While staying active is essential for good health, you can easily get hurt playing or practicing your favorite sport or working out in the gym. In 2021, more than 3.2 million people were rushed to the emergency room for injuries involving sports and recreational equipment.
A sports injury can affect any body part and can be acute or chronic. An acute injury happens suddenly, while a chronic injury manifests gradually. These injuries can happen to anyone, from professional athletes to amateur enthusiasts and hobbyists. Some sports injuries could put you on the bench for a game or two, but some could end your athletic career.
This all shows that, as an athlete, safety should be your top priority. Playing sports is not dangerous as long as you’re cautious about exposing yourself to unnecessary risks. JAG PT can help you minimize the likelihood, severity, and extent of sports injuries – contact us today to learn more about our injury prevention services, book an appointment today, or read further to find out more on common athletic injuries and how to avoid them.
What Are the Most Common Sports Injuries?
The nature of sports injuries varies widely from sport to sport. For instance, you can expect more upper extremity injuries among tennis players, knee and ankle injuries in soccer players, and back injuries in weightlifters.
A sprain is a tear in a ligament – one of the tough connective tissues that bind the bones around joints, such as the knee, wrist, ankle, and shoulder. Ligaments stabilize joints by ensuring the articulating bones do not twist too much or come apart. Usually, sprains are caused by excessive or repeated twisting motions or a fall.
Sprains are characterized by pain and swelling around the affected joint. In severe cases, the joint may become completely stiff or limp. Common sports-related sprains include:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee)
- Meniscus tears
- Elbow medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries
- Labrum tears
- Ulnar collateral ligament injuries
- Ankle sprains
- Joint dislocations
A strain is a tear in a muscle or the tendons attaching muscle to bone. Sport-related strains are common in the most active muscle groups, such as the hamstrings, calves, biceps, quadriceps, and rotator cuffs. A pulled muscle is often painful and tender and might appear swollen, purplish, or bruised.
Most strains are a result of overusing or overextending a particular muscle. Pushing a muscle beyond its limit causes tears to form in the muscle fibers. If the tears are large enough, they become strains. In severe cases, a strain can rupture the muscle.
Here are some examples of sports injuries involving torn muscles or tendons:
- Rotator cuff tears
- Strained groin
- Achilles tendon injuries
- Patellar tendinitis (jumper’s knee)
- Shin splints
- Tennis elbow
Fracture is another word for a broken bone. Bones are durable, but they can fracture under heavy weight or a sudden force. Fractures can happen in nearly every sport, usually after collisions or falls. Repetitive motion, such as jumping and running, may also cause tiny cracks or stress fractures to form along overworked bones.
The most common sign of a fractured bone is a sharp stabbing pain that becomes intolerable when the bone is put under pressure. There may also be swelling and tenderness around the fracture, especially if the broken bone punctures the surrounding tissues.
What Causes Sports Injuries?
The causes of sports injuries vary on a case-by-case basis. But generally, most sport-related injuries result from overuse, direct impact, and pushing the body beyond its limits. With that in mind, here are factors and habits that put you at risk of sports injuries:
- Ignoring warm-up and cool-down routines
- Not wearing the appropriate sports gear
- Playing with a pre-existing injury or health condition (playing through the pain)
- Not using the correct exercise technique
- Changing exercise routines and intensity too quickly or drastically
- Sticking to the same sport or biased exercise regimen for a long time
- Denying your mind and body enough time to recover between training sessions or playoffs
- Dismissing your sport’s dietary requirements
- Ignoring your trainer’s or coach’s advice or the sport’s mandated safety precautions
How Can Athletes Minimize the Risk of Injury?
As mentioned before, sports are largely safe when the correct precautions are taken. Many of the injuries we see on athletes are easily preventable.
For starters, avoid all the risk factors listed above to minimize your chances of sustaining a sports injury. On top of that, here are four safety tips to keep you injury-free:
Embrace Conditioning and Strength Training
Conditioning and strength training involves a wide range of physical and mental exercises that enhance your athletic performance in terms of posture, gait, balance, power, endurance, mobility, speed, and agility. Such exercises essentially tune your body for athletics and safety by stabilizing joints, ironing out muscle imbalances, conditioning proper movement patterns, and improving coordination.
Check Your Nutrition
Your diet can make or break you as an athlete. One study found that athletes need essential macro- and micro-nutrients — including proteins, vitamins, omega-3, and antioxidants — to reduce the risk of injury and accelerate recovery. Also, remember to drink plenty of water. Dehydration contributes to muscle fatigue, which increases the risk of injury.
Work on Improving Flexibility and Range of Motion
Flexibility is absolutely critical in every sport, both for performance and as a safety precaution. Although the exact types of flexibility you will need are sport-specific, it’s important to unlock a wide range of motion throughout your body, not just for the particular joints employed in your sport. Being flexible prepares your muscles and joints for any motions the game throws at you.
Take Time Off
Take a breather every now and then to allow your muscles and joints to recover and regain their strength. Break for at least one or two days every week from intensive physical activities. Without enough rest, you’ll wear down your body, reverse the gains you’ve made, and put yourself at greater risk for chronic injuries.
Schedule an Injury Prevention Appointment with JAG PT
Preventing sports injuries takes work. It’s a multifaceted effort that combines many practices, from nutrition and exercise scheduling to habitual conditioning.
Luckily, JAG Physical Therapy is here to guide you in preventing sports injuries. We understand the importance of physical health for athletes. Our athletic trainers and exercise physiologists are always on hand to help athletes achieve their fitness, wellness, and performance goals with safety in mind.
Let’s talk about safety on the field. Book an appointment at any of our conveniently-located clinics throughout New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey for a personalized consultation on preventing sports injuries.