Common Types of Sports Injuries

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Increasing numbers of people of all ages have been heeding the advice to get active for all of the health benefits exercise has to offer. But sports injuries can be the price you pay, particularly if you overdo it or you don’t properly train or warm up.

Fortunately, most sports injuries can be treated effectively, and most people who suffer injuries can return to a satisfying level of physical activity after an injury. Even better, many sports injuries can be prevented if you take the proper precautions.

Some sports injuries result from accidents; others are due to:

  • Poor training practices
  • Improper equipment
  • Lack of conditioning
  • Insufficient warmup and stretching

What Are Sports Injuries?

The term sports injury, in the broadest sense, refers to the kinds of injuries that most commonly occur during sports or exercise.

Although virtually any part of your body can be injured during sports or exercise, the term is usually reserved for injuries that involve the musculoskeletal system, which includes the muscles, bones, and associated tissues like cartilage. Traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries are relatively rare during sports or exercise.

Types of Injuries in Sports

  • Muscle sprains and strains
  • Tears of the ligaments that hold joints together
  • Tears of the tendons that support joints and allow them to move
  • Dislocated joints
  • Fractured bones, including vertebrae

Knee Injuries in Sports and Exercise

Because of its complex structure and weight-bearing capacity, the knee is the most commonly injured joint. Each year, more than 5.5 million people visit ​orthopedic surgeons for knee problems.​​​​

Knee injuries can range from mild to severe. Some of the less severe, yet still painful and functionally limiting, knee problems are:

  • Runner’s knee (pain or tenderness close to or under the knee cap at the front or side of the knee)
  • Iliotibial band syndrome (pain on the outer side of the knee)
  • Tendinitis, also called tendinosis (marked by degeneration within a tendon, usually where it joins the bone)

Severe Knee Injuries

More severe injuries include bone bruises or damage to the cartilage or ligaments. There are two types of cartilage in the knee. One is the meniscus, a crescent-shaped disc that absorbs shock between the thigh (femur) and lower leg bones (tibia and fibula). The other is a surface-coating (or articular) cartilage. It covers the ends of the bones where they meet, allowing them to glide against one another. The four major ligaments that support the knee are the:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL)
  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)

Cause of Knee Injury

Knee injuries can result from a blow to or twist of the knee; from improper landing after a jump; or from running too hard, too much, or without a proper warmup.

Bruises, Sprains and Strains

A bruise, or muscle contusion, can result from a fall or contact with a hard surface, a piece of equipment, or another player while participating in sports. A bruise results when muscle fiber and connective tissue are crushed; torn blood vessels may cause a bluish appearance. Most bruises are minor, but some can cause more extensive damage and complications.

Sprains

A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament, the band of connective tissues that joins the end of one bone with another. Sprains are caused by trauma such as a fall or blow to the body that knocks a joint out of position and, in the worst case, ruptures the supporting ligaments. Sprains can range from first degree (minimally stretched ligament) to third degree (a complete tear). Areas of the body most vulnerable to sprains are:

  • Ankles
  • Knees
  • Wrists

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