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Top 10 Sports Injuries

The most common sports-related injuries primarily are overuse injuries. As the name implies, an overuse injury results from wear and tear on the body, particularly on joints subjected to repeated activity.

Certain types of injuries plague sports participants. Most of them, however, are minor. Knowing the early signs and what to do can help prevent them from becoming nagging problems.

Here’s a look, from head to toe, at the Top Ten sports injuries you’re most likely to face:

Muscle Pull
Probably the most common sports injury is a muscle pull, which can happen to almost any muscle in the body. No matter how diligently you warm up and stretch, or cool down and stretch, you may pull a muscle from overuse, fatigue or taking a fall. There is little you can be done to prevent a muscle pull except to stay limber and work your muscles regularly.

A muscle pulls when a sudden, severe force is applied to the muscle and the fibers are stretched beyond their capacity. If only some of the fibers tear, that is a muscle pull. If most of the fibers tear, that is a muscle tear.

Neck Pain

A pulled muscle or a muscle spasm in the neck can happen when a tennis player looks up to serve or hit an overhead smash. The pain is on one side of the neck, and the neck may be pulled over slightly to that side. It is particularly painful to turn the head in the direction of the pain. That is, if the pain is on the left side of the neck, the player can turn to the right, but not to the left.

Cyclists who use racing handlebars may also feel neck stiffness. With your back bent low over the handlebars, you have to tilt your neck up to see ahead. After a long ride, the neck muscles may tighten up and go into spasm from this awkward position.

Shoulder Impingement
The shoulder bones are held together by a group of muscles known as the rotator cuff muscles. These muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor) are responsible for the shoulder’s fine movements, such as throwing a ball. Because of the shoulder’s shallow socket and lack of ligament strength, any weakness of the small, rotator cuff muscles makes it easy for the head of the shoulder to slide around in the joint.

If the shoulder joint is continually stressed with the arm in an overhead position, as it is in softball, tennis, volleyball, swimming and weight training, the small rotator cuff muscles begin to stretch out. This allows the head of the joint to become loose within the shoulder socket. If the head of the shoulder is loose, when the arm is extended backwards over the shoulder the head will slide forward, catching the tendon of short head of the biceps between the ball and the socket. The same thing happens when the arm is raised to the side above parallel to the ground. The head will drop in the socket and the tendon of the long head of the biceps or the supraspinatus becomes impinged.

This impingement causes the tendons to become inflamed and painful. Tennis players feel the pain when they try to hit an overhead or serve. The same thing can happen to golfers in both the backswing and the follow-through when their shoulders are above parallel to the ground.

Lower Back Strain
Almost everyone who participates in sports experiences lower back strain at one time or another, usually from twisting awkwardly, lifting a heavy weight or doing some unpracticed activity. Virtually all lower back injuries are due to weak or tense muscles or muscle strain. Suddenly overloading muscles may pull or tear muscle fibers, sending the back muscles into spasm and causing pain.

Weightlifters, golfers, martial artists and tennis players are prone to back injuries because these sports involve unilateral motions. A golfer rotates the lumbar spine in only one direction, which is the equivalent of lifting weights with only one side of body. Martial artists generally have one dominant leg and kick with that one more than the other.

Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is really an inflammation of the muscles of the forearm and the tendon that connects the muscles to the bones in the elbow. These muscles bend the wrist backward and cause the wrist to turn the palm face up. When the muscles and tendon become inflamed from overuse, the pain is felt on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondylitis).

A tennis player most often aggravates the elbow by hitting the ball late on the backhand side, straining the forearm muscles and tendon. Constantly turning the wrist to put more spin on the serve also can cause pain.

Golfers also suffer from tennis elbow, but on the non-dominant side, that is, a right-handed golfer will feel the pain in the left elbow. Pulling the club through the swing with the left wrist causes irritation in the left elbow.

