A Basic Primer On Sports Injuries
Engaging in sports is a great way to stay fit. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate activity like cycling or brisk walking per week to stay healthy. For children, the recommendation is even higher. Kids aged 6 to 17 years old are advised to get 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day.
However, because of the nature of sports, you also put yourself at risk of overuse injury. Overuse injuries are injuries that result from improper training and technique, and repetitive trauma. This category constitutes some of the most common injuries in sports.
But the benefits of staying active outweigh those of being a couch potato just to avoid injury. Proper preparation can mitigate risks. From physical therapy to minimally-invasive laparoscopic surgery, various treatment options abound for those who do fall victim to a sports-related injury.
Below is a quick rundown on the treatment, recovery, and prevention of sports and overuse injuries.
1. Common Overuse Injuries
Overuse injuries often develop in specific parts of the body. Knees, elbows, calf muscles, shoulders — parts of the body that receive much of the stress and physical trauma of sports.
Here are just some common overuse injuries for athletes:
- Patellofemoral Pain, commonly known as runner’s knee.
- Shin Splints, usually due to poor footwear and improper support.
- Rotator Cuff Tendinitis, common in sports where you utilize your shoulders a lot.
- Tennis Elbow, common in sports with repetitive elbow movements.
- Achilles Tendinitis, usually due to jumping, running, or climbing.
- Hip Flexor Strain, common in sports where you place strain on your thighs, like cycling or martial arts.
Every year, nearly 8.6 million people in the US alone get injured from sports. A quarter of that or roughly 2 million are overuse injuries.
Symptoms of these injuries will vary, but you can expect some common signs. If you experience swelling, tenderness, bruising, stiffness, and difficulty moving the concerned part, head to the clinic and consult immediately with your doctor.
Overuse injuries do not necessarily mean the end of your stint in sports. Many athletes recover successfully from overuse injuries.
If you have been diagnosed with overuse injuries, these are usually what your treatment course will require you to do:
- Get proper rest, which means a temporary break from sports.
- Mild to moderate overuse injuries can usually be treated with the R.I.C.E. method: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Just make sure to wrap ice with a towel or use an icepack, and rotate icing the area every 10 minutes to avoid frostbite.
- You may be required to use crutches to take weight off injured areas.
- You may need to wear splints or braces for support while healing.
- You need to follow the physical therapy regimen prescribed by your doctor so injuries can heal correctly. Skipping recommended exercises may put you at risk of being injured again.
- For severe injuries, surgery will often be required. Your doctor will usually either operate to repair a part, like a torn meniscus, or completely replace or reconstruct the injured part, like the hip or the entire knee joint.
When surgery is required, managing expectations is crucial to healing properly and avoiding repeat injuries. Recovering for The Unhappy Triad, an injury where 3 major components of the knee joint are damaged, can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months. If you can come to terms with how long it will take to rehabilitate certain injuries, especially major ones, then that will make it easy for you and your doctor to get you back on your feet as fast as they safely can.
Prevention is better than cure. Despite the prevalence of overuse injuries, there are steps you can take to decrease your likelihood of getting them. For example, proper nutrition is key. Certain types of food reinforce your joints and muscles, making them more resilient.
Below are a few examples of what should be in the diet of every athlete and sports-enthusiast:
- Anti-inflammatory food sources such as blueberries, fatty fish, and olive oil. Inflammation is how our body minimizes damage, yet can also be a source of joint pain.
- Collagen supplements. Collagen is crucial to the body’s musculoskeletal build, making up more than 33 percent of the body’s total protein. Athletes can also eat more Vitamin C rich food like citrus fruits; Vitamin C promotes the production of collagen.
- Food rich in Vitamin D like egg yolks and fatty fish. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to stress fractures.
- Omega-3 food sources like mackerel and herring. Omega-3 improves reaction time, and helps prevent muscle loss, which can also help athletes in recovery.
- Enough calories. Nutrition does not mean just eating the right types of food, but also eating the right amount of food. Many equate nutrition to deficits, especially athletes trying to stay within a weight class. Strict diets can lead to fatigue, which is one of the causes of overuse injuries.
Aside from eating right, you also have to train right. For instance, marathoners need to build up muscle groups that support their joints months before a run. Proper form is of paramount importance, and not just for runners. Many injuries result from improper posture, as the excessive force applied continuously to an area causes joints and muscles to eventually break down. Form is important whether you running a 21K run, or pounding the treadmill in the gym.
It is also important to listen to what your body is telling you. A never give up attitude is admirable in sports, but may lead to disastrous injuries, even death. In the world of freediving, most reported cases of drowning are due to divers not knowing their body’s limits. Know when to stop if you feel unnatural discomfort, or when breaks do little to ease your fatigue.
Do you have any questions about sports injuries that the primer did not address? Send us a message, or book an appointment with Dr. Dutton and visit us at the Dr. Andrew Quoc Dutton Orthopaedic & Sports Clinic.