Q1. What is a sports injury?
A1. These are injuries of the musculoskeletal system (muscles, bones and associated tissues) that occur while playing sports and during athletic activities.
Sports medicine is the study of sports injuries in order to prevent them and reduce their severity of occurrence.
Q2. What causes sports injuries?
A2. These may be traumatic injuries that occur due to collision with other players, with ground and/or object; they may be caused due to overuse and repetitive stress on limbs and joints, poor training practices, insufficient exercise, insufficient warm up and stretching before playing and inadequate/improper equipment or sports gear use while playing sports/athletic activities.
Q3. What are the common signs and symptoms?
A3. There may be:
- Bruising and bleeding
- Sprains (ligament tear) causing pain, swelling and inability to move joints and strains (tendon/muscle tear) causing muscle spasm and pain
- Wounds and fractures
- Head and/or spinal cord injury
- Dislocated joints: mostly hand joints and the shoulder joint
Q4. Which are the most common sports injuries?
A4. The most common are:
- Knee injuries: caused due to too much running without proper warm up, twist, blow or improper landing after a jump. There may be rupture of knee tendons, cartilage and ligaments.
- Shin splints or pain the bone of the lower leg, commonly seen in runners due to over use or incorrect use of the lower leg, over training, improper stretching, etc.
- Achilles tendon injuries, caused due to tear of the tendon connecting calf muscle to the back of the heel. It occurs due to improper stretching, overuse, aging, etc.
- Rotator cuff injuries: injury to the muscles and tendons of the shoulder, they are caused due to overuse, aging, repeated overhead motion, falling on an outstretched hand, etc.
Q5. What are acute and chronic sport injuries?
A5. Acute injuries occur suddenly during an activity and their signs and symptoms are sudden severe pain, swelling, extreme tenderness, inability to move a joint in full range of motion, bone dislocation, etc.
Chronic injuries occur as a result of overuse of a limb or over exercising. There is pain and swelling when an activity is performed using the affected limb.
Q6. Who are at greatest risk from sports injuries?
A6. The following are the greatest risk from sports injuries:
- Children and adolescents: as their muscles, tendons and bones are still growing and thus are more prone to injury
- Middle aged sportspersons: as they lack agility and resilience that a young athlete possesses
- Women: due to osteoporosis, fluctuation in hormone levels caused by menstruation, etc.
Q7. What should be done to treat sports injuries?
A7. The starting point for treating any sports injury is RICE therapy, adequate Rest: not lifting heavy objects from or putting weight on injured area, Ice therapy: putting ice bag on the injured area to ease pain and swelling, Compression: wrapping the injured area in an elastic bandage and Elevation: placing a pillow below the injured area to prevent fluid collection.
To reduce pain and inflammation, doctor prescribes non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
The affected area must not be used so as to prevent further damage. Immobilization will reduce pain and swelling. Slings, splints & casts and Velcro straps are used as immobilizers.
A rehabilitation program/exercise at a gradual and safe pace is required to restore normal function. To begin with, gentle exercises are started and then gradually stretching and strengthening exercises are done. Any exercise that causes pain is avoided.
Other therapies that may be used are: mild electrical stimulation, cold therapy, heat therapy, massage and ultrasound stimulation.
Q8. Do sport injuries frequently require surgical treatment?
A8. Surgery is done when injury is severe, in case of repair of torn connective tissues and when there is joint dislocation causing deformity and disability. Most sports injuries do not require surgery.
Q9. Who treats a sports injury?
A9. For minor injuries, a general physician and a physiotherapist may be consulted. For severe injuries, an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in treatment of bone and joint diseases is consulted. Rehabilitation/exercise program is conducted by a physiotherapist.
Q10. How can a sports injury be prevented?
A10. Keep feet as flat as possible while stretching; do warm up exercises and adequate stretching before rigorous activities like running, do not overuse a limb, cool down after a vigorous sport like walk for five minutes after a race, wear properly fitting shoes, run on flat surfaces and wear adequate protective gear while playing sports/during an athletic activity.
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