A second type of tennis elbow is known as medial epicondylitis. This causes pain on the inside of the elbow. It is most often seen among golfers, baseball pitchers, tennis players who hit topspin forehands and weight lifters.

Runner’s Knee
The most common cause of knee pain is runner’s knee, known medically as chondromalacia patella. This is due to misalignment of the kneecap in its groove. The kneecap normally goes up or down in the groove as the knee flexes or straightens out. If the kneecap is misaligned, the kneecap pulls off to one side and rubs on the side of the groove. This causes both the cartilage on the side of the groove and the cartilage on the back of the kneecap to wear out. On occasion, fluid will build up and cause swelling in the knee.

Runners are not the only ones who develop runner’s knee. Pain can develop around the back of the kneecap or in the back of the knee after participating in any running sport.

Shin Splints
Shin splints are pains in the muscles near the shin bones. They can be caused by running or jumping on hard surfaces or simply overuse. They occur most often in people unaccustomed to training, although they can also plague experienced athletes who switch to lighter shoes, harder surfaces or more concentrated speed work.

The pain occurs on the inner side of the middle third of the shin bone. The muscle responsible for raising the arch of the foot attaches to the shin bone at that spot. When the arch collapses with each foot strike, it pulls on the tendon that comes from this muscle. With repeated stress, the arch begins to pull some of its muscle fibers loose from the shin bone. This causes small areas of bleeding around the lining of the bone, and pain.

If the irritated area is about the size of a 50-cent piece or smaller, or shin pain suddenly increases, you may have a stress fracture. The twisting of the tibia can cause the bone to crack. A stress fracture may not show up on an x-ray, and therefore a bone scan is indicated.

Ankle Sprain
The most common ankle sprain happens when the foot rolls to the outside and sprains the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. The outside of the ankle swells up and throbs, and may turn black and blue around the injury.

When a jogger steps gently off a curb and “twists” an ankle, this simply stretches the ligaments, with no real tearing, and is considered a mild sprain. When a tennis player lunges out over a poorly planted foot, partially tearing the fibers of the ligament, that is considered a moderate sprain. When a volleyball player jumps and lands on another player’s foot, twisting and forcing the ankle violently to the court, most or all of the fibers tear, and this is a severe sprain.

If weight-bearing is possible on the ankle after a sprain, the ankle probably is not broken. If you feel pain on the inside of the ankle, then it should be x-rayed to rule out a hair-line fracture.

Achilles Tendinitis
The Achilles tendon in the back of the ankle is the largest tendon in the body. It transfers the force of muscle contractions to lift the heel. Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon, usually due to overuse, such as frequent jumping in basketball or volleyball. The most common cause is excessive pronation of the ankle and foot, which causes the Achilles tendon to pull off center.

The pain of a torn Achilles tendon feels like a gunshot in the leg. A partial tear is harder to spot. If the width of the injured Achilles tendon is smaller than the healthy one, or you feel intense pain when standing on your toes, see a doctor for treatment, and possibly surgery.

Arch Pain
The elastic covering on the sole of the foot–the plantar fascia–runs the length of the foot and holds up the arch. When this shock-absorbing pad becomes inflamed, this is called plantar fasciitis, causing a dull ache along the length of the arch.

The ache is due to over-stretching or partially tearing the arch pad. This happens most often to people with rigid, high arches. They feel the pain when they put weight on their foot or when pushing off for the next stride. Pain is particularly intense upon arising or after sitting for a long while.

Plantar fasciitis is particularly common among middle-aged people who have been sedentary and who suddenly increase their level of physical activity. Runners are most susceptible, but almost any sport that keeps the athlete standing can lead to arch pain. Inappropriately fitting shoes or a weight gain of 10 to 20 pounds can also contribute to the condition.

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Ligament and Muscle Damage (Managing Sprains and Strains)

Although the terms sprain and strain are used loosely and have no precise clinical definition, a sprain generally refers to an injury to a ligament – one of the tough, fibrous cords within a joint that connects the bones together – and a strain refers to muscle injury.

