Unless you’re a professional athlete, you may spend much of your week being mostly inactive, trapped behind a desk. Then the weekend rolls around, and it’s off to the golf course, the ballpark, or the tennis or basketball court. Getting active is certainly good for your physical and mental health, but this sudden burst of activity can take your joints by surprise, resulting in injury. Here are the top five orthopedic-related sports injuries (and don’t be fooled, these can and do happen to even the most seasoned athletes).
Top Five Orthopedic-Related Sports Injuries
1. Ankle Sprains
Most of us have experienced a sprained ankle at some point in our life. A sprained ankle is usually nothing more than the foot turning inward, but the severity of injury and pain can vary greatly. When the foot turns inward, it stretches, tears, or partially tears the weak ligaments residing outside of the ankle.
Anyone suffering from a sprain should follow the PRICE treatment (Protect the area from further injury, Rest the injury, Ice the injury, Compress the injury with a compression wrap, and Elevate the injured area above your heart). If you’re unable to bear any weight, the joint is immobile, or there is redness or red streaks signifying an infection, a doctor visit is recommended.
2. Hamstring Strains
Hamstring strains are common and painful, and they don’t discriminate when it comes to sports. They strike runners, skaters, skiers, and basketball, football, and soccer players—anything where a lot of running, jumping, or sudden starts and stops is involved. So what is a hamstring? Despite its name, it’s not a single muscle, but a group of three that run the length of the back of your thigh; their main function is to help you bend your leg at the knee.
Hamstring injuries can take a while to heal because stress continues to be applied to the area with every step you take. While difficult for many people to do, it’s important to remain inactive for as long as possible to promote healing. If healing is elusive, it’s possible that your muscle has pulled free from its pelvis or shinbone connection, and an orthopedic surgeon will need to reattach it.
3. Shin Splints
Common in runners, dancers, military recruits, and even those who just do a lot of intense walking, shin splints are pains down the front of your lower legs, or the tibia. The cause is overworking of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue surrounding this area. Often, the pain stops following the workout, but if proper breaks aren’t taken it can become constant and could even progress to a stress fracture—a small break in the shin bone.
Following the PRICE regimen and taking some over-the-counter pain medication can often keep shin splints at bay, but if the pain persists you may have a stress fracture and should see a doctor.
4. Knee Injuries
There are two common types of knee injuries affecting athletes and weekend warriors: patellofemoral syndrome and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.
Patellofemoral syndrome is caused by repetitive movement of the kneecap (patella) against the thigh bone (femur). This continuous action damages the tissue under the kneecap, and can affect one or both knees. Runners and basketball players are frequent victims.
The ACL holds together the leg bone and knee; sudden stops, or taking a hit to the side, can strain it. If you hear that cringe-inducing “pop,” the ACL has been completely torn.
Patellofemoral syndrome requires patience, as it can take up to six weeks to heal; pain relievers can ease suffering, and physical therapy or low-impact exercise during this time can also help. On the other hand, ACL tears require a doctor’s visit, and complete tears almost always require orthopedic surgery in order to get back into action.
5. Tennis or Golf Elbow (epicondylitis)
One’s played on a court, one’s played on a course, but both can take their toll on your elbow. Repetitive movements of the elbow while gripping something, such as a tennis racquet or golf club, can irritate or make microscopic tears in the tendons outside of your elbow causing pain. Weightlifters have also been known to develop epicondylitis.
Treatment is simple: take a break from the offending activity until the pain clears up.
Preventing Common Orthopedic-Related Sports Injuries
To avoid these common injuries, it helps to condition yourself; if possible, workout daily—even if it’s just for a half hour. There are plenty of other things you can do to stay mobile on off-days, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking far away from office or store entrances.
It’s also important to always warm up; it’s easy to skip this step and get right to business, but a warm up gently stretches the muscles, increases blood flow to them, and preps them for the more intense activity to come.
Lastly, don’t overdo it; if you haven’t golfed in a few months, don’t come out swinging and play 36 holes; start with nine and increase the following weekend. Same for running; if it’s been a while, don’t try to get back into your groove with a half marathon; start with a few miles and work up to it over time.
While some sports injuries can be unavoidable no matter how much you prepare and protect yourself, follow these methods of prevention and get proper treatment following injury to ensure you’re not out of the game—or off your game—for long. Subscribe to our blog today to stay current on issues of joint and bone health and the latest advancements in orthopedics, including our very own BandGrip wound closure technology.