The term sports injury, in the broadest sense, refers to the kinds of injuries that most commonly occur during sports or exercise. Some sports injuries result from accidents; others are due to poor training practices, improper equipment, lack of conditioning, or insufficient warmup and stretching. Although virtually any part of your body can be injured during sports or exercise, the term is usually reserved for injuries that involve the musculoskeletal system, which includes the muscles, bones, and associated tissues like cartilage.
Sprains and Strains: A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament, the band of connective tissues that joins the end of one bone with another. Sprains are caused by trauma such as a fall or blow to the body that knocks a joint out of position and, in the worst case, ruptures the supporting ligaments. Sprains can range from first degree (minimally stretched ligament) to third degree (a complete tear). Areas of the body most vulnerable to sprains are ankles, knees, and wrists. Signs of a sprain include varying degrees of tenderness or pain; bruising; inflammation; swelling; inability to move a limb or joint; or joint looseness, laxity, or instability. A strain is a twist, pull, or tear of a muscle or tendon, a cord of tissue connecting muscle to bone. It is an acute, noncontact injury that results from overstretching or overcontraction. Symptoms of a strain include pain, muscle spasm, and loss of strength. While it's hard to tell the difference between mild and moderate strains, severe strains not treated professionally can cause damage and loss of function.
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Stress Fractures of the Foot: information on the anatomy, features and treatment of ankle injuries
Meniscal injuries: information on the anatomy, features and treatment of meniscal injuries
The best immediate treatment for acute soft tissue injuries is RICE. Most strains and sprains can be dealt with at home but the more severe ones will need to be seen by a doctor. To reduce pain and swelling, remember the acronym RICE - Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation
R-Rest: You should rest the injured area for 24-48 hours. Crutches may be needed to take the weight off an injured knee or ankle. Make sure that you know how to use the crutches properly. Use them on the uninjured side to relieve pressure from the injured side. Support a strained elbow or shoulder with a sling.
I-Ice: Apply an ice pack (e.g. pack of frozen peas or a bag filled with crushed ice wrapped in a towel) as soon as the injury occurs. Repeat up to three times a day. To avoid frostbite do not apply the ice pack for longer than 20 minutes.
C-Compression: Wrap the affected area in an elastic bandage tightly - but not so tight as to cause compromise of the blood supply to the affected area.
E-Elevation: To reduce swelling, elevate the affected area above the level of the heart.
You should consult your doctor if:
The time to recovery depends on the nature and severity of the injury. It usually takes two to four weeks for a strain or sprain to heal. However, it may take months to recover if the injury is severe. Extra care should be taken to prevent re-injury.
Slowly start resuming normal activity after the pain and swelling resolve. Physiotherapy is also helpful in restoring flexibility and strength to the affected area. It is important not to resume normal activity until the normal range of movement has returned.
Whether you've never had a sports injury and you're trying to keep it that way or you've had an injury and don't want another, the following tips can help.