate footwear. Shoe inserts that provide cushion or help with flat feet may also prove helpful. A person who has shin pain may reduce inflammation with the application of ice packs or with anti-inflammatory medications. Taking a rest from participating in exercise and strenuous activity is often also necessary. Because there are different reasons why one may suffer from this type of pain, it is important to visit a doctor for specific care.

Fractures

Fractures are partial or complete bone breaks that may be open or closed. They are generally caused by overuse or repetitive motion, weak bones, or by some form of impact, the force of which will affect the severity of the fracture. Fractures negatively affect the body by causing pain, swelling, and deformity. Depending on the type and severity of the fracture it may cause infection of the bone, damage to blood vessels and blood loss to the limb. If not treated the bone may heal improperly and result in a loss of function. Depending on the location of the broken bone it could cause difficulty breathing or even result in the loss of a limb or an eye, for example. If a bone is fractured, the right at-home care following surgery or treatment is important. This generally involves wearing a cast that hinders movement of the broken area. To avoid bone fractures, taking calcium and eating a healthy diet can help strengthen bones as can exercising with weights. When participating in sports, people should wear protective gear that is appropriate for the activity and follow general safety rules. Sports injuries can also cause a tooth fracture. In this case, care should be sought from a dentist who provides an excellent level of care with the help of a dental support organization.

Dislocations

When a joint is forced out of position by an injury is called a dislocation. Dislocations frequently occur in shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and even fingers. A dislocation typically cannot easily be moved, is deformed, and painful. Complications from a dislocation include damage to blood vessels and nerves, an increased risk of arthritis over time, and torn muscles, tendons, and ligaments. One may also suffer from repeated dislocations in the future. A person who has a dislocated joint can care for the injury by first seeking medical care. Once treated, the joint should be rested and pain managed with over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen. For the first two days the area should be iced to reduce inflammation with ice packs applied for approximately 15 minutes every two hours. After three days the muscles may feel sore and tight. A heat pad applied to the area for roughly 20 minutes may help bring relief. Stiffness may also be relieved by gentle movements of the injured joint. To avoid injury, one should wear protective gear while participating in sports. Exercises to improve strength may also help reduce one’s chances of reoccurring dislocations.