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Sports Injury – Fascinating Expert Know it All

Joints are very much susceptible to sports injury, and our joints are very complex in structure. A typical joint consists of the following parts. 

Parts of Joint:

Sports Injury
Sports Injury

Bone: In a joint, two or more bones meet. 

Cartilage: Cartilage is a tissue that shields the bone surface at a joint and reduces the joint’s friction of movement.

Synovial membrane: The synovial membrane or synovial stratum is a specialized connective tissue that lines the joint and seals it to form a joint capsule. It secretes a clear, sticky fluid called synovial fluid around the joint and lubricates it.

Synovial fluid: Synovial fluid is a clear, sticky fluid secreted by the synovial membrane, which helps to lubricate the joints. 

Ligaments: Ligaments are tough, elastic bands of connective tissue which surround the joint. Ligaments give support and limit the joint’s movement, and they also connect the bones.

Tendons: Tendons are a type of tough connective tissue that connects muscles to bones. They are found on each side of a joint and are attached to muscles, and they control the movement of the joints. 

Bursa: Bursa are tiny sacs filled with fluid and act as cushions between bone and muscles or tendons. 

Meniscus: It is a curved part of cartilage present in the knees and other joints. It provides stability and flexibility to our bodies. 

Different joint types:

Sports Injury
Sports Injury

There are different types of joints, some are fixed joints, and some are movable joints. The suture joint in the skull is a fixed joint as it does not move in the case of adults, and joints such as vertebrae do move a little. Our primary concern related to sports injury is mobile joints, and let’s briefly know about them. 

Ball-and-socket joints: Shoulder and hip joints are ball-and-socket joints. They can move backwards, forward, and sideways, and they also can rotate.

Hinge joints: Fingers, knees, elbows, and toes are hinge joints. Hinge joints allow bending and straightening movements only.

Pivot joints: Neck joints are Pivot joints. Pivot joints can take part in limited rotating movements only.

Ellipsoidal joints: Wrist joints are ellipsoidal joints. Except for pivotal movements, it can be all other types of movements.

During sports, injury can happen to our body parts and especially to different joints. It can happen to the shoulder, elbow, knee, or ankles. Below each type of such possible injury is discussed in brief.

Sports Injury

Shoulder Injuries (sports injury)

Sports Injury
Sports Injury

Rotator cuff injury: This is one of the most common Sports injury. A rotator cuff consists of four muscles and tendons which stabilize our shoulder joints. This type of injury may happen due to inflammation of the bursae or tendon because of excessive use or sudden accident. They are common for athletes, such as tennis players and swimmers, who make a lot of overhead motions.

Impingement: During the lifting of the arm, when the top of the shoulder blade gives pressure to the soft tissues beneath it, impingement can happen. It may cause tendinitis and bursitis, which will cause pain and limit movements. Swimmers are at an increased impingement risk.

Instability: The upper arm has a round end, and if that is forced out of its shallow socket Shoulder instability happens. The instability can be partial or complete. If the shoulder tendons, ligaments, and muscles over stretches or torn dislocations can occur.

Elbow Injuries (sports injury)

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis): Because of the repetitive use of tendons in our elbows, the tendons can develop tears. It causes inflammation and pain in the outside of the elbow. Tennis players or people who use their forearms repetitively are at higher risk of getting tennis elbow.

Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis): This tendinitis causes pain in the elbow’s inner part, spreading to the forearm and wrist. Athletes like golfers and others are prone to it as they repeatedly use their wrists or clench their fingers. 

Little league elbow: Repetitive throwing can cause growth plate injury to the elbow and result in pain in the inner part of the elbow. It is prevalent in the case of pitchers. 

Ulnar collateral ligament injury or UCL injury: Repetitive throwing can cause a UCL tear. The UCL ligament tear on the inner elbow causes pain and reduces the effectiveness of the elbow.

Knee Injuries (sports injury)

Sports Injury
Sports Injury

Runner’s knee: Jumper’s knee or patellofemoral pain syndrome causes pain or tenderness under the kneecap or patella at the front of the knee. It is common in the case of runners, hikers or cyclists. 

Fracture: Fractures happen to any bone around the knee, and the patella is the most common site for such injury. It can occur due to any event, such as a fall or an injury to the knee.

Dislocation: A powerful impact to the knee causes the kneecap to be forced out from the channel in the femur or thigh bone. Once it is out of alignment, the kneecap slips out of its original position.

