Prevention and Treatment Of Common Sports Injuries
The amount of time you spend on training and how you really move on the field will have a huge impact on how safe you stay while engaging in contact sports. Of course, it is sometimes beyond your control to prevent an injury, but you can always take steps to lower the risk of sustaining the most common sports injuries. Wearing the right running shoes can go a long way in keeping you safe. Similarly, investing in proper gear will also help in a big way.
Along with wearing the right gear, you need to ensure that you start every sporting activity with a gentle warm-up session to prevent common sports injuries. A short “warm-up” session will help increase blood flow to the muscles, increase flexibility, and lower risk of injuries. Similarly, you can take steps to avoid overuse injuries. For instance, you’re surely going to put yourself in trouble if you come out and play for an hour after not engaging in any sports for a while. To stay on the safe side, always go for some “pre-participation training” by working the relevant muscles before you start hitting on all cylinders.
Certain tips and tricks will help you stay safe on the field, but you may still end up dealing with some incredibly common sports injuries. Here are some of those injuries with ways to treat and prevent them.
1. Ankle Sprain
Sprains are caused by overstretching ligaments or tendons (the connective tissue that joins bones together), which results in inflammation or tearing of the tissue completely from the bone. It is a painful injury that takes time to repair.
Strains, also referred to as ‘pulled muscles’, are often caused by overuse in exercise or sudden sharp stretching of the collagen fibers called tendons.
Ligaments are stretchable like springs and when you do heavy exercises, they give the necessary support to the bones and muscles. They stretch during exercise and return to normal length when a cooldown is performed. But when they are overstretched, instead of returning to normal, they just tear.
See a doctor – you need to know the area of the sprain properly since recovery will be long and you need to know how best to help yourself on a daily basis. ‘High ankle’ sprains take time to heal and need medical supervision to be sure the lower leg bones are intact and positioned correctly for a return to full mobility without life-altering consequences.
How to get back to normal – Do the physio exercises prescribed. They will prevent further loss of flexibility and muscle strength, and protect the area from re-injury. The correct exercises are designed to help the ligament align and reattach in the correct position on the bone so you recover with all your mobility intact.
Treatment for Sprained Ankle
To avoid chronic pain long-term pain in the sprained ankle, it is important to treat it as soon as possible. This will also ensure the area is stable. It will take a few days for the swelling to subside. The R.I.C.E guidelines are helpful in treating Grade 1 sprain.
- You need to Rest your ankle so put your walking shoes and weightlifting shoes aside for a while. You should use crutches whenever required. As long as there is no fracture, you can still walk to some extent. To heal the ligaments fully, use an ankle brace as it adds stability to the leg and helps control swelling.
- Apply Ice to the area of swelling. Wrap the ice in a towel or pillow cover rather than applying ice bag directly on the skin. It helps distribute the coolness to reduce inflammation across the whole site of the injured tissue. Ice for about 20 minutes and no more, otherwise you may get frostbite.
- Compression will help in controlling the swelling and support the injury.
- Elevating the foot using pillows or a recliner will help reduce the pain and enhance the healing process. It helps drain cells of the fluids created during cellular injury to reduce swelling and encourages cells to begin repairing the injury.
Grade II sprain requires the same guidelines to be followed, the only difference is the time taken for healing. Either way, visit a doctor so they can immobilize the sprained ankle and splint it into the correct position if they feel it is needed.
When your sprain has reached grade III, it needs more attention and is at greater risk of permanent instability. In some severe cases, surgery may be required. Your doctor might also suggest treating a severe sprain using a short leg cast or a walking boot for about a month. For people who sprain their ankle often, surgical repair is a good solution to tighten the ligaments.
Getting Your Sprained Ankle Healed
Ligament injuries need proper rest and care. It has to get back to its original state before it gets too late to do so. If not taken care of properly, the sprained ankle might never heal and re-injury may happen. There are three stages of recovery for all ankle sprains whether mild or severe.
- Phase 1 involves giving proper rest and protecting your ankle to reduce swelling over time.
- Phase 2 is to restore your ankle flexibility, strength, and extent of movement.
- Phase 3 takes more time and patience and means gradually letting your body get back to its original state by doing maintenance exercises before eventually returning to more rigorous sports like football, tennis or basketball.
After you are able to slowly walk again with your ankle, your doctor will give you a set of exercises to be done every day to strengthen your ligaments, increase your body’s flexibility, balance and coordination. Once you are comfortable with these you can gradually start with brisk walking, running, jogging and eight sequences with the support of ankle brace or tapes.
Completing the rehabilitation program is necessary and if you don’t, it may result in chronic pain, loss of stability and mobility and, in the long term even arthritis. The ligament will tear again if proper care is not taken!
To prevent ankle sprain from recurring, look for the body’s signals and warnings and take rest when there is slightest pain or fatigue. Don’t push through the pain. It’s a warning. Good flexibility and strength in your soft issues are very important for good muscle balance and strong body overall and it takes time for a full repair.
2. Shin Splints
Shin splints are pains down the front of lower legs. These are mostly caused by long runs on tarmac roads or rigorous training programs that put pressure on that area. It happens in those who are new to running and extensive training but can happen to old runners and players as well.
Shin splints pains are not necessarily a stress fracture, but just a small break in the shin bone. If the pain persists for long and you are not able to walk or do even normal activities, you must see a doctor. Stress fractures, when they happen, require complete rest, at least for a month or so to completely heal.
Treatment For Shin Splints
Shin splints take time to heal and most of the time they heal on their own. But if it is not and you are going to a doctor, you may have to give a demo for the doctor to see your issue. You will probably need an X-ray or bone scan. Meanwhile, here are a few things you can do to help catalyze the healing process:
- Take rest – especially to the affected area and don’t strain.