Sprains and strains often occur together in or near a joint, since joints absorb the stress of movement and are vulnerable to be being twisted or wrenched.  The ankle and the knee are the most common sites of such injuries.  In mild cases, the force of the injury tears a few fibres of the ligament or muscle, causing mild to moderate pain and swelling, which usually subside within a few days.  A more violent injury may completely tear a ligament or muscle and may involve bone damage such as a dislocation or fracture.

With proper care, most mild or moderate sprains and strains heal completely without complication.

The ankles are among the most vulnerable elements of the body.  These complex hinges of bone, ligament, tendon and muscle support the entire body weight and may transmit a force of impact equal to three times your weight.  Thus, ankle injuries, usually the tearing or straining of a ligament, are the most common of all joint injuries. 

The great majority of sprains are inversion sprains.  This happens when the sole of the foot turns inward, injuring the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.  Eversion injuries occur when the foot turns outward, affecting ligaments on the inner side.  Some sprains are minor and can be successfully treated at home, but many need medical attention.  An ankle sprain can put a patient at risk for another because as the injury heals, it leaves the tendon weakened and less flexible and thus more susceptible to injury.  Many sports activities place participants at risk for sprains and strains.  These injuries also often occur in normal everyday activities such as a slip on wet floors, a fall on the wrist, or jamming a finger.  Repetitive activities may also cause a sprain or strain.

Causes and Risk Factors of Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains occur as a result of an injury, when the joint is subjected to more physical force that it can withstand.  Athletes, dancers and those who perform manual labour commonly suffer such injuries. Previous sprains may so weaken the ligaments such that recurrence is possible with only minor pressure.  The risk of sprains and strains increases with obesity and poor muscular conditioning.

Symptoms of Sprains and Strains

The symptoms of a sprain are typically pain, swelling, and bruising of the affected joint.  Symptoms will vary with the intensity of the injury; more significant ligament tears (Grade III injuries) cause an inability to use the affected joint and may lead to joint instability.   Less serious injuries (Grade I injuries) may only cause pain with movement.

Common Area of Sprains and Strains

Finger Sprain – caused by a violent overstretching of one or more ligaments that hold the finger joints together. 

Wrist Sprain – violent overstretching of one or more ligaments in the wrist joint can cause this common injury.

Knee Sprain – cause by violent stretching of one or more ligaments in the knee.  Sprains involving two or more ligaments cause considerably more disability than single-ligament sprains.

Ankle Sprain – occurs following a sudden sideways or twisting movement of the foot.  An ankle sprain can occur during athletic events or during everyday activities.  All it takes is an awkward step or an uneven surface to cause an ankle sprain – that is why sprained ankles are among the most common orthopaedic injuries.  Orthopaedic doctors see patients for ankle sprains very often, and it is the most common foot and ankle injury.

Back Strain – commonly caused by muscle strains and lumbar sprains.  A low back muscle strain occurs when the muscle fibres are abnormally stretched or torn.  A lumbar sprain occurs when the ligaments – the tough bands of tissue that hold bones together – are torn from their attachments. Differentiating a strain from a sprain can be difficult, as both injuries will show similar symptoms.  Many doctors refer to both injuries as a category called “musculo-ligamentous injuries” of the lumbar spine.

Neck Strain – caused by injury to the muscles or tendons that attach to the vertebral column in the neck, to the skull and to the shoulder.

Groin Strain – caused by an injury to the muscles of the inner thigh.  The groin muscle, called the “adductor muscle” group, consists of six muscles that span the distance from the inner pelvis to the inner part of the femur (thigh bone).  These muscles pull the legs together, and also help with other movements of the hip joint.  The adductor muscles are important to many types of athletes including sprinters, swimmers, soccer players, and football players.

Hamstring (Thigh) Strain – often result from an overload of the muscles or trying to move the muscles too fast or from taking an impact at the back of the leg.

