The Most Common Sports Injuries
As sports physiotherapists, we see plenty of injuries throughout the year. In fact, the injuries we see can be seasonal in nature. We see running injuries mainly during the warmer months, and sprained ankles during the winter football and soccer months.
Generally, sports injuries occur when the soft tissues are placed under higher loads than they can tolerate. Depending on the exact nature of the load, the direction of the load and the velocity of the load, different injuries can occur.
Let’s go through the most common sports injures and how we treat them at Active Physiotherapy Newtown & CBD.
– also knowns as sprains. So… ligaments connect one bone to another. We have ligaments all over our body in our joints. Ligaments allow our muscles to produce force across a particular joint more efficiently and provide joint stability. If we pull on a joint (for example the knee joint) too far against the tension of the ligament, and this force is too great for the ligament, then this ligament will tear. An easy way to picture this in your mind is like a rope tearing. Sometimes, these tears are “partial”, which means only part of the ligament has torn and some of the ligament remains intact. Sometimes, these tears are “full” tears, which means the entire ligament has torn or snapped. As you can imagine, this is very serious in most cases.
Depending on the extent of the tear, your physiotherapist may need to strap your injured joint with rigid strapping tape. Sometimes you will need to be immobilised in a brace or moonboot. And sometimes you will need surgery. Your physiotherapist will determine the extent of your ligament injury and choose the best evidence-based treatment for you. At our clinic, we have seen many thousands of ligament tears.
Muscles create force by contracting and pull / push that force using our skeletal frame to move our bodies through the environment ( eg. walk) or manipulate our environment (e.g. open a door). Muscle tears occur either because a muscle is trying to contract too hard, or has become fatigued, or is pulling along a line of force where it is mechanically disadvantaged. Muscle soft tissue has plentiful blood supply, so it is very common to see bruising when you have torn a muscle. In good news though, because of this very good blood supply, muscles heal really well. Most muscle tears (depending on the extent) will heal within 4-6 weeks. Very rarely to we see a muscle tear that needs surgery, but some massive complete tears of large muscles like hamstrings and quads do happen and for these we need help from our trusted surgeons.
Tendinopathies- a tendinopathy is an injury to a tendon, usually by changing the loads put through the tendon tissue. You can read much more on tendinopathies in our blog article on tendinopathies here.
Stress fractures are a serious sports injury. A stress fracture to a bone will occur generally with gradual repetitive overloading across a bone (or part of a bone). When exposed to repetitive overload, the bone can crack or fracture. Because stress fractures occur slowly and may only be associated with mild pain or even no pain. These injuries must be managed in a very particular way and need the assistance of your physiotherapist and sports doctor.
Low back and pelvic pain
Low back and pelvic pain are commonly associated with sports injuries. Many runners get low back pain due to the high forces that have to be absorbed by the hips/pelvis/low back region. Many sports where the participant has their spine flexed also commonly present with low back and pelvic pain. Think rowers sitting in their rowing seat and weightlifters squatting heavy weights. You can read more about lower back pain here.
A concussion injury generally occurs after a knock to the head. For many years, concussion injuries were not taken seriously, and sporting participants were allowed and even encouraged, to play on. Over recent years, as more and more research into brain injuries occurs, it has become clear that a concussion injury is actually a type of traumatic brain injury. Of course, this is very serious and some professional athletes have had very bad long term outcomes after repeated heavy concussions. This is especially in the rugby league, rugby union, American Football, AFL leagues, and in boxing. The main treatment for concussion is rest and prevention of further traumatic head knocks. Return to sport after a concussion can be determined by your physiotherapist liaising with your sports doctor or neurologist.
Shin splints are an injury whereby you get strong aching and pain in the front of your shins. Patients get shin splints usually from a variety of factors including weak calf muscles, running loads that are too high for their capacity, poor running shoes, running too many consecutive days and weakness higher up the kinetic chain such as in the hips. First aid to relieve pain is to ice massage the front of the shins and rest. Once you have seen your physiotherapist to determine what is driving the pain, shin splints normally respond well to treatment.
Broken bones / Fractures
Broken bones are very common. Who didn’t fall off the monkey bars when they six and break their arm? It feels like a rite of passage in an active country like Australia to have broken at least one bone in your body at some stage. Of course, most fractures occur acutely because either a bone has been bent into a position it’s not designed for or because the bone has had a direct blow. Another type of fracture we commonly see is an avulsion fracture, where a muscle is so strong that it will pull it’s associated tendon off the bone that the tendon attaches to. This is technically a fracture. Virtually every fracture we see in the clinic needs to be immobilised, either in a plaster cast, a moonboot or a brace. The exact treatment will be determined by your physiotherapist and doctor once we have diagnosed you.
Dislocations are a very serious injury and can sometimes occur at the same time as a fracture. A dislocation is when a joint is pulled/pushed out of place. It will always involve ligament tearing and is by definition creates an unstable joint. This serious injury needs to be corrected ASAP. This will involve relocating the joint back in, if this is possible. Generally, the injured patient would then need to have X-Rays to determine if a fracture has taken place, as this changes management. Common areas which are dislocated are fingers and shoulders. Treatment will always include a period of immobilisation so that damaged soft tissues can heal.
Bruises are very common and occur when blood vessels under the skin are broken due to a direct blow. Bruises are very common in sports where the balls are very hard, like cricket. They are generally not serious and will heal within several days to a week, post injury. Icing a bruise in the first day or two will reduce any aching or pain.
Cuts / Abrasions
Cuts/ abrasions are very common in sports, especially field sports played on real / artificial grass. With all the diving and sliding in many sports, cuts and abrasions are super common. Basic first aid such as disinfecting the local area works well and the area should heal within a few days.
Dehydration can vary from a mild issue to being life threatening. Losing fluid from the body due to sweating can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Dizziness, loss of consciousness and death can result. It is super important for athletes to maintain adequate hydration for the event that they are participating in. This is unique to the event and to the weather on the day, so it’s important to adequately plan.
Despite the name, this injury doesn’t just occur playing tennis. It was termed “lawn tennis elbow” in 1873 as the injury seemed to occur from repetitive overuse in tennis. This injury is actually a tendinopathy of the tendons of the forearm and so the management of this injury is similar to other tendon injuries. A lateral elbow tendinopathy can be very difficult to get under control and resolve. Treatment needs to be tailored specifically for each patient as lateral elbow pain is commonly found alongside with neck / rib pain.
As always, if you’ve had a sports injury and need to figure out what it is and how to treat it, give us a call and we can help.
Until next time,