Common sports injuries can happen to anyone from seasoned athletes to sports lovers, especially children. These injuries can often be treated with rest and pain medication, but some can result in a more intense recovery process. If you do experience any of these sports injuries, monitor your situation and head to the nearest emergency room if necessary.
What causes sports injuries?
Common sports injuries are usually caused by inadequate stretching or warmups before an activity, not wearing the proper protective gear, improper training, or overtraining.
Sports injuries can be separated into two categories: acute and chronic injuries.
Acute injuries are caused by direct trauma to an area including a fall or a blow. Examples of acute injuries include strains, sprains, fractures, concussions, cuts. These injuries are typically manageable and can be treated at home.
Chronic injuries occur from an injury that has been developing over time, usually from repetitive training. These injuries usually develop from an acute injury that was ignored the first time. If you suspect that you have an injury, it’s best to play it safe and consult a doctor.
What are the top 10 most common sports injuries?
Strains are the most common sports injury. When we play sports, our bodies use muscles and tendons that may not move as much as we’re used to during regular activity. A strain occurs when the tissue tears or stretches. The most common muscles to strain are the hamstrings, hip flexors, the groin, the ACL (also known as a tear), and the quads. Luckily, strains are typically minor and heal within a few days, but if you are in severe pain, head to the ER.
For more information on ACL tears, read our article on the difference between ACL vs. MCL tears.
2. Groin pull
As mentioned above, the groin is a common place to strain. A groin strain is commonly called a groin pull. When there is too much pressure in the muscles surrounding the groin –– the thighs –– the muscles can be overstretched or torn. A groin pull usually occurs in sports that require lots of running and jumping.
If you do pull your groin, you’ll notice a tenderness in the groin or inside your thigh muscles where it will be hard to close your legs or lift your knees. With a mild tear, you’ll simply feel discomfort with weakened strength. However, more serious strains in the groin can result in severe pain with a loss of function in the muscles due to the severe tear.
Treatment for a strained groin includes over-the-counter pain medications and icing the injured muscles.
Where strains occur in the muscles, sprains occur in the ligaments –– the bands of rough tissue that connect bones together. Sprains often result from landing awkwardly after jumping or from quick, pivotal movements that cause tearing. When a sprain occurs, you’ll likely hear a “pop” noise at the time of the injury and experience painful swelling accompanied with bruising in the injured area. The most common example of a sprain is an ankle sprain, in which the three ligaments on the outside of your ankle tear or stretch due to awkward movement.
Though immediate medical help is not always needed when a mild sprain occurs, severe sprains may require surgery to repair the fully torn ligaments.
4. Knee injuries
The knees are one of the joints of the body that endure the highest amount of stress. In addition to allowing you to walk, go up and downstairs, and transport heavy items, for every pound of body weight, your knees receive four times that burden. And when you play sports or do vigorous exercise, it can be even more shocking to the body. The symptoms of a knee injury, including a knee sprain, include:
- A popping sensation
- Decreased range of motion
A fracture is a complete or partial crack in a bone, typically caused by high-force impact in contact sports. Fractures most likely occur after a fall. With a fracture, you’ll notice the pain and swelling right away and likely won’t be able to move the injured area.
There are multiple different types of fractures including:
- Closed fractures: where the break in the bone doesn’t damage the surrounding tissue or break through the skin
- Compound/Open fracture: where the damage does penetrate the skin and the bone is exposed. These are more serious as they’re prone to infection.
- Avulsion: where a muscle or ligament pulls on the bone
- Comminuted: the bone is shattered into many pieces
- Hairline: where the bone is only partially fractured
Our bones are meant to be able to withstand powerful forces of impact, but age can play a factor in that resilience. Children and the elderly are more susceptible to fractures due to their bones being weaker than the average adult. In this case, if you have children who play sports, make sure their organization maintains best practices for safe play during practice and on the court.
A dislocation occurs when a joint is forced out of its normal position, immobilizing the joint. The most common dislocation injuries in sports happen to the shoulders and fingers, usually from a fall. You’ll likely notice the joint will be visibly out of place, swollen, and even discolored.
