Although sport and exercise are beneficial to your health and wellbeing, an injury can occur. Almost any body part can be injured, often by: failing to warm up properly, overexerting yourself, using poor technique or inappropriate equipment, or simply by accident.
If an injury is serious, such as a broken bone or a dislocation, you will normally know this as there will be a lot of pain, and possibly some deformation.
However, for injuries such as sprains and strains, you may not know about it until you attempt to carry out a certain movement with the affected body part.
If you notice you have sustained an injury, you should stop exercising if you feel pain. If the injury is minor you usually do not need to visit a doctor, and can treat it yourself at home. However, for expert advice, more severe injuries, or a lack of improvement after a few days, you should visit your doctor.
Types of injury
There are many different injuries that can occur, such as bone, muscle, joint, ligament and tendon injuries.
The most common type of sports injuries are sprains and strains. A sprain is when one or more ligament is either stretched, twisted or torn. A (muscle) strain is when muscle fibres or muscle tissues are either stretched or torn. This is often referred to as ‘pulling a muscle’.
Below are some of the most common sports injuries sustained:
Backs can be injured in many sports, frequently due to sprains and strains in the back. Although back pain can be felt anywhere from the shoulders down to the buttocks and legs, it is most often felt as soreness in the lower back.
Bones can be injured in many different ways, usually by a heavy impact or repetitive activity. More often than not, it will be obvious if a bone has been broken as there will be lots of swelling, bruising and pain, and potentially deformity too. Other bone injuries can be less obvious, such as shin splints or stress fractures.
Shin splints are when the tissues surrounding the shin bone become inflamed. It is a common injury in sports in which you have to run. A stress fracture is when a small crack develops in a bone due to repeated stresses, such as in long-distance running, a high-impact activity.
Hamstring injuries are often sustained by athletes, and are when the large muscles or tendons in the back of the thighs are torn. Sudden actions such as jumping can cause the tears, which are generally heard or felt as a ‘pop’, followed by lots of pain in the area. Usually the muscle will spasm, becoming sore and tight.
Head injuries can be a big deal, so if you ever have a concern, visit a doctor. Minor ones such as bruises or bumps are quite common and usually not serious. However, if you have any of the following symptoms after a head injury, you should go to hospital or call an ambulance: vomiting, blurred or double vision, difficulty speaking, difficulty understanding people, a seizure, unconsciousness (however brief), or feeling very sleepy a few hours after the injury.
Heel pain is common for people who do a lot of running, and is generally when the thick band of tissue under the sole of the foot is damaged.
However, the Achilles tendon runs up the back of the heel, and damage to that may be the reason for heel pain. The Achilles tendon can be ruptured suddenly, or simply ‘worn down’ over time. If it ruptures there will be a lot of pain and you may also notice a ‘pop’ noise, and you need to seek medical advice straightaway.
Certain conditions such as tendonitis and bursitis can affect the joints and cause inflammation. Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon around any of: elbow, finger, back of heel, knee, shoulder, thigh or wrist. Tennis elbow is one type of tendonitis, affecting the outside of the elbow, whilst the lesser-known golfer’s elbow affects the inside of the elbow.
Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa, a small, fluid-filled sac found under the skin, usually between tendons and bones and over the joints. Bursitis is common in the elbow, hip or knee.
Knee injuries are often caused by sudden twisting, and can occur in most sports. Knee injuries are generally caused by a strain or sprain, whilst some people also suffer from tendinitis.
If you have cartilage damage, this is where a piece of cartilage in the knee breaks off and affects the joint’s movement. It is likely that the joint will feel as if it is locking, and there is a chance the joint will give way.
If you have runner’s knee, which occurs when the knee is overworked, you are likely to have discomfort and some pain around your kneecap. There is also a chance that you experience a grating sensation in your knee.
One of the most severe (knee) injuries you can sustain is a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is one of four ligaments in the knee. It can be torn in a number of ways, such as changing direction or stopping quickly.
It is usually quite obvious if you tear your ACL because there will be severe pain and you may hear a ‘pop’ when it happens. Additionally, it is likely that your knee will be swollen, unstable and lack its normal range of motion.
In sports which involve a lot of repetitive movements of the arm, such as cricket where you do a lot of throwing and overarm bowling, tendons in the shoulder area (such as the rotator cuff) can become inflamed or torn.
You may even dislocate your shoulder, generally caused by a sudden, heavy impact such as a fall onto it. The arm will ‘pop’ out of its shoulder joint, meaning you are unable to move the arm and experience severe pain. If you dislocate a shoulder you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
Skin injuries range from blisters, chafing and grazes, to deep open wounds, which will require immediate medical attention and potentially stitches to stop the bleeding. Skin injuries can be caused by poorly fitting clothing.
Many sports will require you to use appropriate equipment, such as shin pads, gum shields, boots, running shoes, or helmets, or other items. It is very important to wear the correct items for your sport in order to help reduce the risk of injury to you and others around you.
If you wear glasses you may find you are not allowed to wear them during certain sports. You therefore may want to consider contact lenses or goggles instead.