Athletics is known to be the mother of all games. An athlete is an all-rounder sportsperson, having immense control over his sense and body movements. The events involved are competitive walking, jumping, throwing, and running. These games not only build physical strength but also maintain the function of the heart, respiration, mental health, and body coordination. Some athletic sports involve high-intensity physical stress or thrills and hence are not always without risk. While playing, an athlete might move in the wrong way, trip or fall, sudden contact with the ground or with other players resulting in various injuries. Other common injuries in athletics are caused by poor motor skills or poor technique, overtraining, and a lack of rest. Steps can be taken to reduce the risk of getting hurt thus preventing the occurrence of injuries. This can be done by building and maintaining muscular strength under the guidance of a physiotherapist. The therapist helps in early diagnosis followed by the treatment, resulting in quick recovery of the player to get him back in the game. In this blog, we will discuss the most common athletic injuries and the possible preventive measures that can be taken.
Sports Injuries Prevention:
Injuries may occur due to insufficient warm-up and stretching, poor training practices, or lack of conditioning.
- Cold muscles (muscles lacking warm-up exercises), when overstretched are more prone to injury and tears, as compared to warm muscles (muscles after warm-up exercises), which are more flexible. As they can absorb bends, quick movements, and jerks, making the athlete less prone to injury.
- During sports or activities, movement should be done properly. Different types of exercises require different positions and postures. For example, in some sports, bending your knees at the right time can help avoid an injury to your spine or hips
- Wear protective gear and proper shoes to prevent the risk of injury.
- Overexertion should be prevented, in cases of injury, start the activity again only after getting healed properly.
- Cooldown exercises like stretching exercises should be done after the sports.
Strains occur due to overstretching of muscles or tendons, which are commonly used by athletes therefore strains to occur often in athletes. All the body parts are susceptible to strains due to being overstretched while moving in ways they shouldn’t move, causing damage and tear. Common muscle strains include strained quads pulled hamstrings, and pulled groin muscles. Pre-session stretching exercises and warm-ups can help decrease strains.
Sprains occur when ligaments are overstretched. Ligament pull or tear occurs when it is turned in the wrong way. Ankle sprains are the most common type of sprains among athletes, followed by knee sprains, wrist and elbow sprains, etc. Sprains can be painful, and require immobilization to prevent further injury. Pre-workout stretches and warm-ups can help decrease sprains. Sprains often make the ligament weak and susceptible to re-injury, so it is good to support the joint with a brace while playing.
Fractures, mostly of arms, legs, and feet occur due to high impact and contact sports, which can cause pain, it takes weeks of immobilization to heal and may sometimes require surgery to correct. The risk of fracture can be reduced by wearing the braces, appropriate warm-up, padding, working out to keep muscles strong and flexible, practicing good technique, etc., and also avoid playing when in pain and untreated, as it can make the bone vulnerable to fractures.
Concussions are brain injuries that happen when there is a sudden hit to the head, not all concussions result in a loss of consciousness. The player feels nausea, headaches, difficulty in concentrating, loss of balance, dizziness, amnesia, and other symptoms. Most commonly those athletes are at a higher risk of getting concussions than those who participate in contact sports like football, wrestling, hockey, boxing, and soccer. Skiers and Gymnasts are also at a risk. The player should not continue to play sports if symptoms of a concussion exist. It takes about 2 weeks to 4 weeks for a concussion to heal, which is achieved by resting. The best way to reduce the risk of concussion is to wear protective headgear when playing contact sports like football or hockey or when biking or skateboarding etc.
Rotator cuff Injury
Rotator cuff injury occurs in players doing the overhead movement or due to overuse or continuous shoulder movement in one direction. Players like swimmers, weightlifters, baseball, tennis basketball, and volleyball players commonly face shoulder injuries. Shoulder injuries should be treated with RICE. The physiotherapist can guide the player to prevent shoulder injuries by making him do strengthening and endurance exercises. The RICE method is a common treatment regimen for athlete injuries. It stands for:
This treatment method is helpful for mild athlete injuries, it can help reduce pain, swelling, and bruising in the early days after athlete injury.