Torn ligament: Ligaments can tear partially or entirely due to twist, over-extension, sudden jerking movement, changing direction all of a sudden and especially during contact sports activities such as Karate, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball etc. Anterior cruciate ligament or ACL injuries are prevalent among athletes and one of the most common sports injury.

Meniscal tear: Meniscal cartilage acts as a shock absorber in our knee. Sudden awkward pivoting or twisting could be the reason for a tear. Meniscal tear is associated with knee sprain or complete knee ligament tear.

Tendon tear: Tears of tendons are more common in middle-aged people who play sports that involve jumping or running. Tendon tears can happen due to an awkward jump or a forceful landing.

Leg Injuries (sports injury)

Sports Injury
Sports Injury

Groin pulls: Stretching, injury, or torn inner thing muscle can cause groin pull. It could be mild or severe, and proper rest and treatment can heal completely. Athletes such as hockey, soccer, football, and baseball players have higher chances of groin pull injury. 

Hamstring strain: There are three hamstring muscles, Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus and Biceps femoris, which run along the back of our thigh. A hamstring strain could be a pull, partial, or complete tear. It can happen to anyone participating in activities such as jumping, running, sprinting, basketball, football etc. 

Shin splints: The shinbone is the large bone in the front of the lower leg. Shin splints refer to the muscles, tendons, and bone inflammation of the tissue along the inside length of the tibia or shinbone. The pain generally happens on the inner side of the lower leg. It primarily happens to runners, basketball players, and those involved in impact sports.

Sports Injury
Sports Injury

Ankle Injuries (sports injury)

Ankle sprain: Rolling, twisting, or an awkward turn can cause an ankle sprain. In an ankle sprain, ligaments overstretch or tear and can be very painful. Sports where much pivoting is required, like volleyball, basketball etc., increase the ankle sprain risk.

Achilles tendinitis: Irritation, stretch or tear to the tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the back of the heel, causing Achilles tendinitis. The Achilles is the largest tendon in our body, used while walking, running, climbing stairs, jumping, and standing on the tips of the toes. Achilles tendinitis causes pain and stiffness at the back of the heel. It is a chronic condition due to overuse and can lead to a tear requiring surgery.

Diagnosis and Tests for Sports Injury

To diagnose a sports injury, doctors will perform physical exams. They will try to determine the cause of the damage by asking questions and understanding the symptoms. They will also test your inured area by physically examining the movement. The doctor, after that, can ask for an X-ray or MRI to see the structures inside your joints. MRI can give the healthcare provider more detailed images to diagnose and treat the injury, especially of the soft tissues. 

Sports Injury Treatment

Sports Injury
Sports Injury

Treatment for injuries varies depending on the type of sports injury and its severity. Some injuries can heal automatically in a few days with proper rest and at-home care. 

Minor Injury Treatment:

Most minor injuries get better within a few days with the help of the RICE method or PRICE method:

RICE Model:

Rest: Give complete rest to the injured area. Consider using crutches or walkers if the sports injury is in the lower body. These will help to reduce putting weight on the already damaged area.

Sports Injury
Sports Injury

Ice: Try putting ice packs on the injured area to reduce swelling and pain. Doctors recommend icing 3 to 4 times a day. 

Compression: One should wrap the injured area with the help of a crepe bandage. It will provide support and reduce swelling. Do not wrap the bandage too tightly, and lower blood circulation. 

Elevation: Try to keep the injured body part above the heart to reduce swelling. Pillows or similar things can be used to keep the injury above the level of the heart.

PRICE Model:

Minor injuries can also be treated at home using the PRICE model. 

Protection: The affected area should be shielded by support to prevent further injury by using braces, etc. 

Rest: Give complete rest to the injured area and avoid exercise and activities to avoid further injury. Consider using crutches or walkers if the sports injury is in the lower body, as this will help reduce weight on the damaged area.

Ice: Try putting ice packs on the injured area to reduce swelling and pain. Doctors recommend icing 3 to 4 times a day. 

Compression: One should wrap the injured area with the help of a crepe bandage. It will provide support and reduce swelling. Do not wrap the bandage too tightly, and lower blood circulation. 

Elevation: Try to keep the injured body part above the heart to reduce swelling. Pillows or similar things can be used to keep the injury above the level of the heart.

Severe Injury Treatment:

For more severe injuries, at-home care might not be sufficient. Following treatment might be prescribed by the doctor depending upon the severity. 

  • Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory prescription medication to reduce pain. 
  • Use a cast, splint, sling, walking boot or other medical devices.
  • Injections to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Surgery for fractures or torn ligaments, tendons or cartilage.
  • Physical therapy or rehabilitation to heal and strengthen injured body parts.

