Attention, high school athletes. Weekend warriors, lend us your ears (well, more like your eyes for this blog). We’re about to review the most typical sports injuries, and what methods are used to speed the healing process.
The Booming Business of Injury Junkies
But first, a quick note on how prevalent sports injuries are in modern American society. With the rise of fantasy sports, entire legions of sportscasters, pundits, fans and others in the sports-o-sphere are learning more about strained MCLs, torn ACLs, Lisfranc injuries (a fairly common foot problem) and jammed AC joints (shoulder area) every day. A minor injury can wreak havoc on fantasy rosters, so need-it-now reporting on the latest athlete ailments is in high demand. To cite just one example, ESPN employs a certified orthopedic clinical specialist, Stephania Bell, with the sole purpose of writing and tweeting about (mostly) football injuries. Nice work if you can find it!
The most common athletic injuries come in a wide variety of severity, treatment, prevention and root cause characteristics. Professional athletes suffer the same ailments that make up the most common sports injuries in high school, and even those once-per-year sports participants aren’t immune to the injury bug. Regardless, athletes are very much in the public eye today, whether it’s because of off-field antics or on-field injuries. Even the most casual sports fan can list some of the most common athletic injuries, thanks to round-the-clock coverage and intense roster monitoring.
But enough about the pros. We’ll examine some common athletic injuries for average Joes (and Jills & Janes, too).
Yet before we delve into what injuries are most likely to happen, it’s helpful to mention a few ways to prevent unnecessary damage. First and foremost, a basic stretch helps. And it doesn’t have to be anything dramatic, either. A simple squat is enough to limber up the back muscles, extend the hamstrings and promote blood circulation.
Also, a quick jog or walk can prepare your body for the upcoming stresses of the game, match, bout or whatever else you’re ready to take on. Get your body ready, and you’ll avoid some common injuries before the first whistle.
Yet even the most disciplined pregame routine doesn’t totally dismiss the risk of common sports injuries. Genetic predisposition, age, bad timing, over preparation (there’s such a thing; make sure you don’t stretch too much prior to competition) and other factors ensure injuries are just as much a part of sports as the thrill of victory and the anguish of defeat.
The Starting Lineup of Sports Injuries
High school and college athletes, competitive sportsmen, outdoor enthusiasts and anyone else who stresses the joints and breaks a sweat regularly usually encounter the following injuries:
Inner Thigh (Groin) Pulls
The groin can certainly cause a groan or two. Excessive lateral movement is the primary cause of this injury.
Treatment method(s): A combination of compression (tight fabric wrap), ice and rest usually does the trick.
Common in basketball, ankle sprains are caused by a severe and (usually) inward-turned foot. If you’ve ever watched a hoops game and saw someone land on another player’s foot…well, that’s an ankle sprain.
Treatment method(s): Similar to groin pulls, compression and ice assist in recovery. Pro athletes are usually out a few games with ankle sprains, and you should rest immediately after as well.
Sprinters, wide receivers and other speed-dependent athletes can encounter this wound, which is an over-extension of the large muscles behind the leg. And they’re tricky to overcome quickly.
Treatment method(s): Rest, rest and more rest. Recovery is usually slow, due to the pure size of the hamstring. Plus, the chance for re-injury is higher with hamstrings than perhaps any other common injury.
Ouch – this injury even sounds painful. And it is. Technically called medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints are the most common kind of lower-leg ailment. They cause sharp, incessant pain from the ankle all the way to the knee.
Treatment method(s): Don’t run. Minimize walking. In short, take it easy. Depending on the severity, your doctor may recommend an extended period of relative inactivity.
Even casual sports fans are probably aware of ACL tears. The anterior cruciate ligament connects the lower femur to the upper tibia – basically, it’s responsible for proper knee movement. Sudden, explosive movement or severe external impact can cause the ACL to rip.
Treatment method(s): Surgery – much more refined and successful than it used to be – is the only way to completely heal the knee after an ACL tear. A complete return to previous athletic performance is possible after surgery. That’s the good news. And the bad news? Recovery can take 12-18 months minimum.
Tennis Elbow and Golf Elbow
More than half of all athletes in sports with an overhand throwing motion will experience hypertension in its more frequent form: tennis elbow or golf elbow. Essentially, tennis elbow occurs when repeated motion (bowling, throwing a baseball, swinging a tennis racket, etc.) causes tendon damage, mostly due to overuse. While tennis elbow pain is concentrated on the outside of the elbow, the golf variety affects the inner elbow region.
Treatment method(s): Simply discontinuing the given activity helps, but unfortunately, most athletes love their sport too much to quit. Instead, any exercise that strengthens the forearm area – tennis ball squeezes, hand grips, etc. – adds enough strength and flexibility to take pressure off the elbow tendons. Braces are effective, along with lessons to enhance the motion that caused the problem in the first place.
Lower Back Pain
This type of injury is usually associated with out of shape people with large bellies, but lower back pain (technical term: sciatica) is very common among athletes. The causes are plentiful: bulging discs (which can trigger lower back discomfort), asymmetrical leg length (common in runners), back spasms and ineffective stretching techniques are all culprits.
Treatment method(s): Rest is the best medicine with lower back pain. Chiropractor assistance can speed recovery, along with anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen. If a bulging disc is causing your back pain, a more complex remedy – possibly surgery – might be in the works.
Urgent Care Extra can assist with your upcoming sports season, as we offer convenient sports physicals for a variety of schools, athletic organizations and other institutions. If you’re in Arizona, stop by our network of urgent care clinics (we have more than 30 locations to choose from) to get the care you need.
For any other questions, our medical experts can be reached at (480) 840-3075, or with an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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