There’s nothing more exciting than being an active part of a sports team, whether it’s competitive or not. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than getting injured and not being able to play at all.
If you’re active, you’re at risk for an injury, including even less strenuous sports like surfing, pickleball, and disc golf. It’s helpful to understand the most common injuries you’re likely to face and what you can expect in terms of treatment. That way, you can be prepared if and when something happens.
At Santa Cruz Osteopathic, osteopathic physician Richard Bernstein, DO, treats all manner of sports injuries for his patients in and near Capitola, California. Here is his list of the top five sports injuries you’re likely to see across the board.
5 common sports injuries
The type of injury you sustain depends on your particular sport and how you were moving when it happened. Here, though, are some of the most common injuries across sports as a whole.
Sprains are extremely common, most often caused by falling or twisting, which stretches/tears a ligament near a joint. A sprain causes pain, swelling (sometimes severe), and bruising. In addition, you probably won’t be able to bear weight on the joint without pain.
Strains are also common, but they involve stretching or tearing a muscle instead of a ligament, usually from overextension. A strain causes sudden pain followed by an immediate limited range of motion.
Fractures are breaks that occur when a sudden force on a bone exceeds its tolerance. These happen in most sports and can be as simple as a slight crack or as severe as a bone that breaks through the skin. A fracture causes sudden pain, swelling, numbness, tenderness around the break site, and difficulty moving the affected limb.
Dislocations are acute injuries where the end of a bone is forcefully pushed out of its normal position in a joint (e.g., when the ball of your upper arm bone slides out of the shoulder socket). This type of injury is common in contact sports like football, soccer, and basketball, and symptoms are much like those for a fracture.
5. Achilles tendinitis and other inflamed tendons
Your Achilles tendon connects your calf muscle to your heel. Achilles tendinitis occurs when the tendon becomes inflamed; it is common in sports that require a lot of running and in any sport where you don’t stretch enough before playing. You can feel the pain in the calf and/or under the heel. Other common repetitive stress injuries include golfer's elbow, tennis elbow, and shin splints.
How to treat your injuries
Each type of injury requires different types of treatment; you need a medical diagnosis.
To get a diagnosis (and treatment), go to the doctor right away (or the nearest ER) if your injury causes extreme swelling, bruising, or an obvious deformity; if the pain is severe; or if the swelling or pain doesn’t recede after a few days. They may recommend medications and/or give you a device (e.g., sling, splint, or cast) to help the injured area heal.
If your injury doesn’t require emergency treatment and you’re starting with at-home care, here are a few ways to relieve the symptoms.
If you get hurt playing a sport, stop playing. Depending on the injury, you may cause more harm than good if you try to push through the pain.
Most minor sports injuries can be managed at home, and you should recover in a few days. The best treatment is using the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
When you’ve been injured, your body needs rest to heal and recover. A few days of downtime can help enormously. For legs, knees, or ankle injuries, crutches may be a good idea to prevent putting weight on the body part before it’s recovered.
Ice helps calm both pain and swelling. Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every four hours. You can use a bag of crushed ice or, better yet, a frozen bag of peas because you can manipulate it to fit over the injured area.
Putting pressure on the injured site also helps with swelling and provides additional support. Use an elastic medical-grade bandage, wrapping it tight but not so tight that it cuts off circulation to the area.
Propping up your injured limb higher than your heart helps rest the injury and also reduces swelling because the body’s fluids don’t naturally travel uphill. It also helps reduce swelling.
Once you’ve started to heal, Dr. Bernstein can help address the residual pain, weakness, and restricted range of motion so you regain full function.
If you’ve sustained a sports injury, Santa Cruz Osteopathic can help. To start, give the office a call at 831-464-1605 or book online with us today.