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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.

Singapore Sports Injury Specialist Clinic. Call +65 6471 2744 or Email to info@boneclinic.com.sg for Appointment

Avoiding Sports Injuries

Have you ever had an injury that has prevented you from playing sport? If so, you’re probably only too familiar with the length of time that it can take to recover. Sports injuries can affect not only professional athletes but anyone who takes part in exercise. The good news is that there are a number of steps you can take to stay injury free.

Keeping active is fun but if you play a sport or do any physical activity, the chances are you’ll get injured at some point. Some of the ways that you can prevent injury are described below.

Warm up

Warming up before you start exercise prepares your body, not only physically but also mentally. You may feel that you don’t have time to warm up before exercise but there are a number of benefits, such as:

  • increased blood flow and oxygen to your muscles
  • increased flexibility (if you stretch)
  • increased relaxation and concentration

Your warm up should include different types of exercises, such as jogging, gentle stretching and some resistance work. It’s particularly important to stretch the muscles that you will be using during your exercise. The length of your warm-up and how intense it is will depend on the level of exercise that you’re going to do. Generally it should last for at least 15 minutes during which time you start to sweat but don’t feel tired.

Stretching

Stretching before and after exercise can improve your flexibility and prevent injury. Poor flexibility is partly to blame for many common sports injuries. Stretch your muscles gently and slowly, to the point of tension, and hold them there for at least 30 seconds. You should feel a stretch sensation rather than pain. When holding your stretch make sure you don’t bounce – you should try to keep as still as you can.
Particular muscles that will benefit from stretching include:

  • calves
  • thighs (quadriceps)
  • hamstrings
  • back

Use the correct equipment

There are hundreds of different models of running shoes available and knowing what pair to buy can be daunting. The best running shoe is one that matches the shape of your feet. If you’re not sure whether you’re wearing the right running shoes for you, it’s a good idea to take them along to a specialist sports shop and ask for advice. Some shops have experienced advisers who can watch you run and recommend suitable running shoes for you. If possible, take an old pair of running shoes with you so the adviser can check how they have been worn down.

If your activity of choice means you’re more likely to get injured, whether it’s falling off your bike or getting a knock on the head with a ball, you will need to wear protective equipment. There is a huge range of products available that can protect almost any part of your body – from helmets and mouthguards to groin protectors and shin pads. But just wearing the protection isn’t enough – you need to make sure that it fits correctly and that you don’t take extra risks.

Technique

There’s no point putting great effort into exercise if you have a poor technique as it’s an almost sure-fire way of ending up injured. Try to learn the right skills when you first take up a new sport so that you get into good practice. If you’re a member of a gym, you could speak to a member of staff who can show you how to use the equipment safely and effectively. This is especially important if you use weights.

Know your limit

When you’re exercising it’s important that you listen to your body and know when to stop. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start slowly and gradually increase how much you do. This will help to prevent you from pulling or straining your muscles.

Cool down

Recovery is an essential part of any training programme and it’s important to help maximise performance and reduce your risk of injury.

After exercising, try spending five to 15 minutes cooling down. This involves light activity, such as walking and stretching the muscles you have used while exercising. Some people think that stretching after exercise reduces muscle soreness the next day, but there is little evidence to support this. However, stretching does improve and maintain flexibility, which can help prevent injury.

Stay hydrated

When you exercise you can lose lots of fluid, especially if you’re exercising in a hot environment. Making sure you replace the fluids you have lost during exercise is an important part of recovery.

Nutrition

Eating the right food after a workout will help you recover by refuelling your energy stores and providing protein to help rebuild and repair any damaged muscle tissue. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrate, your body will rely on fat and protein for energy when you’re exercising, you can become fatigued and this may lead to an injury.

Ice baths

Although it may sound strange, you may have heard of athletes sitting in ice baths after completing training or an event. This is known as cold water immersion and although it’s thought to help to promote recovery after exercise there is little evidence to support this.

Massage

Regular massage after exercise may sound very appealing and the good news is that it’s thought to help with recovery by increasing the flow of blood and oxygen around the body and also how much you can move your muscles. Sports massage therapists can identify any areas that need attention.

Rest

You may be encouraged to exercise every day, especially if you’re training for a sporting event or trying to lose weight. However, it’s important that you have rest days in your weekly training schedule to help your body recover from the exercise. Try exercising different body parts on consecutive days.

Action points

  • Include a warm up and cool down in your workout.
  • Stretch before and after exercise to increase flexibility and prevent injury.
  • Use protective equipment and learn the correct technique for your sport.
  • Stay hydrated and eat the correct foods before, during and after exercise.