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Whether you play an organized sport or exercise for fun, being active is important for your physical and mental health. However, playing sports and exercising always comes with the risk of developing an injury, either suddenly or over time. While anyone can get injured at any time, your risk of injury is higher when you play sports or workout if you:
- Play the same sport year-round without a break
- Don't incorporate other forms of exercise into your training
- Use the wrong techniques
- Aren't eating enough or getting the right nutrients
Knowing what you can do to prevent some of the most common sports injuries can help you lower your risk of being sidelined from pain for longer than necessary.
Most common exercise and sports injuries are related to overuse.
Most frequently, athletes and active individuals suffer from injuries caused by doing the same repetitive motion for too long. Overuse injuries can also occur if you increase the intensity, frequency, or duration of a particular exercise too quickly. Doing so puts unnecessary stress on the muscles and joints involved in the motion, which can cause pain. Overuse injuries often worsen over time, especially if you continue to repeat the same activity without rest. The following injuries are most commonly associated with overuse.
#SportsInjuries are often caused by overuse. In this blog, primary care and sports medicine physician Dr. Gordon-Zigel shares tips for avoiding some of the most common injuries: https://bit.ly/3pHyJUQ.Click to Tweet
1. Knee pain.
Knee pain commonly affects people of all ages and can range from severe, sharp pain to a dull throbbing, pain, or feeling of weakness or instability. Knee pain can occur suddenly, after an unexpected bump or trauma to the knee, or it can develop slowly over time due to repetitive motion, like frequent jumping. Some knee injuries, like "runner's knee", respond well to rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication. Serious knee injuries caused by a collision during contact sports, like an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, may require surgery.
Tendinitis occurs when the tendon, which connects muscle to bone, becomes inflamed or irritated. The overuse injury can occur in the elbow, shoulder, knee, and ankle joints, causing pain in and around the involved tendon. If you play sports that require repetitive motion, like pitching a baseball or swinging a golf club, you may be more prone to developing tendinitis. That’s why some common names for certain types of tendinitis are tennis elbow, swimmer's shoulder, and jumper's knee. Other repetitive activities or exercises that may cause tendinitis include gardening, painting, and shoveling. Tendinitis pain can range from mild to severe, but in many cases, people with tendinitis can work through the pain because it lessens as you move.
3. Stress fractures.
If you repeatedly jump or run for long periods, you may develop a stress fracture, which is tiny cracks in the bone. Stress fractures are most common in women and tend to get worse over time. Because they often develop if you start or increase the intensity of an activity too fast, the best way to avoid this type of injury is by starting new exercise programs gradually.
4. Shin splints.
If you have a sharp pain in your lower leg near the shin bone, you may suffer from shin splints. Shin splints are caused by overuse and can also develop if you don't have proper foot support. Basketball players, cross-country runners, and other athletes who run and jump a lot are prone to shin splints. If you have minor shin splints, rest can provide relief.
Other common sports injuries.
Another common sports injury is sprains or strains, with ankle sprains being the most frequent type. Sprains are typically caused by falling or a twisting motion near a joint, such as the ankle, knee, or wrist. A sprain can be mild or severe, causing pain, bruising, and swelling.
A fracture is a partial or complete broken bone. Sometimes, a fracture is accompanied by "snapping" sounds, bruising, redness, and visible deformity, like bone poking through the skin. In other cases, fractures develop in someone who has an untreated stress fracture. If you suspect you have a fracture, you shouldn't keep playing. This type of injury is common in contact sports and often requires immediate medical attention.
Concussions are also common injuries that occur during contact sports, like football. A concussion occurs when your head suddenly collides with something else. Concussions range in severity and can include symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and even temporary loss of consciousness. Anytime you experience a blow to the head, it's important to seek medical care.
How to avoid sports injuries.
Some sports injuries can't be prevented, but there are things you can do to minimize your risk of a severe injury, such as:
- Gradually increasing the frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise if you've been sedentary
- Using the proper technique while exercising
- Wearing the appropriate gear, including supportive shoes and protective equipment, when necessary
- Cross-training, or participating in a variety of different exercises rather than just one
Young kids especially should always be encouraged to play a variety of sports rather than one sport all year. It’s also important to pay attention to the duration, frequency, and intensity of their sports practices. Coach A may not know what exercises Coach B is doing and too much of the same activity could be detrimental. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that the maximum number of hours they spend in sports training per week is no more than their age.
When to call your doctor.
In many cases, home remedies can relieve pain from sports injuries. Stretching, rest, ice or heat (whichever feels best), and anti-inflammatory medication can help you continue in day-to-day activities while a sports injury heals.
If you have pain that continues to worsen or is interfering with your daily responsibilities, you should talk to a doctor. You should also seek medical care if:
- You have difficulty bearing weight or picking things up
- You experienced a collision to the head and suspect a concussion
- You feel off-balance or dizzy
- Your pain doesn't subside for a few weeks
- You're worried about your injury