Injuries are common for those involved in sports activities. Injuries can be broadly divided into three categories:
Acute injuries – are caused due to a single event like fractures, sprains, dislocations, and strains.
Overuse injuries – are injuries that build up over time, mostly due to repetitive action and improper techniques. Jumper’s knee, swimmer’s shoulder, and Achilles tendonitis are a few examples of overuse injuries.
Chronic injuries – These are the same as overuse injuries but are more severe and take a long time to recover. If not treated properly, these can last for years.
Acute injuries cause immediate pain and swelling, which develops soon after the traumatic event. It is easier to identify. However, overuse or chronic injuries may result from the consistent overuse of a particular part of the body over an extended period of time. Symptoms of some chronic injuries include dull aching, soreness, pain during activity, and overall uneasiness.
Whether the injury is acute or due to overuse, treating it in time is critical. If left untreated, an injury could become chronic and cause further damage to the injured part. It will also add to the wear and tear of the injured area.
Following are some of the common types of injuries:
Sprains – Injuries to the ligaments are called sprains. Ligaments are the fibrous tissues that connect one bone to another and so are critical to the joints. In a sprain, the ligament is either stretched, partially torn, or completely torn. Depending on the number of tears, injuries can take up to weeks to heal. Complete tears generally require surgery for the ligaments to be stitched back together. Mild ankle sprains are common, especially when you start playing after a gap. Knee ligaments also get injured during explosive running or jumping activities.
Strains – Muscle or tendon injuries are called strains. Tendons are the tissues that connect the muscles to the bones. Like in sprains, a muscle or tendon can be stretched or torn, causing the sprain. This is usually caused when excessive force is applied to the muscle or tendon. Hamstring pulls, and groin injuries are prevalent during running or sprinting.
Tendonitis – This injury is caused by overuse or repetition. The improper technique also contributes to this injury where the tendons are swollen up and cause pain. The pain goes down during the activity or exercise but returns later with more intensity.
Fractures – Excessive force or impact on a bone can cause it to break. Fractures can also be caused due to overuse and are called stress fractures. There could be swelling accompanied by pain. A cast might be required for the bones to set and heal completely. In some cases, the bones need to be held together with the help of metal rods and plates inserted in a surgical process.
Dislocations – Shoulder, knee, or finger dislocations are frequent during sports. In these cases, the bones get dislocated at the joint sockets causing severe pain and swelling. The joint becomes immobile. The bone needs to be set back into its original alignment by a physician.
Bursitis – Injuries can cause inflammation of the bursa sacs. These are sacs filled with fluid, which act as natural shock absorbers in our body by reducing the friction and impact between our bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. These also triggered by exercise.
Cramps – Dehydration and improper conditioning can cause muscle cramps, especially in the calves. These are caused when the muscle remains contracted for a long time. Stretching and hydration can help in these cases.
Wounds and bruises – Skin wounds need to be cleaned immediately with soap and water or an antiseptic solution. For bigger wounds, dressing and sometimes even stitches might be necessary. Bruises might also cause pain and swelling and might need some treatment like icing.
Treating Sports Injuries
Generally, common sports injuries range from mild to moderate. The severity of your injury is determined by factors like pain, swelling, range of motion, and so on. The treatment and recovery time of the injury will depend on its severity.
The PRICE methodology is beneficial in the initial phase of treating common sports injuries and helps in getting back to the game sooner. PRICE stands for:
• P: Protection – Injured body parts need to be protected from further damage. Bandages and splints can help in protecting ankles, knees, and other joints. Casts can be used for fractures.
• R: Rest – It is essential to stop any activity that can cause the injury to aggravate. You need to give the body time to heal and for the injured body part to regain its strength before getting back into action.
• I: Ice – Applying ice to the injured site immediately can prevent inflammation without side effects. It also helps to relieve pain to an extent. Applying ice for the first 72 hours has shown excellent results in the recovery process. Icing can be done for 10-15 minutes every hour during the first 24 hrs. The frequency can then be reduced to 3-4 times a day. Never apply ice directly to the skin as it can cause cold burns. Ice packs are best for ice treatments, but if you do not have one, try to put the ice in a plastic bag and then wrap it with a thin cloth. You can start applying heat once the swelling and pain has gone down.
• E: Elevation – Keeping the injured region above the heart level reduces the blood flow to the injured area, reducing the swelling.
If required, over-the-counter pain relievers may be taken to relieve pain. You can also apply anti-inflammatory ointments. However, if they do not work, you must see a doctor.
Medical Attention – Is It Needed
If an injury is minor, you might be able to manage the injury by yourself. But if you feel that your wound is not healing as quickly as it should or suspect something serious, you must see a doctor. If the pain and swelling have not come down after the PRICE treatment, it is essential to get a piece of advice from a physician.
Mentioned below are some of the warning signs you should never ignore:
• Bone or joint deformities like a bone moving abnormally or looking crooked
• Unable to bear weight or incomplete range of motion.
• Excessive swelling in the injured site.
• Any changes in the color of your skin beyond mild bruises.
• If your wound does not get better with PRICE therapy, get the correct diagnosis.
Once the initial treatment phase is over with PRICE and the swelling and pain have come down, you need to make sure that the injured part is as strong as it used to be. A torn ligament might be healed, but it might not be strong enough to start playing again. To avoid repeated injuries, make sure that you follow a proper rehabilitation process, which involves exercises to strengthen the injured body part. A physiotherapist can advise you with the correct exercises for the best results.
Treating injuries in due time is very important to make sure that they do not become chronic. Timely and proper treatment can help you avoid repeated injuries. It would be best if you were patient while going through the treatment phase. It is also essential to get back to your activity as soon as you can to maintain fitness levels. So, make sure that you take proper care of your injuries and get back soon.