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Sports-Related Injuries

Most sports injuries are due to either trauma or overuse of muscles or joints. The majority are caused by minor trauma involving muscles, ligaments, or tendons including:

  • Contusions (bruises)

  • Sprains

  • Strains

The most commonly sprained or strained joint is the ankle.

What is a contusion?

A contusion (bruise) is an injury to the soft tissue often produced by a blunt force such as a kick, fall, or blow. The immediate result will be pain, swelling, and discoloration.

What is a sprain?

A sprain is a wrenching or twisting injury to a ligament. Sprains often affect the ankles, knees, or wrists.

What is a strain?

A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, and is often caused by overuse, force, or stretching.

Other conditions commonly seen with sports and athletics include the following:

  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). Lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, is characterized by pain in the back side of the elbow and forearm, along the thumb side when the arm is alongside the body with the thumb turned away. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm. A tendon is a tough cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones.

  • Golfer's or baseball elbow (medial epicondylitis). Medial epicondylitis, also known as golfer's elbow, baseball elbow, suitcase elbow, or forehand tennis elbow, is characterized by pain from the elbow to the wrist on the palm side of the forearm. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm. A tendon is a tough cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones.

  • Lumbar strain. A lumbar strain is an injury to the lower back, which results in damaged tendons and muscles that spasm and feel sore. Trauma of great force can injure the tendons and muscles in the lower back. Pushing and pulling sports, such as weight lifting or football, can lead to a lumbar strain. In addition, sports that require sudden twisting of the lower back, such as basketball, baseball, and golf can lead to this injury.

  • Jumper's knee. Jumper's knee, also known as patellar tendonitis, is a condition characterized by inflammation of the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to shin bone (tibia). The condition may be caused by overuse of the knee joint, such as frequent jumping on hard surfaces.

  • Runner's knee. Runner's knee, also known as patellofemoral stress syndrome, is a condition characterized by the kneecap rubbing against the thighbone (femur) when moving. Runner's knee may be caused by a structural defect, or a certain way of walking or running.

  • Fractures. Fractures are breaks in the bone that are often caused by a blow or a fall. A fracture can range from a simple hairline fracture (a thin fracture that may not run through the entire bone) to a compound fracture, in which the broken bone protrudes through the skin. Most fractures occur in the arms and legs.

  • Stress fractures. Stress fractures are weak spots or small cracks in the bone caused by continuous overuse. Stress fractures often occur in the foot after training for basketball, running, and other sports. The bones in the midfoot (metatarsals) in runners are especially vulnerable to stress fractures.

  • Dislocation. A dislocation occurs when extreme force is put on a ligament, allowing the ends of two connected bones to separate. Ligaments are flexible bands of fibrous tissue that connect various bones and cartilage. Ligaments also bind the bones in a joint together. Stress on joint ligaments can lead to dislocation of the joint. The most commonly dislocated joint is the shoulder.

Rehabilitation for sports injuries

A rehabilitation program for sports injuries is designed to meet the needs of the individual patient, depending on the type and severity of the injury. Active involvement of the patient and family is vital to the success of the program.

The goal of rehabilitation after an amputation is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life--physically, emotionally, and socially.

In order to help reach these goals, sports injury rehabilitation programs may include the following:

  • Activity restrictions

  • Physical or occupational therapy

  • Exercise programs to stretch and strengthen the area

  • Conditioning exercises to help prevent further injury

  • Heat or cold applications and whirlpool treatments

  • Applications of braces, splints, or casts to immobilize the area

  • Use of crutches or wheelchairs

  • Pain management techniques

  • Patient and family education

The sports injury rehabilitation team

Rehabilitation programs for sports injuries are usually conducted on an outpatient basis. Many skilled professionals are part of the sports injury rehabilitation team, including any or all of the following:

  • Orthopedist/orthopedic surgeon

  • Physiatrist

  • Physical therapist

  • Occupational therapist

  • Exercise physiologist

  • Sports medicine specialist

  • Athletic trainer