Play It Safe! – A Guide to Sports Injuries 

Sports activities provide a fun way to exercise without it being a bore or feeling like an actual workout. Don’t be fooled! Professional athletes and weekend warriors are both at risk for sports related injuries. A simply activity such as jogging or running may seem safe enough yet running is perhaps the one sport resulting in the most potential for injury. Other sports such as tennis, football, gymnastics, and skating can lead to injury as well. Most injuries occur from repetitive use of a certain muscle. Repetitive use injuries are generally minor such as sprains, pulled muscles, or tendonitis. Knowing the signs and symptoms and early treatment options can put you on the road to recovery sooner and prevent long-term damage. Know the common injuries related to your sports. Do not try to push through sudden or severe pain. Stop and evaluate the cause before slowly resuming an activity. Play it safe. A moment to rest and evaluate the cause of any unusual pain may prevent a serious injury that could sideline you for a longer period.

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains can and do occur with any sports related activity. Though the terms are often interchanged, sprains involve ligaments while strains involve muscles. Both sprains and strains occur from over use or improper warm-up. For weekend warriors, or anyone just beginning a sports or exercise activity, it is expected that you will experience one or the other at some time. Both of these injuries occur as ligaments and muscles are stretched past their limit or present capability. Most strains and sprains respond well to rest, ice, and over-the counter medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin. For severe pain that does not respond to rest, see a doctor for evaluation.

Knee Injuries

Knee pain can certainly fall under the diagnosis for sprains and strains. The most common complaint for knee pain occurs with a condition often referred to as runner’s knee. Weak or misaligned muscles supporting the kneecap often cause knee pain occurring behind the kneecap or knee. In addition to resting, icing, and elevating the leg, once pain diminishes exercises that strengthen the muscles supporting the kneecap (quadriceps) will less the risk of repeated injury. For severe knee pain after a sudden change in direction or direct hit to the knees as may occur during contact sports, do not to place weight on the knee until you are sure the knee has not become dislocated. Severe knee injuries are obvious and require immediate professional attention.

Swollen Muscles

Swollen muscles also referred to as pulled muscles are the most common complaint after a sport activity or workout. Proper warm up and cool down sessions can lessen the risk, however even doing all you can to prevent them, muscles will sometimes be swollen and painful following vigorous activity. In addition to the use of over the counter medication to reduce inflammation, rest and applying ice packs for twenty minutes, removing the ice pack for twenty minutes and then repeating ice treatment as often as possible for a day or two usually offers relief. As soon as you are no longer in pain, begin gentle stretching exercises to help the muscle lengthen and heal. 

Achilles tendon Injuries

Tendons connect various muscles to bones and are responsible for transferring the muscle contractions necessary to move. The largest tendon in your body is located in the back of the ankle and runs to the top of your heel. This is the Achilles tendon and often becomes inflamed through overuse (Achilles tendonitis). Rest and anti-inflammatory medications are the recommended treatment along with stretches once pain subsides to strengthen the tendon. Standing on your toes for ten second intervals and alternating standing on the toes of one foot at a time is a quick and effective stretching exercise. Once all pain is gone, you can do heel drop exercises by standing on a step with the back of your foot hanging over the edge. Lower you heel below the edge until you feel a gentle stretching in your calf muscle. Hold the stretch for ten seconds and repeat until your calf muscle is fatigued. Do not ignore early Achilles tendon pain as it may develop into a chronic condition.

Pain along the Shin Bone

Another common sports related injury involves pain along the shinbone at the front of the leg. This involves pain in the muscles near or on top of the shin bone and are commonly called shin splints. Usually a common complaint when beginning an exercise or sport activity that you are not accustomed to preforming, shin splints may also occur with a new routine, running surface or even new shoes. Though pain occurs over the shinbone, the cause is related to the impact on the arch of your foot during running or jumping activities. The insertion of an arch support may be all that is needed to resolve the problem. If you have a problem with excessive pronation or a commercial arch support does not help, a custom support may be needed. Shin pain that is localized to a small area or becomes severe, may indicate a stress fracture of the tibia (shinbone). Stress fractures do not always show on traditional x-rays and your doctor may recommend a bone scan for shin pain that does not respond to the usual treatments.


Sport related fractures may be due to chronic stress or fatigue of a bone (stress fracture), or may result from direct sudden impact, falls, or twisting (acute fractures). Stress fractures can be difficult to diagnose without a bone scan. Acute fractures are usually obvious. Emergency treatment for acute fractures involves stabilizing the area to prevent further injury and having the injury treated by a professional as soon as possible. Treatment often involves splints or casts though severe breaks may require surgical intervention. 


Dislocations occur when extreme force on a ligament connecting two bones occurs. Common sports related dislocations usually involve the shoulder or knee, though hip dislocation injuries may also occur. Dislocations are usually obvious as you will experience severe pain and swelling along with the inability to move the affected joint. A dislocation injury requires immediate medical treatment followed by rest, ice, and medication to reduce pain and inflammation. Always follow your doctor’s orders regarding restricting the use of the affected joint. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy after the injury has healed to regain full range of motion and use. Severe dislocations may require surgery to prevent recurrence.



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