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Sports-Related Injuries

Most sports injuries are from either injury or overuse of muscles or joints. Most are caused by minor injury involving muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones, including:

  • Bruises

  • Sprains

  • Strains

  • Fractures

  • Dislocations

What is a bruise?

A bruise is an injury to the soft tissue. It's often caused by blunt force such as a kick, fall, or blow. It results in pain, swelling, and discoloration.

What is a sprain?

A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament. Ligaments are flexible bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones to bones. They also hold together the bones in your joints. Sprains often affect the ankles, knees, or wrists.

What is a strain?

A strain is a twist, pull, or tear of a muscle or tendon and is often caused by overuse, too much force, or stretching. A tendon is a tough cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones.

Some examples of strains are:

  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). Lateral epicondylitis is also known as tennis elbow. Symptoms include pain in the outside of the elbow and forearm, along the thumb side when the arm is alongside the body with the thumb turned away. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm.

  • Golfer's or baseball elbow (medial epicondylitis). Medial epicondylitis is also known as golfer's elbow. Symptoms include pain from the elbow to the wrist on the inner side of the forearm. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm.

  • Lumbar strain. A lumbar strain is an injury to the lower back. This causes damaged tendons and muscles that spasm and feel sore. Trauma of great force can injure the tendons and muscles in the lower back. Pushing and pulling sports, such as weightlifting or football, can lead to a lumbar strain. Sports that need sudden twisting of the lower back, such as basketball, baseball, and golf, can also lead to this injury.

  • Jumper's knee (patellar tendonitis). Patellar tendonitis is also known as jumper's knee. Symptoms include swelling (inflammation) of the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the shin bone (tibia). The condition may be caused by overuse of the knee joint, such as frequent jumping on hard surfaces.

  • Runner's knee (patellofemoral stress syndrome). Patellofemoral stress syndrome is also known as runner's knee. This is when the kneecap (patella) doesn't move well in the groove of the thighbone (femur). Runner's knee may be caused by a structural defect, or a certain way of walking or running.

What is a fracture?

Fractures are breaks in the bone that are often caused by a blow or a fall. A fracture can be a simple hairline fracture. This is a thin fracture that may not run through the entire bone. But it can also be an open (compound) fracture. This is when the broken bone comes through the skin. Most fractures happen in the arms and legs.

Stress fractures are weak spots or small cracks in the bone caused by continuous overuse. Stress fractures often happen in the foot or leg after training for gymnastics, running, and other sports. The bones in the midfoot (metatarsals) in runners are especially vulnerable to stress fractures.

What is a dislocation?

A dislocation happens when extreme force is put on a joint. This lets the ends of two connected bones to separate. Stress on joint ligaments can lead to dislocation of the joint. The shoulder is the most common major joint to dislocate.

Rehab for sports injuries

A rehab (rehabilitation) program for sports injuries is designed to meet your specific needs, depending on the type and severity of the injury. You and your family's active involvement is vital to the success of the program.

The goal of rehab after a sports injury is to help you return to the highest level of function possible while improving your overall quality of life.

To help you reach these goals, sports injury rehab programs may include:

  • Activity limits

  • Physical or occupational therapy

  • Exercise programs to stretch and strengthen the area

  • Conditioning exercises to help prevent further injury

  • Heat or cold packs and whirlpool treatments

  • Using braces, splints, or casts to keep the area from moving

  • Using crutches or wheelchairs

  • Pain management techniques

  • Patient and family education

The sports injury rehabilitation team

Rehab programs for sports injuries are usually done on an outpatient basis. Many skilled professionals are part of the sports injury rehab team, including:

  • Orthopedist or orthopedic surgeon

  • Physiatrist

  • Physical therapist

  • Occupational therapist

  • Exercise physiologist

  • Sports medicine specialist

  • Athletic trainer

Online Medical Reviewer: Amy Finke RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rahul Banerjee MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2023
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