Sports-related injuries fall into two categories – acute/traumatic or overuse/chronic. Acute/traumatic injuries include fractures, inflammation of bone where muscles/tendons attach ligament sprains, muscular strains, and soft tissue injuries. Traumatic injuries happen suddenly and are difficult to prevent.
Overuse injuries are gradual and occur over time; they are the result of abnormal stress to normal tissues. The most common overuse injuries include stress fractures and tendonitis and these are preventable, according to Josh Davidson, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, therapy manager of the Main Line Health Outpatient Network at Exton.
According to Davidson, risk factors associated with overuse injuries include:
- Growth spurts or rapid growth
- Training errors
- Sports specialization at a young age
- Muscle imbalance
- Poor posture or biomechanical misalignments
- Improper footwear
- Playing surface
- Poor nutrition
He also cites the six S’s as primary causes of overuse injuries:
Sports injuries commonly affect the head and neck, leg, ankle, foot; knee, hand, wrist or elbow. Sometimes the warning signs are obvious like pain that affects sports performance; often the signs are more subtle. Seek the advice of a physician or clinician who specializes in sports medicine if you suspect an injury to prevent further injury and to ensure that the return to sports is as quickly as possible, pain free and safely.
- Shoes – wearing improper shoes or shoes that are worn out
- Surface – playing sports on a surface that is unforgiving or uneven
- Speed – inappropriate increases in training, running too much, too soon and too fast
- Stretch – inflexibility, poor or inadequate warm-up prior to activity or sports competition or training
- Strength – inadequate muscle strength or muscle endurance
- Structure – playing sports with poor biomechanics or poor biomechanical alignment
Treatment and Prevention
It is important to remember that an athlete who suffers an injury should seek medical attention from a qualified sports medicine professional when an injury occurs, if pain persists for more than a few days or if the problem is a recurring problem (every season, every month). In addition, qualified medical professional advice should be sought if the injury affects sports performance or if the athlete is unable to train or training is limited. A clinician will evaluate the athlete to understand what the problem is and to identify why the problem occurred.
Often athletes will make the mistake of returning to play as soon as they feel the pain is manageable without addressing the cause. This could result in more time lost and in a more serious injury. Before an athlete returns to sports, the athlete should be pain free. A physical therapist can develop a sport-specific exercise program and other activities that will test the athlete and the athlete’s body to ensure a safe return to sports. Therapists can make specific recommendations for the safest return to sports. Physical rehabilitation can result in the athlete recovering from their injury and more importantly, ensuring the athlete who returns to their sport is in better cardiovascular shape, stronger, more flexible, more powerful and MUCH less likely to suffer the same injury again.
Prevention remains the best “treatment” for injuries. A qualified sports medicine clinician can perform a sports screen of an athlete. Based on the information gathered during the screen, they can then design a performance enhancement and injury prevention strength and conditioning program unique to the athlete and specific to their competitive sport or sports.
Even for the most careful athletes, injuries can happen. The Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital/Main Line Health Outpatient Network can help, with locations throughout Philadelphia's western suburbs.