Being physically active through sports is a great way to get healthy. It helps your heart and lungs healthy, boost your energy, control your weight, fight illnesses, and improve your mood, among other things. Sports, however, can also cause injuries if you’re not careful. Here are the most common sports injuries and how to avoid them.
Achilles tendon injury
The Achilles tendon is the huge tendon above your heel and at the back of your ankle. It attaches your heel bone, calf, plantaris muscle, and soleus muscles together, allowing you to extend your foot. An injury to the Achilles tendon could either be inflammation (tendinitis), a partial tear, or a complete rupture.
To avoid injuries to your Achilles tendon, see to it that you do the following:
- Stretch your Achilles tendon and leg muscles before and after work-outs, especially if they’re feeling taut. Warm-up and cool-down exercises would loosen your muscles and tendons.
- Wear well-fitting shoes that provide ample support.
- Don’t intensify your workouts dramatically. Progress should be gradual.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain in your heel or the back of your ankle.
ACL and PCL injury
ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, while PCL refers to the posterior cruciate ligament, both of which are ligaments located in your knee. ACL and PCL injuries are usually caused by twisting the knee while the foot is planted, getting hit on the knee, landing on a bent knee, and sudden stops from running. It’s painful, debilitating and unfortunately, common; which is why it has to be avoided. This, however, is easier said than done as ACL and PCL injuries are usually caused by accidents. Here’s how you can lower your chances:
- Perform warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after any physical activity.
- Strengthen your thigh muscles by exercising and stretching it on a regular basis.
- Never intensify your workouts dramatically. Progress should be gradual.
You don’t have to be an athlete to get a sprain, although half of its incidences are said to occur during athletic activities. A sprain occurs when a ligament is strained (i.e. stretched or pulled too far), partially torn, or completely ruptured. This can happen if you land awkwardly after jumping, twist your ankle, or trip or fall. The result is swelling, bruising, pain, and the inability to walk.
Like other similar injuries, ankle sprains are sometimes caused by mishaps. Nevertheless, you can minimise the risk by exercising every day, maintaining a healthy weight, wearing well-fitting shoes, running on even surfaces, and avoiding athletic activity when you’re tired.
A concussion is the mildest and most common type of traumatic brain injury, which is usually caused by a sudden bump on the head. While your brain is protected by spinal fluid and your skull from bumps, the force can still jolt it and cause damage.
The most common symptoms physical of a concussion include headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of motor coordination, blurred and double vision, and a ringing in the ears. Concussions also cause cognitive and emotional symptoms such as disorientation, difficulty in focusing, tearfulness, and irritability.
To lessen the odds of sustaining a concussion, make sure you wear protective gear that’s appropriate for the sport. Remember to wear your seatbelt, never take anything that can inhibit your reaction time, and try not to get into fights.
Dislocated and/or separated shoulder
A dislocated shoulder means the joint connecting your arm to your body popped out of its socket. A separated shoulder, on the other hand, means one of the ligaments connecting your shoulder blade and collarbone is torn. These injuries could occur if you get hit on your shoulder or fall on it. Dislocation could also occur with a sudden, strong twist of the arm.
Here’s how you can lower the chance of injuring your shoulder:
- Exercise your shoulder regularly.
- Wear the proper protective gear.
- Stop the moment you feel any shoulder pain during physical activity.
- If you separated your shoulder previously, put ice over it after physical activity.
Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow
These two are forms of elbow tendinitis or inflammation; the main difference is the area that is affected. Golfer’s elbow is caused by damage to tendons inside the elbow, while tennis elbow is caused by damage to tendons outside of it. As their respective names suggest, both injuries are typically triggered by the sports they are named after.
The best way to prevent tennis and golfer’s elbow is to avoid overuse. Once you feel any pain on your elbow, stop the activity. Since bad technique can also cause tennis and golfer’s elbow, you should also fix your posture and form. You also need to strengthen your forearm by regularly doing exercises like wrist curls and squeezing a rubber ball. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down so that you can loosen up your arm and elbow. When you’re done, ice your elbow.
