While it’s healthy to stay active and exercise regularly, injuries do happen and sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly what you tweaked and the best approach for treatment and recovery. Dr. Martha Pyron, Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine at UT Health Austin’s Musculoskeletal Institute discusses the most common sports injuries she tends to see and how to treat and avoid them in the future.
Sprains are injuries to ligaments, which are the bands that connect your bones within a joint.
“The most common sprain seen in sports-related injuries is an ankle sprain,” says Dr. Pyron. “What this means is that the ankle turns and your weight is distributed onto the outside or in some cases even the inside of your ankle that usually causes some tearing of the ligament.”
Sprains can vary from a minor partial tear to a more severe full tear of the ligament, which should be evaluated by a physician. “Sometimes sprains are also associated with bruising of the bone or other injuries that typically occur at the same time,” say Dr. Pyron. “Most of these types of injuries do resolve within a couple weeks after avoiding activity until pain is gone and easing back in slowly.”
Overuse injuries, such as tendonitis, are the inflammation or irritation of a tendon often caused by repetitive movements to the same area.
“These injuries are very common when you don’t give your body enough recovery time after an event and you go into another practice or game using those same muscles again,” explains Dr. Pyron. “Overuse results in small tears in the muscles or tendons often accompanied by pain in the area.”
The best way to heal and prevent future tendonitis is to incorporate a really good recovery after strenuous activities. Stretching beforehand and improving technique and form in your activity could also help alleviate some of the stress on the muscles and tendons you are using the most in your sport.
Strains are injuries to muscle fibers or tendons, which anchor muscles to bones. Strains are also called pulled muscles.
“Most muscle strains occur when a muscle has been stretched beyond its limits,” says Dr. Pyron, “if you are really tired or your muscles are fatigued and you try to play, your muscles are more likely to react slower and with less strength putting you at risk to injure yourself more easily.”
With a strain, you typically experience pain and tenderness especially while moving or contracting the affected muscle. Dr. Pyron explains that a proper warm-up before your activity as well as following a program aimed to strengthen your muscles will help you avoid these injuries in the future.
“Sometimes preventing common sports injuries is beyond your control,” says Dr. Pyron, “but many times sports injuries are preventable.” To help prevent these common sports injuries practice the following:
- Warm up before your sport or activity including stretching to loosen your muscles
- Gradually increase muscle strength and intensity to get your body use to the stress, but never push yourself too hard
- Use the correct form or technique to avoid putting unnecessary stress on your tendons and ligaments
- Avoid direct hits or harsh contact if possible to maintain stability in the joints
- Stop and rest if you feel any pain or major fatigue
- Always give yourself plenty of time to recover after an intense activity
When to see a doctor If you are experiencing extreme symptoms or symptoms that don’t subside after rest and recovery, it’s important to make an appointment to be examined by a professional. If you suspect a serious injury or see any extreme signs such as the ones below, see a doctor:
- Deformities in the joint or bone that may indicate a dislocation, broken bone or fracture
- The inability to bear weight on a limb without extreme pain or without it “giving way”
- Excessive swelling and pain
- Changes in skin color beyond mild bruising
- Prolonged symptoms after a few days of RICE - rest, ice, compression and elevation
To make an appointment to be evaluated by our sports injury specialists you can visit here, or call 1-833-882-2737