Treatment of Sprains and Strains

First aid measures for a sprain or strain can best be remembered by the acronym RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation:

Rest the injured area.  Try not to move or put pressure on the affected joint. A sling or splint may be recommended to immobilize the joint and allow damaged ligaments or muscles to heal.

Ice the affected area to reduce swelling.  After 24 hours, either ice or heat may be applied to reduce pain. 

Compress the joint by wrapping it in an Ace bandage to help reduce swelling and pain.

Elevate the joint to reduce swelling.

Over-the-counter pain relievers or stronger analgesics may be prescribed, depending on the severity of pain.  After the pain has subsided, a rehabilitation program may be implemented with the help of a physical therapist to help the joint regain strength and mobility.  In severe cases, surgery may be required to repair torn ligaments or muscles.

CURE YOUR ANKLE LIGAMENT INJURY TODAY. CALL +65 6471 2744 For Appointment or SMS to 92357641

Sprained Ankle

If a sprained ankle is left untreated, if you engage in activities too soon after spraining your ankle or if you sprain your ankle repeatedly, you may experience the following complications:

  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic ankle joint instability
  • Early-onset arthritis in that joint

During the physical exam, your doctor will check for points of tenderness. He or she will move the joint in a variety of ways to check your range of motion and to see if any particular position or movement causes pain.

If the injury is severe, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following imaging scans to rule out a broken bone or to more precisely evaluate the soft tissue damage:

  • X-ray. During an X-ray, a small amount of radiation passes through your body to produce images of your internal structures. This test is good for evaluating bones, but is less effective at visualizing soft tissues. Tiny cracks or stress fractures in bones may not show up, especially at first, on regular X-rays.
  • Bone scan. For a bone scan, a technician will inject a small amount of radioactive material into an intravenous line. The radioactive material is attracted to your bones, especially the parts of your bones that have been damaged. Damaged areas show up as bright spots on an image taken by a scanner. Bone scans are good at detecting stress fractures.
  • Computerized tomography (CT). CT scans are useful because they can reveal more detail about the bones of the joint. CT scans take X-rays from many different angles and combine them to make cross-sectional images of internal structures of your body.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs use radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of internal structures. This technology is exceptionally good at visualizing soft tissue injuries.

Treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of your injury. Many people simply treat their injury at home.

Medications
In most cases, over-the-counter pain relievers — such as ibuprofen are enough to handle the pain caused by a sprained ankle.

Therapy
A few days after your injury, after the swelling has gone down, you may want to see a physical therapist and start performing exercises to restore your ankle’s range of motion, strength, flexibility and balance.

Balance and stability training is especially important to retrain the ankle muscles to work together to support the joint. These exercises may involve various degrees of balance challenge, such as standing on one leg.

If you sprained your ankle while exercising or participating in a sport, talk to your doctor about when you can begin your activity again. You may need to wear an ankle brace or wrap your ankle to protect it from re-injury.

Surgical and other procedures
If your ankle joint is unstable, your doctor may refer you to a joint specialist for evaluation. You may need a cast or walking boot to immobilize your joint so that it can heal properly. In rare cases of severe ligament tears, or if you are an elite athlete, you may need surgery to repair the damage.

For immediate self-care of an ankle sprain, try the R.I.C.E. approach:

  • Rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort. But don’t avoid all physical activity. Instead, give yourself relative rest. With an ankle sprain, you can usually still exercise other muscles to prevent deconditioning. For example, you could use an exercise bicycle, working both your arms and the uninjured leg while resting the injured ankle on a footrest. That way you still exercise three limbs and keep up your cardiovascular conditioning.
  • Ice. Even if you’re seeking medical help, ice the area immediately. Use an ice pack or slush bath for 15 to 20 minutes and repeat every two to three hours while you’re awake, for the first 48 to 72 hours. Cold reduces pain, swelling and inflammation in injured muscles, joints and connective tissues. It also may slow bleeding if a tear has occurred. If the area turns white, stop treatment immediately. This could indicate a cold injury. If you have vascular disease, diabetes or decreased sensation, talk with your doctor before applying ice.
  • Compression. To help stop swelling, compress the ankle with an elastic bandage until the swelling stops. Don’t wrap it too tightly or you may hinder circulation. Begin wrapping at the end farthest from your heart. Loosen the wrap if the pain increases, if the area becomes numb or if swelling occurs below the wrapped area.
  • Elevation. To reduce swelling, elevate your ankle above the level of your heart, especially at night. Gravity helps reduce swelling by draining excess fluid.

Prevention

Take the following steps to help prevent a sprained ankle:

  • Warm up before you exercise or play sports.
  • Be careful when walking, running or working on an uneven surface.
  • Wear shoes that fit well and are made for your activity.
  • Don’t wear high-heeled shoes.
  • Don’t play sports or participate in activities for which you are not conditioned.
  • Maintain good muscle strength and flexibility.
  • Practice stability training, including balance exercises.

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Don’t Ignore Ankle Sprained

Ankle sprain is a common injury in Singapore athletes as well as the active adult. Most of the time, the ankle heals with a little care (rest, taping, ice). But one rare complication of lateral ankle sprains is a condition called peroneal tendon instability.

A lateral ankle sprain means the side of the ankle away from the other leg is sprained. The two peroneal tendons go down the leg and around the back of the ankle bone. The tendons set down inside a tunnel formed by bone and connective tissue called the retromalleolar groove. A fibrous band (the superior peroneal retinaculum) goes across the tendon to hold them in the groove.

When this fibrous retinaculum is ruptured, the tendons can dislocate or pop out of the groove. The result is persistent pain along the outside aspect of the ankle bones. There may be a painful popping or snapping sensation.

Swelling may mask the symptoms of tendon displacement at first. It’s only weeks to months later when the painful symptoms don’t go away that the additional tendon damage is recognized. Early MRIs may not show peroneal tendon instability, especially if the tendon pops in and out of the groove spontaneously.

A relaxed tendon is more likely to remain in the groove. Any active movement of the ankle will force the tendon out of its protective tunnel. If the ankle is relaxed and the tendon is repositioned correctly at the time of the imaging study, then diagnosis can be delayed. Dynamic ultrasound tests are the best diagnostic tests because they will reveal the movement of the unstable tendon.

Since this problem is rare, not much is known about the best way to treat it. Conservative (nonoperative) care is only possible when the unstable tendons can reposition inside the retromalleolar groove. A cast or boot placed on the lower leg will give the tendon a chance to heal.

If conservative care is unable to achieve a stable gliding tendon or if the tendon displacement is unstable from the start, then surgery is necessary. There are several different surgical options to consider. The fibrous protective sheath (retinaculum) can be reinforced or reconstructed. The groove can be reshaped (deepened) and rebuilt. The surgeon must be careful not to destroy or disrupt the smooth gliding surface of the bone that helps form the retromalleolar groove.

The retinaculum is repaired or reconstructed depending on the severity of the damage. Incision shape, drill holes, suture type and placement, and method for protecting the groove surface are discussed. Photos of each step in the surgical procedure are provided.

In summary, traumatic displacement of the peroneal tendons is a rare but painful complication of some lateral ankle sprains. Pain and swelling may mask the presence of this problem at the time of the injury with a delayed diagnosis. A careful examination with tenderness palpated over the torn retinaculum is the best way to accurately identify the injury. Treatment is usually surgical with the surgeon’s own preferred treatment presented.

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Ankle Instability and Ankle Sprains

The ankle works in a systematic way. Movement is only supposed to be in one plane, in other words, up and down. We call this dorsiflexion and plantarflexion. The ankle joint is held in place securely by a group of bones that house the main anklebone (called the talus) inside a box-like effect. On the inside is the medial malleolus and on the outside the fibula.