A groin strain occurs when you overstretch or tear your groin and thigh muscles. It is usually caused by suddenly changing directions while running. Groin strain is common among people who play soccer, football, basketball, hockey, and volleyball. Symptoms include pain and tenderness on the inside of your thigh and the groin, especially when you raise your knee or put your legs together.
Since prevention is always better than cure, you can avoid groin strain by:
- Exercising and strengthening your thigh muscles regularly.
- Intensifying your physical activity gradually.
- Doing warm-up and cool-down exercises for your thigh and groin before any physical activity.
- Wearing well-fitting shoes that provide ample support.
- Stopping your physical activity if you feel pain in your groin or inner thighs.
Your hamstrings are a group of muscles along the rear of your thigh. Injury of the hamstrings occur when one of these muscles overstretch. The result: you’ll feel pain in your lower buttocks and the back of your thigh when moving your leg. There will also be bruising and soreness. Here are a few suggestions on how to avoid hamstring injuries:
- Stretch and strengthen your leg muscles (particularly those around your knees) and hamstrings before and after physical activities.
- Stop your physical activity if you feel pain in the back of your thigh or lower buttocks.
- Don’t intensify your workouts dramatically; progress should be gradual. Furthermore, you shouldn’t push yourself too hard.
Rotator cuff tear
The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that stabilise your shoulder and hold the ball of your upper arm bone in place. This enables your arm to move around in different directions. You can injure your rotator cuff by using your arm to stop your fall, carrying heavy weights, and falling hard on your shoulder.
This results in pain and tenderness in the arm and shoulder. You’ll also have a bit of difficulty moving your shoulder around, particularly when you place your arm over your head. Rotator cuffs can be injured gradually or suddenly. When it occurs suddenly, you’ll hear a pop on your shoulder. To avoid rotator cuff injuries, you’ll need to:
- Strengthen your shoulder muscles by exercising them regularly.
- Rest your shoulder often at work or during physical activity, especially when it involves repetitive arm and shoulder movement.
- Apply cold and warm compress when you have pain on your shoulder.
Do you experience a bit of swelling, tenderness, or pain in your lower leg? Then you may have shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome, a common injury among people who engage in running sports or physical activity. The condition is characterised by pain in the inner part of your lower leg, caused by the inflammation of the muscles around the area. Take note that the pain may initially disappear when you stop running or exercising, but it may return and become continuous.
To prevent shin splints, you should wear well-fitting shoes that provide ample support and padding; perform warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after any physical activity; avoid intensifying your workouts too rapidly; use arch support especially if you’re flat-footed; and strengthen your calf muscles.
The tailbone, also called the coccyx, is located at the bottom of your pelvis, in between your glutes (i.e. butt cheeks). It’s made up of three to five segments held in position by a series of ligaments and joints. Most coccyx injuries are caused by falls on the tailbone, blows from contact sports, and repetitive straining against the tailbone. Interestingly, most coccyx injuries are said to occur in women because the female pelvis is wider, making the tailbone more exposed.
Since tailbone injuries are usually the result of an accident, the best you can do to prevent it is by wearing protective gear like padding for contact sports; strengthen your bones through weight-bearing exercises; eat a diet rich with vitamin D and calcium; and build strong muscles to avoid falls in the first place.
Metatarsophalangeal joint sprain is a bruise or sprain of the ligaments between the toes and foot. The injury is called “turf toe” when it’s big toe that is affected. Turf toe occurs when the toe is bent further backward than it normally can, or forcibly pushed into the ground. Aside from pain, turf toe can cause swelling and limited joint movement at the base of the injured toe.
The best way to prevent turf toe is to wear shoes with ample support (e.g. a stiff-soled shoe) to prevent the toe joint from excessive bending. Cleated shoes, in particular, come with a built-in rigid plastic sole that stabilises the toes. You can also look for specially designed shoe inserts to support your feet.
Additionally, you can consult a sports medicine specialist (e.g. a physical therapist), who can teach you training techniques to reduce the risk of injury; and help correct your gait, which can result in injuries.