What Are Sports Injuries?
Sports injuries include a wide range of conditions that can be the result of athletics or exercise. The most common are:
- Achilles tendon injuries
- Knee injuries
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Shin splints
- Sprains and strains
- Swollen muscles
However, sports injuries are not limited to the above conditions. They can affect nearly any part of the body or any portion of the musculoskeletal system, including the bones, joints, nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments or cartilage.
Symptoms will depend heavily on the nature of the injury and the activity that caused it. Generally, the most common symptoms are pain, swelling and bruising. More serious injuries may make bearing weight on or moving the affected body part difficult or impossible.
Any sport or exercise can cause an injury. Some sports, especially contact sports or any activity that involves twisting or rapid changes of direction, may increase the risk of acute injury. Other lower-impact activities and exercises may rarely cause acute injuries, but overuse injuries and chronic conditions can still develop.
The doctor will usually start with a medical history and physical examination to find out about past injuries and any events that might have caused the current injury, as well as the presence of symptoms. That may be all that is needed for a diagnosis.
If the diagnosis is still unclear, imaging studies can help determine the nature of the injury. X-rays can show damage to bone, while computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can depict muscle, tendon, ligament or cartilage problems. Nerve conduction studies and electromyograms (EMGs) can help determine if nerves have been damaged.
Treatment and Prevention
Like symptoms, treatment will depend on the nature of the injury. In general, the RICE protocol—rest, ice, compression and elevation—is a good start to the recovery process. More severe injuries may require immobilization of a limb or an extremity. Injuries should be rested—and strenuous activities avoided—until fully healed.
Specific best practices for safety and injury prevention will vary depending on the sport or activity. In general, following these tips should help an athlete minimize the risk of injury:
- Incorporate at least one rest day per week
- Perform a proper warm-up and cooldown
- Perform activities using proper technique
- Strengthen and stretch muscles
- Wear protective equipment
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