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The 5 Most Common Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on May 12, 2015 10:00:00 AM

We all want to spend more time outside. We may even want to challenge ourselves to be more active. Whether we are new to more active sports, or have been training for a while now, we need to be sure that we are taking care of our bodies and preventing injuries.


Taking care of ourselves while participating in a sport, competitively or recreationally, is incredibly important. Living better through an active lifestyle can be very rewarding, but an injury can take all that fun away or even cause a negative impact on our health. Today Dr. David Dunkle from our Sports Medicine team gives us some tips about common sports injuries and ways to prevent them.

Ankle Sprains and Strains

One of the most common sports injuries are strains and sprains. Sprains are injuries to the ligaments. Ligaments are tough tissues that hold your bones together. Suddenly stretching ligaments can deform or even tear them. Strains are injuries to the muscles or tendons that connect the bones to the muscle. Strains are often called, "pulled muscles." Overstretching or overusing a muscle can cause a tear in the muscle fiber or tendon. 

William Roberts, MD, a sports medicine physician at the University of Minnesota says,“Think of ligaments and muscle-tendon units like springs. The tissue lengthens with stress and returns to its normal length — unless it is pulled too far out of its normal range.”

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is very common, and one of the main causes is inactivity. Regular exercise can strengthen your core which helps prevent back injuries. Lower back injuries can result from a constant bending and stretching motion. Sometimes in addition to exercise, moving boxes, painting a room, or doing yard work can also result in lower back pain. 

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are often the cause of improper technique, lack of conditioning or poor flexibility. Certain people, like those with flat feet or high arches, may be more prone to knee injures. Like sprains and strains, knee injuries can be a result of a sudden change of movement. At times, surgical repair may be needed.

Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries can be quite debilitating if they are not treated properly. Usually injuries are a result of repeated movement or overstretching of a muscle. Shoulder injuries are commonly a result of throwing activities. 

Groin Injuries

Pushing off from side to side can cause strain in your upper thigh or groin area. 

Preventing Injuries

Sometimes we cannot prevent an injury, but many times there are precautions we can take that will make injury less likely. Some injuries are a result of our bodies not being conditioned for the activity we are doing. The best advice is to exercise daily, so that you can participate in fun weekend activities with less worry about injury.

Every workout should start with a warm up, Getting warmed up increases the blood flow to your muscles and gets you more flexible.

Overuse injuries are common and preventable. Don't go on a long hike or hit the ball for a long time if you haven't done it in a while. Build up to longer periods of time before participating activities. While it may not seem strenuous to hit the ball around for a while, if you do it without prior practice, it could lead to injury. Recognize when you are tired, and stop. "Muscle fatigue takes away all your protective mechanisms and really increases your risk of all injuries. You can always come back and play again next weekend--if you don't get injured today" says William Roberts, MD.

Staying Hydrated is another good way to prevent injury. Dehydration can make you more susceptible to injuries or illness.

Having proper equipment is so important!  Keep your equipment in good shape, an replace it when it gets worn out. You can also get braces for your back or knees if you know that you need a little extra support in those areas.

Finally, don't forget to cool down. Take about ten minutes to slow down and stretch. This helps return your heart rate to normal and reduce soreness in muscles. 

How To Treat Injuries at Home

It's important to know that swelling can be a normal part of injuries. Excessive swelling can make healing even slower. You can limit swelling and heal faster if you use the PRICE method.

  • P = Protect from further injury with a splint or crutch
  • R = Restrict activity to prevent making the injury worse
  • I  = Apply Ice, 20 minutes every 2 hours. Don't use heat!
  • C = Apply Compression with elastic bandage
  • E = Elevate the injured area above the heart

Over the counter pain relievers can usually relieve the pain of most injuries. If you have tried these things to no avail, it's probably time to call a doctor. 

When To Get Medical Attention

We know you are tough, but you also need to be smart. Sometimes, you need to see a doctor for your injuries. If you have any of these signs or symptoms, call your doctor:

  • Deformities in the bone or joint--it looks crooked or moves abnormally
  • You can't bear weight on your limb without it giving out
  • excessive swelling
  • Changes in skin color beyond bruising
  • It's not getting better after a few days of home treatmen

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Topics: Sports