- Apply ice regularly to the shin so that swelling and pain are reduced. You can do this for 2 to 3 days or more at least 5 to 6 times a day for best results.
- Use insoles for your shoes – there are shoe inserts you get in the market readily and you can customize some. Orthotics help your feet and lower limbs cope up with the strain.
- Anti-inflammatory painkillers – use these with care and only when absolutely necessary. You can take some which are non-steroidal known as NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. These give relief from pain and help you cope with swelling. Using these for a prolonged period can cause side effects like bleeding or ulcers. Always check with a doctor before using these drugs.
3. ACL Tear
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) holds the bone in the leg to that of the knee. Sudden cuts, jerks or a hit on the side can lead to straining or tearing of ACL. A severe tear usually makes a ‘pop’ sound which is not great to hear!
Treatment for ACL depends on the severity of the tear. Here are a few options:
- First aid – if the injury is not a major one, all you need to do is apply ice on your knee and keep your legs elevated. Giving rest to the lower body will also help. The swelling can be taken care of by covering the knee with an ace bandage. Using crutches can take the weight off the knee which helps.
- Medicines – the dosage depends on the extent of pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs are usually prescribed to be taken orally or if there is intense pain, the doctor may inject steroid medication.
- Knee sleeve or brace – Wearing a brace on the knee having damaged ACL can provide good support during running and playing sports.
- Physical therapy – doing some exercises will help retrieve the old condition of your knees. Exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the knee so that you can regain the full motion of knees. A physiotherapist may recommend and write exercises for you to do at home as well.
- Surgery – If the ACL is completely torn, the last resort is to get a surgery done. This is a small surgery and involves removal of the damaged ACL and replacing it with tissue to help a new ligament grow. After surgery, physiotherapy is strongly recommended, and if properly done, players and athletes can get back to normal playing within 12 months.
4. Patellofemoral Syndrome
This syndrome is caused by repetitive movement of kneecap or patella against the thigh bone (femur), that damages the tissue and bone under the kneecap. Rigorous sports like running, basketball and volleyball are some of the common causes of this. Either one or both knees can get affected.
As with all other injuries, the treatment of patellofemoral pain begins with simple measures like resting the knee and avoiding activities that involve using the lower body too much, particularly climbing stairs, squatting, sitting down or kneeling down.
There are over-the-counter pain relievers available that can help reduce the pain. These are ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). As with all over the counter medicines, read the instructions and follow the dosage carefully and be aware of any contraindications if you take any other medicines.
Depending on the intensity of pain, the physical therapist can suggest one or more of the following:
- Rehabilitation exercises – Exercises that strengthen knee supporting muscles and help with limb alignment like quadriceps, hamstrings, and muscles around hips (hip abductors) are essential and help relieve the pain as well as heal the affected area.
- Supportive braces – knee braces and/or arch supports can help support with walking and other sports.
- Taping – Taping the knee can help reduce pain and give you more strength and flexibility to exercise.
- Ice. – Ice definitely helps relax the affected area.
- Knee-friendly sports – While on the path of recovery, you can continue to do some light exercises and sports like cycling, water running or swimming. These enable to heal the knees faster.
Surgery is suggested when none of the above treatments work. Here is a couple of them:
- Arthroscopy. This is an advanced process where the doctor inserts a thin pencil-like device that has in-built camera and light (arthroscope) inside the knee via a minuscule incision. Through the arthroscope, surgical instruments are passed that remove the fragments of damaged cartilage.
- Realignment. This is a more intense procedure where the surgeon operates on the knee to relieve pressure on cartilage and realign the angle of the kneecap.
A concussion is caused by a sudden heavy blow to the head, leading to dizziness, disorientation and other symptoms. This mostly happens in contact sports. Since this is involved with the head and brain, it takes time to heal and one must take complete rest and take acetaminophen to fully recover. It is always advisable to consult a physician with any head injury.
Different types of treatments are available based on the symptoms. Surgery may be needed if there is bleeding, swelling to the brain or a build-up of fluid between the membrane surrounding the brain and skull. Most concussions don’t require other surgical intervention and can be cured with rest and medication.
You may get headaches, nausea or dizziness during concussions, which can be relieved by some over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). Of course, your doctor will advise you to take a lot of rest, avoid any kind of sports and physical activities for a time. Driving any vehicle should be strictly avoided at this time for a day or even a few months depending on the acuteness of the injury. Alcohol also should be avoided during the recovery phase since alcohol slows the recovery process and its effects can mask or be confused with indications of brain injury.
Also called a nerve pinch injury or simply a burner, a stinger refers to an injury to the nerves about the shoulder or neck that makes you experience painful electrical sensations that radiate through one of your arms. It is important to know that though the stinger is a spine injury, it is usually not a spinal cord injury. You’re likely to sustain this injury in collision or contact sports. The injury can certainly be painful but is never as catastrophic and devastating as a spinal cord injury.
The treatment involves using strategies to reduce those abnormal sensations that you experience in your arm. It also helps improve the strength of your arm muscles. Your healthcare provider may start with non-operative options first, which may include activity restriction, heat or ice, a cervical collar, and anti-inflammatory medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications usually help reduce swelling and pain, but you may have to take stronger analgesics in case you experience severe pain.
It all boils down to the fact that you should never make any compromises when it comes to wearing the right footwear and gear. If you’re playing basketball, be sure to invest in a pair of good quality basketball sneakers and don’t just stick to your regular running shoes. Moreover, doing some warm-up exercises will also keep you safe and prevent common sports injuries like shin splints, ankle sprains, and even the stinger.