Tennis elbow & Golfer's elbow
Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow occur due to overuse and repetitive activity, creating a tiny tear in the ligaments of the elbow. The player feels pain on the inside or outside of the elbow, but the outside injury is more common. In minor injuries, RICE is the best way to heal the condition. Forearm stretching strengthening exercises and elbow braces are the best way to prevent elbow injuries. To prevent the occurrence the player should take breaks in between the activity and always do warm-up and stretching exercises before playing.
Injury to the groin (inner thigh muscle) occurs in players moving in a side-to-side motion like in soccer, hockey, and baseball, as they have high instances of groin pulls. The player feels pain and bruising on the inside of the thigh. It takes 1 to 2 weeks to heal, the physiotherapist recommends RICE as a treatment. Care should be taken not to return to normal activity too fast, this may cause significant problems. Groin pulls can be prevented by doing proper stretching exercises.
Hip Flexor Strain
An injury to the hip flexors occurs when these muscles are stretched too far and torn. It occurs due to having stiff or weak muscles, no proper warm-up, or a fall. This injury is commonly found in athletes like hockey, soccer, and martial arts players or those players who involve movement of suddenly changing direction or sudden upward movements. The player feels pain, spasms, swelling, and bruising. A minor hip flexor injury can be healed at home with RICE. A physiotherapist may recommend hip-strengthening exercises.
Hamstring strains occur in players who involve movements, such as sprinting, hurdling, and jumping. Commonly caused due to overtraining or overuse, poor technique or motor skills, and lack of rest. The physiotherapist can guide the player to prevent hamstring strains by recommending warm-up, stretching, strengthening, and endurance exercise
The ACL or anterior cruciate ligament, strain occurs due to a high impact to the side of the knee or due to sudden stopping and changing directions. Immediate treatment of RICE is beneficial. The physiotherapist recommends proper warm-up, stretching exercises, and good posture. Proper padding and bracing while playing contact sports can be used.
The patellofemoral syndrome occurs due to the repeated movement of the kneecap against the leg bone thus damaging the tissues of the kneecap. This type of injury occurs in cyclists, swimmers, runners, basketball, football, and volleyball players taking 6 weeks to heal. This injury can be reduced by wearing the proper shoes, softer running surfaces like indoor tracks have less effect on knees than concrete. The physiotherapist recommends RICE immediately to help speed up the healing process. To prevent the reoccurrence proper warmed-up exercises should be done before playing.
Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS)
Medial tibial stress syndrome is known for shooting pain down the front of the leg. Leg muscles act as shock absorbers during high-intensity sports. Legs may not always be able to withstand the loading if the training becomes too intense or if the muscles become fatigued. In such cases, the player feels pain in the area where the muscles attach to the bone. Medial tibial stress syndrome is most often in runners or players who have increased their exercise intensity too quickly or who are not used to exercising. This can occur due to improper shoe type. Sometimes the syndrome can cause a stress fracture in the bone. Minor injuries can be improved by RICE, wearing proper shoes, doing stretching exercises, massaging, and taping may also reduce acute pain. The physiotherapist recommends taking a break in between the activities or training that causes pain.
Strained calf Muscle
One of the common injuries in athletes is strained calf muscles Gastrocnemius and soleus are the two calf muscles, located on the back of the lower leg. These muscles are vulnerable to strains. The player has swelling, bruising, tenderness, or stabbing pain. The physiotherapist recommends RICE treatment which helps to reduce pain, swelling and prevent further damage. To avoid re-injury proper rehabilitation should be followed.
The Achilles tendon can get strained while playing sports, this tendon can rupture or break. The player experiences sudden, severe pain and difficulty walking. The physiotherapist recommends RICE as the immediate treatment, followed by Eccentric exercises where the leg muscles are slowly lowered from a tip-toe position. Appropriate treatment and load management are taught that helps the player return to their previous level of activity.
Plantar fasciitis occurs due to over-activity combined with a lack of proper support. The player experiences sharp pain with every step, commonly found in runners, joggers, soccer and basketball players, etc. Proper stretching exercises and occasional rest are the two best preventions.
The recovery time of the muscle depends on the extent of the injury, severe injuries can take up to several months. There is a high risk of reoccurrence for those who do not follow a comprehensive rehabilitation program. Measuring the amount of pain can be important throughout the rehabilitation process therefore the help of an experienced physiotherapist is required.