Front of the ankle.
M= medial malleolus, L=lateral malleolus (fibula). The outside of the heel is pushed inwards to stress the joint. In the normal ankle, no tilting of the ankle should occur at all. Note the tilting of the talus in the ankle.

The inward and outward movements of the back of the foot do not actually occur in the ankle joint but occur in the joint underneath it called the subtalar joint. The muscle that pulls the foot inward (inversion) is slightly stronger than the muscles that pull the foot outward (eversion). When the foot lands in an awkward manner there is a tendency for the heel to roll inwards and create stress on the outside ligaments. If this stress is severe then a sprain of the ankle occurs. A sprain is actually a tear that occurs in the outer supportive ligaments of the ankle. As these ligaments are stretched, a critical point is reached beyond which ligaments do not return to their normal elastic function and a tear of the ligament occurs. Sprains can range from the relatively minor to those where the ligaments are completely torn and the ankle can be quite loose.

The acute sprain of the ankle is commonly associated with marked swelling and bruising on the outer side of the ankle. Rest of the ankle with immobilization of some sort is critical. The classic treatment for a sprain of the ankle is what we refer to as the Rice Program. It involves rest, ice, compression and elevation. This treatment is designed to decrease the inflammation and swelling of the ankle associated with the sprain. The Rice Program by itself will not heal the ligaments. In order for the ligaments to heal the ankle needs to be immobilized with either a cast or a boot. For minor sprains a brace can be applied to the ankle. Walking is permitted during this recovery process, allowing the ankle ligaments to heal.

Following this period of initial immobilization, strengthening exercises are essential to regain the balance of the ankle. It is critical that the tendons and muscles on the outside of the ankle (the peroneal tendons) are strengthened. This should be done initially in a supervised exercise program. If the ligaments have been severely torn, the ability to fine tune the ankle and prevent further sprains from occurring depends on the strength of the peroneal muscles. As the ankle turns repeatedly, the peroneal muscles weaken further. This weakens the ability to prevent recurring sprains. Patients with a high arch or a heel that is naturally turned in slightly are predisposed to sprains.

As a result of continued rolling, turning or instability of the ankle, the ability to fine tune the foot on uneven surfaces becomes limited. The ability to make rapid changes in the position of the foot on the ground surface is called proprioception. If this ability is diminished, the likelihood of a more severe ankle sprain occurring is increased. In recurring ankle sprains we call this chronic recurrent instability of the ankle. The ankle is at risk of developing other problems. These include bruising of the cartilage of the talus and bone spurs that develop around the front and sides of the ankle. These are all precursors of ultimate arthritis of the ankle.

These pictures illustrate a patient with chronic ankle instability. Note how loose the ankle is when it is turned slightly inwards. The ligaments are completely torn in this ankle and the likelihood of recurring sprains is very high.

The diagnosis of chronic recurrent instability is made through a careful examination of the ankle and X-rays that are taken while stress is applied to the ankle.

Here are two X-ray’s of a patient with chronic recurrent instability of the ankle. In both the right and the left ankle, an assistant is pushing on the outside of the foot (in the direction of the white arrow) while the XR is taken. The XR on the left is normal, while the one on the right demonstrates a loose (unstable) ankle.

Once the diagnosis of the extent and severity of the ankle instability is made then a treatment plan can be initiated. A strengthening program is helpful before proceeding with surgery. This is true even with patients who have had recurring sprains and chronic recurrent instability.

Fortunately, surgical repair of the chronically loose ankle ligaments can be performed. There are many different techniques used to stabilize the ankle. Some rely upon repairing the ligaments themselves by tightening them up. Others depend more on using a tendon behind the ankle (the peroneal tendon) or a tendon graft to tighten up the ankle completely. These operations are usually very successful. Individuals are able to return to all forms of athletic activity without risk of recurrent injury to the ankle.

Read more about Ankle Sprain

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