Understanding Sports Injuries


Sports injuries are not necessarily caused only by playing sports. The common cause of any sports injury is some kind of direct impact, overuse or application of force which is more than what that particular body part can endure. Such injuries could be precipitated by playing sports, exercising or other physical activities like climbing stairs.

Sports injuries can be acute or chronic. An injury like an ankle sprain when you land awkwardly is an acute sports injury, whereas chronic sports injuries are caused by recurring overuse of specific muscle groups and joints. Structural abnormalities or unscientific exercise techniques can also lead to chronic injuries. Sports injuries shouldn’t be taken lightly because a “simple” sprained ankle could turn out to be a fracture.

What are the common risk factors for sustaining sports injuries?

Risk for sports injuries is raised if:

  • You suddenly attempt a vigorous physical activity after days of inactivity
  • You don’t warm up sufficiently before commencing exercise
  • You are playing any contact sport like football, rugby or hockey
  • You are overweight
  • You are of advanced age

What are the most common types of sports injuries?

  • Sprains: When we overstretch or tear a ligament (tissue connecting two bones in a joint), we get a sprain.
  • Strains: When instead of a ligament, we overstretch or tear a muscle or tendon (tissue connecting bone to muscle), the injury is a ‘strain’, often confused with a sprain.
  • Knee injuries: If you have trouble moving your knee joint following an injury, it could be a sports injury caused by overstretch or even tear in tissue or muscle.
  • Muscle swelling: Very often, as a reaction to an injury, our muscles become inflamed. It can cause significant pain and weakness.
  • Rupture of Achilles tendon: The Achilles tendon, a thin but firm tendon behind our ankle, can break or rupture while playing sports like football. It can cause sudden severe pain and huge discomfort in walking.
  • Fractures: Bone fractures or broken bones are a common sports injury.
  • Dislocations: Sometimes, a sports injury can push a bone out of its socket, which is a very painful sports injury, leading to inflammation and weakness.
  • Rotator cuff injury: The rotator cuff which moves our shoulders in all directions is made of four different muscles. A tear in any of these muscles is a rotator cuff injury.
  • Stress fractures: Repeated running or jumping on hard surfaces can sometimes lead to stress and a crack in a bone, usually in the lower limbs, known as stress fracture.
  • Bruises: Small bleeds on the skin can be caused by an impact injury.
  • Groin strain: Can cause swelling and significant pain.
  • Hamstring strain: Again swelling, pain and bruising are common symptoms.
  • Concussion: A blow to the head can cause a mild reversible brain injury, which is called concussion. A person suffering from concussion can experience headache, dizziness and even lose consciousness.
  • Dental damage: Our teeth can break or dislodge from a blow to the jaw.

What are the universally accepted protocols for treating sports injuries?

The most accepted treatment regimen is RICE, standing for:

  • Rest
  • Icing
  • Compression
  • Elevation

The RICE methodology is very effective in treating mild sports injuries if applied within 24 to 36 hours post-injury. It helps with the swelling and the pain. There are also OTC pain medications available to manage pain and swelling. Physiotherapy is another effective treatment pathway which helps in a clutch of muscle and tissue injuries.

See a doctor or seek emergency care if:

  • There’s severe pain and swelling in the injured joint
  • There are noticeable deformities like lumps or bumps
  • You feel crunching sounds while using the injured joint
  • You feel weakness in the joint and can’t put weight on it
  • You are feeling unstable in the joint
  • You feel dizzy
  • You have difficulty breathing
  • You have fever

An ambulance must be hailed in case of:

  • Extended period of loss of consciousness
  • Injuries to neck or spine
  • Fractures
  • Head or face injuries
  • Eye injuries
  • Abdominal injuries

While acute sports injuries usually need immediate care, sometimes even emergency care, chronic conditions may need more long-term care under the guidance of a Sports Medicine specialist. Unsupervised therapy can lead to aggravation. At Medica we provide advanced care for sports injuries by specialists and with the support of expert physical and rehabilitation therapists.

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