Sports injuries can happen anywhere in the body, especially if your forte involves testing the laws of physics or gravity. The most common sports injuries tend to be fairly minor: bruises, sprains, strains, and more. Still, there are more serious injuries for athletes depending on the region and type of activity.
Concussions are common sporting injuries, especially in high-contact sports such as football and hockey. They occur when the head is hit violently enough to shake the brain inside the skull, which may cause a person to lose consciousness for a brief period of time. Wearing a well-fitted helmet made specifically for your sport is the best way to prevent concussions. If you are hit in the head and lose consciousness, it is important to seek medical care immediately. Loss of consciousness can be a sign of serious injury that needs immediate medical attention.
Muscles of the neck can be strained due to the repetitive motion involved in some sports, such as batting in baseball. Serious neck injuries typically involve a hard impact, such as a collision in football or hockey. This can cause the vertebrae to crack or cause a herniated disc in the spinal column. A herniated disc occurs when the padding between vertebrae slips out of place and puts pressure on a nerve, which may cause pain that radiates into the shoulders and arms.
The shoulder is a miracle of engineering that allows precise movement in multiple planes. Part of the reason the shoulder is so adaptable is that a number of ligaments (connect bone to bone) and tendons (connect bone to muscle) work together to create the joint. The problem is that the shoulder joint is shallow, so the it is prone to dislocation and stresses that lead to injury. One common shoulder injury is a torn rotator cuff, a tear to one of the muscles or ligaments surrounding the shoulder joint. This can be painful and make lifting the arm difficult. The shoulder joint can also become dislocated when the head of the humerus bone in the arm is forcibly removed from the rotator cuff.
Common injuries to the elbow include tennis elbow and golfer's elbow, neither of which are specific to the sports they're named after. Tennis elbow is inflammation and soreness on the outside part of the elbow, which may be caused by a tear in the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone. Golfer's elbow is a similar condition that affects the inside of the elbow.
The wrists are common places for sprains of the ligaments, strains of the muscle, or fractures of the bones. Racquet sports, golf, and other sports involving grip can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that causes numbness in the hands due to a pinched nerve.
A common injury to the hands is what is commonly known as a jammed finger. This occurs when the fingers are impacted directly, whether from collision with an object or the ground. While swelling and pain accompany the injury, a jammed finger typically heals completely as long as there is no bone fracture or joint dislocation.
As the muscles of the upper back affect shoulder and arm movement, they are prone to pain resulting from overuse. More serious complications, especially those involving the vertebrae, are common in contact sports that can result in jarring movements of the head and neck.
Pain in the muscles in the lower back is one of the most common sport injuries, as the lower back plays a large role in how we bend and twist our upper bodies. It is more common in athletes packing on a few extra pounds around the waistline. Stretching exercises, regular chiropractic care, and keeping a trim frame are easy ways to avoid back pain or keep it in check.
Injuries to the hips can come in many forms. The multiple muscles, ligaments, and tendons that comprise the hip can be injured through repetitive use or impact injuries. The sacs of fluid (bursae) that lubricate the joint can also be injured in falls or from excessive use in repetitive activities like running. Most of these injuries can be treated with rest, ice/heat, and common anti-inflammatory medication. Serious injuries, such as hip dislocation or fracture, require immediate medical attention.
Knee problems are common in athletes, especially older ones, as cartilage and other protective material wear down. They are also common areas that require surgery. Two common knee sports injuries invovle damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)—a band of fibrous tissue that connects the tibia and femur bones—and the menisci—pads of cartilage between the bones. Both of these injures often occur when the knee is twisted violently.
The most common injury to an ankle is a sprain, as it can easily be caused by something as simple as an awkward step. Injuries occur when the ligaments are stretched too far or even torn. As the ankles contain numerous bones connected by an array of ligaments, there are many different types of sprains that can occur.
Fractures of the bones of the foot are common in sports requiring running on hard surfaces, such as basketball or marathon running. Plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the fibrous band at the sole of your foot, is also common in running sports. The best way to prevent these types of injuries is to wear proper footwear with adequate arch support.
Most minor sports injuries, such as bruises, sprains, and strains, can be treated with the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. For more serious or chronic conditions, you should talk to your doctor or seek physical rehabilitation so you can make a complete recovery. Swelling can be treated by taking the recommended dosages of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin or ibuprofen. Tylenol (acetaminophen), may help with pain, but is inadequate for treating inflammation.