Pain relief:

Painkillers can be used to reduce pain. Paracetamol, ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs medicines. These medicines can ease pain and reduce swelling. One should always take painkillers only after consulting with doctors. 

Immobilisation:

Immobilisation can prevent further damage by restricting movement, and it helps to reduce muscle swelling, muscle spasms and pain. Casts, splints or slings are used to immobilise damaged arms, shoulders, wrists and legs. For injuries such as a sprain, prolonged Immobilisation is not necessary. One can try gently moving the joint as soon as you can do so without any considerable pain.

Sports Injury
Sports Injury

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy can help people recover from any long-term injury. In physiotherapy, specialist treatments like massage and exercises are used to strengthen surrounding muscles, improve the range of motion, and return to normal function. 

Corticosteroid injections

A corticosteroid injection can be used for severe or persistent inflammation. It relieves pain caused by injury, but for some patients, the pain relief is minimal and lasts for a short period. In general, you can 2 to 3 corticosteroid injections in a year. Side effects of such injections are loss of fat, thinning of the skin, and chances of infection.

Surgery and procedures

Most sports injuries don’t require surgery, but severe injuries like badly broken bones may require corrective treatment. This may include surgery to fix the bones with wires, plates, screws or rods. Sometimes, there are possibilities to realign displaced bones without any operation. But certain other injuries may require surgery. For example, an operation may be necessary to repair a torn ACL or UCL ligament. 

Recovery from a Sports Injury

Sports Injury
Sports Injury

Full recovery can take a few weeks or months, depending on the type of injury. One should return to the previous activity level when fully recovered. The aim should be to move the body part as soon as possible but gently. 

Gentle exercises help to improve the damaged portion’s range of movement. Once movement becomes easier and the pain reduces, strengthening and stretching exercises can be started.

One should always try to do it slowly, as this can delay recovery. Start trying a few simple exercises before gradually increasing the amount. A suitable recovery programme can be designed with the help of a professional, like a physiotherapist or sports injury specialist. The recovery programme can advise about the exercises one can do and the number of repetitions that should be done.

Sports Injury Prevention

  • Choose sports and activities that do not involve collisions and tackles.
  • Don’t play the same sport or do the same activity year-round. Repetitive-motion injuries caused by doing just one sport or workout are some of the most common. You can prevent them by doing different sports or activities that work other muscles.
  • Always mix up routines as our body needs cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise, strength training with weights or resistance, and flexibility.
  • Hydration is key. Always have plenty of water before, after and during any exercise.
  • Learn proper techniques and use them all the time.
  • Never push too far, and rest when you’re tired. Stop any activity that doesn’t feel right.
  • Start slowly and build gradually.
  • Warm up before and cool down afterwards. Tight or stiff muscles around a joint make the area more prone to injury. This is especially important in sports that require quick movements, such as basketball and tennis.
  • Wear proper footwear and safety equipment. 

Prognosis of Sports Injury

The outlook after a sports injury depends on the type and severity of the injury. Minor injuries can heal with rest and simple recovery strategies in a few days or weeks. Still, severe injuries like broken bones, ligament tears and concussions need medical intervention and could take several months to heal completely.

Living with Sports Injury

If one hurts themselves during physical activity, one should stop playing or exercising immediately. Exercise or training can cause more harm if one keeps going. With time one can slowly get back to sports and other activities. Make sure that moving the area does not cause stiffness or pain. This will help to avoid re-injury or making the injury worse.

References

1.Common sports injuries and sports injury prevention tips. (n.d.). Washington.edu. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://orthop.washington.edu/patient-care/articles/sports/common-sports-injuries-and-sports-injury-prevention-tips.html

2. Faculty By Department, & Find a Physician. (n.d.). Content – health encyclopedia – university of Rochester medical center. Rochester.edu. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=P00935

3. NIAMS. (2017, April 5). Sports injuries. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/sports-injuries

4. Sports injuries. (1999). Fitness and Exercise. https://medlineplus.gov/sportsinjuries.html

5. Sports medicine 2023. (2022, February 16). Professional and Lifelong Learning. https://pll.harvard.edu/course/sports-medicine-2023?delta=0

6. Stableforth, P. G. (1990a). Sports injuries. Injury21(5), 311–313. https://doi.org/10.1016/0020-1383(90)90049-z

7. Stableforth, P. G. (1990b). Sports injuries. Injury21(5), 311–313. https://doi.org/10.1016/0020-1383(90)90049-z

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