Treating Sports Injuries
Sports and exercise are important steps to maintaining health. Unfortunately, however, injuries during participation in sports are all too common. Often, these injuries occur in beginners or those who dont use proper safety equipment or become overzealous about an exercise regimen.
Strains and Sprains
- An acute twisting or overextension of a joint can lead to tears of muscles and tendons, called strains, and tears of ligaments result in sprains.
- In mild injuries, just a few fibers are torn or stretched. Severe injuries, where there is a tear through the full thickness of the structure, frequently require surgical intervention.
- The intervertebral disc, a ligament between the vertebrae of the spine that works as a shock absorber, can also be torn, resulting in a disc bulge and/or herniation.
- In those who are training too much, overuse of a particular joint or joints in the body can result in pain and dysfunction. There injuries are called overuse syndromes.
- A common overuse injury is tendinosis, a condition in which the tendon becomes inflamed from repetitive use.
- Some athletes may experience a stress fracture, which occurs when an abnormal amount of stress is placed on a normal bone, such as in a runner who rapidly increases the amount of mileage, rather than gradually progressing to longer distances.
- Shin splints are caused by microfractures on the front surface of the tibia (shin bone). This is most often seen in runners, although other athletes can be affected.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Sports injuries are most often diagnosed from the history of the activity which brought on the pain, along with a physical examination. In some cases, X-rays are necessary to rule out a fracture. Fractures require the application of some stabilizing device, such as a cast, after the bone is put back into position. Rarely, surgical intervention is required. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound may also be used.
There is a relatively standard treatment protocol for most types of sports injuries, which involves:
- Rest. Generally no more than 48 hours of rest and/or immobilization is needed, depending on the severity of the injury.
- Ice or heat can help with pain reduction and tissue healing.
- Compression of the area may reduce the amount of swelling from the injury.
- Elevation of the injured arm or leg above the level of the heart is thought to be helpful in reducing swelling.
- Joint manipulation. Recent research has shown that, in some cases, joint manipulation can help with pain reduction and more rapid recovery.
In many cases, sports injuries can be prevented. Proper conditioning, warm-up and cool-down procedures, understanding proper techniques and using appropriate safety equipment can substantially reduce injuries.