Sports and exercise can be a great way to stay fit and find inspiration within a like-minded community. With action, however, comes the risk of injury. Whether purely by accident or lack of preventative measures, anyone from a novice to a pro can be sidelined by sports injuries. Knowing the extent of an injury and how to treat it can be key in getting back to the activities you love.
What is a Sports Injury?
Technically, any injury obtained during sports or exercise, from a leg fracture to poking yourself in the eye with your water bottle, could be referred to as a “sports injury.” For most purposes, though, the term refers to damage involving the musculoskeletal system. Muscles, bones, joints, and connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments are all counted as part of this network.
Types of Sports Injuries
Since our musculoskeletal systems are so complex, a variety of different injuries can occur as we move. Most of the time, an injury will happen due to force impacting a specific area or causing it to extend beyond its normal range of motion.
Sprains and strains are among the most common sports injuries experienced. A sprain is the stretch or tear of a ligament often caused by overextension. Ankles are frequently sprained. A strain, which is sometimes confused with a sprain, is the pulling or tearing of a muscle or tendon. A strain is mostly caused by over-stretching or over-contracting a muscle. The plantar fascia is commonly strained in the feet.
Impacts, whether in the form of repeated stress or one severe hit, can cause sports injuries such as shin splints or fractures. Compartment syndrome, in which muscles swell to fill their confined space and interfere with neighboring nerves and blood vessels, can also be the result of either a heavy blow or overuse over time.
Treating a Sports Injury
If you suffer a sports injury that is causing you pain from a certain motion, never try to “walk it off.” Further motion could cause additional harm. Stop and assess the injury. If you have severe pain, numbness, or swelling in your lower limbs, or you can’t bear any weight on the area, see the doctors at California Foot and Ankle Institute as soon as possible. An aggravation of an old injury should also be assessed.
Otherwise, the injury can first be treated at home using the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest the area by keeping weight and activity on it to a minimum. Use crutches, if needed. Ice the affected area for around 20 minutes four to eight times per day. Compress the area with an elastic wrap, making sure not to constrict blood flow. If possible, keep the injury elevated above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling.
Although home therapy can be effective in many cases, it is still best to have your injury evaluated. Additional treatments can help speed recovery or prevent future harm. Anti-inflammatory drugs, immobilization, or rehabilitation may be recommended. In severe cases, surgery could be necessary.
Preventing Sports Injuries
Although there is no way to completely safeguard oneself against suffering a sports injury, the proper preparation and conditioning can prevent many from happening. When starting a sport, learn the right technique and use of equipment. Prepare your body for a season of activity at least several weeks in advance, training consistently at a lower intensity and gradually working your way up to your desired performance level. Giving your muscles and connective tissues time to strengthen and loosen can help prevent injuries from overextension.
If you have suffered a sports injury, let the doctors at California Foot and Ankle Institute set you back on track to full health and prevention of re-injury. Reach our Irvine office at (949) 833-3406 or our Victorville office at (760) 951-2000. You may also contact us toll free at (888) 796-6631.