Dislocations are most common in high-impact or contact sports like football, gymnastics, hockey, or basketball. After experiencing a dislocation once, you are more susceptible to injuring the area again with even further complications including pulled muscles or nerve damage around the joint. Try to seek medical help right away to start the recovery process.
7. Tennis elbow
Shockingly, you don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow. Tennis elbow, also referred to as golf elbow, occurs when there is repetitive motion in the wrist or arm that causes the tendons in your forearm to strain from being overused. Sports like tennis and golf require the player to use similar motions over and over again while playing that can stress the muscles and form tiny tears on the tendons.
Tennis elbow can also happen to individuals who have occupations that require them to work vigorously with their hands doing repetitive tasks (like plumbing for example). Thankfully, tennis elbow is not a serious injury; but to avoid it, be sure to take breaks during your activities and pace yourself accordingly.
8. Shin splints
Shin splints refer to the pain in the lower legs, specifically the shin bone (tibia), caused by inflammation. Shin splints are most common in joggers, runners, or soccer and basketball players who have to do a lot of stop-and-start running.
Pain, tenderness, and soreness are clear signs of a shin splint and can be treated with proper stretching and rest at the least. Contact a doctor if you notice the pain persisting for more than a few days and if ice and pain relief medication do not help with the discomfort.
9. Back injuries
Any time you decide to play a sport, you risk the chance of a back injury. Like your knees, your spine takes a fair amount of stress from the amount of physical activity, making back injuries very common amongst athletes and avid exercisers. Injuries occur when inflammation accumulates around the vertebrae and back muscles, which can injure the discs in your upper and lower back.
About 90% of acute back injuries heal in under three months, but more severe cases may often require surgery and a more intense recovery process. Seek medical help if the pain travels down to the legs, the pain persists for more than two months, or you notice any changes in bowel movements or your balance.
Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury that impacts your brain function and affects your memory, balance, and coordination. A violent blow to the head can cause your brain to suddenly move back and forth inside the brain and hit the walls of your skull –– this intense motion is what causes the injury. Concussions are most common in contact sports like football or soccer.
Some of the symptoms of a concussion include:
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
Though mild concussion symptoms can go away in one or two days, continue to monitor the injured party to see if any more issues occur. More serious concussions can cause someone to lose consciousness. If you or the injured party loses consciousness for more than 30 seconds, has persistent headaches or vomiting over the next few days, seek medical care immediately.
The long-term effects of concussions are still being studied, but all signs point to repeated concussions causing health issues in the future
What sports cause the most injuries?
Basketball, to most people’s surprise, is the sport that causes the most injuries followed by soccer, football, and baseball –– all high-contact sports. Now, just because a sport has a higher injury rate doesn’t mean you have to avoid playing the sport. Be sure you’re taking all of the necessary precautions if you decide to participate.
For more information on preventing certain sports injuries, check out our articles on winter sports injuries, gymnastics injuries, and trampoline injuries
How to prevent common sports injuries
Though we can’t predict when common sports injuries will occur, we can do our best to prevent them. Most injuries occur because our bodies aren’t quite ready for the amount of stress playing a sport puts on our muscles. If you follow these tips below, you will be more prepared to play your favorite sports and less likely to get injured.
Here are some best practices to avoid an injury while playing sports:
- Wear the proper protective gear (shin guards, helmets, padding, etc.)
- Warm up and stretch before participating in any sport
- Strengthen your muscles and increase your flexibility
- Stop playing if you feel an injury
- See a doctor if you feel an injury getting worse
Whether you’re an athlete or simply love playing sports, these tips are crucial to helping you avoid injury. If you are an athlete, be sure to follow a daily stretch routine as well as our athlete nutrition tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Visit Complete Care’s Emergency Facilities for Treatment of Sports Injuries
Though most common sports injuries can be treated at home, more serious injuries need to be handled with care. At Complete Care’s emergency facilities, we treat all of our patients like star athletes, meaning you’ll be seen within minutes, not hours. Under our care, you’ll be in, out, and back to playing your favorite sports.
We have ER locations in both Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, and Lubbock) and Colorado (Colorado Springs). Whether you have an emergency or just a simple health question, we will take complete care of you.
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