Why do Sports Injuries happen?
Most of us try to squeeze in some sporting activity or exercise in our busy schedules as and when possible. Some of us may set our goals too high and end up overdoing the exercise. We forget that injuries may happen during sports or exercise. Most often these are due to:
- Overuse or repetitive stress of muscles
- Poor training techniques
- Insufficient warm-up and stretching
- Improper exercise or sporting gear
- Lack of conditioning
Acute Injuries happen during sports or exercise whereas chronic Injuries happen when you continue with the same sport or exercise (which may result in repetitive stress or micro-trauma leading to inflammation) over a period of time.
The common sports injuries include:
- Ligamentous sprains/stretch or ruptures
- Muscle or tendon strains (tendonitis) or tears
- Joint dislocations or instability
- Strained neck or back
- Shin splints – pain along the front of shin bone
Our body is designed to cope with the stress exerted on it by the various activities but when it is stressed beyond it’s capacity, that’s when injuries happen. The risk factors may include:
- Improper training techniques using excessive resistance, imbalance in training different muscle groups, over-exercise and lack of recovery time between exercise
- Sporting surface e.g. floor friction
- Training equipment
- Weekend Warrior Routine i.e. intensive exercise over the weekend and none for the rest of the week
- Age like for those picking up intensive sports later on in life and may not have a body conditioned to be able to cope with the extra demands that it requires.
- Level of fitness
- Overuse i.e. excessive use of the same movement pattern using the same muscles
- Ligament laxity and joint instability
- Previous injuries or return to sports too soon after injuries without proper rehabilitation
- Muscle weakness or imbalance
- Postural defects
- Poor foot mechanics
An acute injury will usually present with:
- Sudden onset of severe pain
- Tenderness and swelling
- Muscle spasm
- Limited movement of the injured part
- Weakness of the limb
- Difficulty in weight bearing on the limb
- A dislocated bone, loose or unstable joint
A chronic injury on the other hand presents with:
- Pain during the game or exercuse
- A dull or nagging ache at rest
- Limited mobility
Often the injuries which have been neglected for sometime, may result in more serious problems; acute injuries can become chronic. An inflammed tendon with continual stress and overuse can get ruptured after sometime. Or a sprained ligament with repetitive sprains may lead to joint instability. Wear and tear in the joints may set in fast with repetitive or unhealed injuries. Movements in the affected parts may get restricted with increasing difficulty in performing simple activities.
As a general rule, the principle for initial treatment of minor sports injuries (with no bleeding) is P.R.I.C.E. which stands for:
- Protection by taping or strapping the part to prevent further damage
- Rest for the first 72 hours promotes healing
- Ice on the area for the first 72 hours to control inflammation
- Compression with an elastic bandage
- Elevation whenever possible to reduce the swelling
A doctor may prescrive anti-inflammatories and pain killers. If there is localised inflammation and swelling, then the doctors may use cortisone injections.
- Ice therapy, Ultrasound, Laser and Electrical Currents to relief pain and swelling
- Correction of muscle imbalances using a combination of exercises and heat therapy to regain mobility
- Balance and proprioception training
- Correction of gait (walking patterns)
- Use of Gait Lab Technology to assess gait patterns and identifying muscle imbalances.
- Developing proper core muscle control using advanced technology like Real Time Ultrasound which provides a visual display of muscles in action
- Special taping techniques to support injured muscle/joints or prevention of injuries when returning to sports
- Advise on both training intensities and duration to allow patients to gradually return to sport immobilized for sometime or a surgery may be required.
If the athlete has a ruptured tendon due to a major injury or continuous stress and inflammation, then the limb may need to be immobilised for a period of time or a surgery may be required.
If there is severe instability of the ligaments/joints then a surgical correction or reconstruction may be advised by the Orthopaedic Specialist.
- Prepare for the sport/exercise with adequate warm ups and stretches. It is also important to use proper techniques with adequate periods of rest in between.
- Using supportive footwear and appropriate protective aids like joint or muscle supports. Additionally, taping or strapping of the weak or injured muscle/ligament can work to avoid stressing them further
- Avoid drastic changes to exercise routines.
- Avoid playing when tired, ill, or when in pain