Physical therapy is key to treating many sports injuries, helping patients rebuild strength and mobility after an injury. Since different sports require different body movements and have varying degrees of physical contact, damage can result from collisions with other players or simply repetitive movements. Some injuries may require surgery, but many can be resolved under the guidance of a trained physical therapist. With the right physical therapy program, patients can get back onto the field or court again quickly, and even learn how to prevent future injuries from occurring.
Why Do We Get Hurt?
We get hurt during sports for a variety of reasons. Often, lack of conditioning hurts us the most; our bodies simply aren’t ready for the level of activity at which we want them to play after we’ve had to sit behind our desks all week. Other reasons involve not warming up enough, pushing our bodies too hard, and excessive repetition. Whether it’s during daily weight-lifting or a weekly softball game with coworkers, we need to learn how to listen better to our bodies to avoid injuries, damage, and deterioration.
The Most Common Sports Injuries
If you can pull it, sprain it, strain it, or tear it, there’s a good chance that it is a common type of sports injury.
- Shin Splints (aka, medial tibial stress syndrome)
Shin splints often occur when you intensify your training too soon, wearing out your muscles, tendons, and bone tissue, and causing tiny tears in your bone tissue and muscle. If you experience pain in the shin area during or after exercise, there is a good chance you have shin splints.
- Ankle Sprains
If you have ever rolled, twisted, or awkwardly turned your ankle, you may have experienced a sprain. Sprains happen when you stretch or tear the ligaments in your ankle, causing pain, swelling, bruising, tenderness, and often limited mobility.
- Shoulder Injuries
Shoulder injuries make up 20% of all sports-related injuries and include dislocations, strains, tears, and even sprains. Most shoulder injuries result from overuse or repetitive movements above your head.
- Hamstring Strains
If you’ve played a sport, there’s a good chance you’ve felt the pain of a hamstring strain. They happen when you overuse or overstretch one of the three muscles that make up the hamstring, resulting in a muscle or tendon injury.
- Tennis or Golf Elbow (aka, Epicondylitis)
Approximately 7% of sports injuries are elbow-related. Tennis or golf elbow occurs when repetitive motion causes tiny tears in the ligaments or irritates the tissue that connects the forearm muscle to the elbow. Most patients experience pain on the inside or outside of the elbow, but it can also hurt in the wrist or forearm.
- Groin Pulls
A groin pull or strain occurs when you exert too much pressure on your groin muscles, making them tear or overstretch. They tend to happen in sports where players change directions suddenly – like football, hockey, or soccer.
- Concussions (aka, mild traumatic brain injury)
One of the most talked-about topics, concussions occur when the brain is injured due to a hit to the head or when the upper body is violently shaken. They can cause memory problems, balance and coordination issues, and headaches.
- ACL Tears
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is tissue within the knee that connects the shinbone to the thighbone. When the knee twists awkwardly or suddenly, the ACL can tear. ACL tears can be very painful and often happen in football, soccer, basketball, and skiing.
- Hip Flexor Strains
When you strain or tear one of the muscles at the front of your groin or hip, it is called a hip flexor strain. They happen when the muscles are forced to repeat motions or exposed to excessive force – like sprinting or kicking.
Sciatica is the awful pain that runs through your lower back and down your legs. It’s a very common injury that is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, most likely due to a bone spur or herniated disk.
- Patellofemoral Syndrome
Patellofemoral syndrome occurs from repetitive motion involving your kneecap and your thigh bone. The motion damages the tissue under your kneecaps, causing pain in one or both of your knees.
How to Treat Sports Injuries at Home
The best way to treat sports injuries at home is to utilize the P.R.I.C.E. protocol. It stands for:
Protection: Protect yourself from further injury by immobilizing the area and keeping weight off of it.
Rest: Rest the injury to allow healing. Avoid any activities that can further strain or stress the affected area.
Ice: Ice any area that is swollen or painful.
Compression: By using a wrap or bandage to compress the injured area, you can decrease swelling and also support any damaged tendons, ligaments, or muscles.
Elevation: Elevating an injury above your heart will help to reduce swelling, and therefore help with pain.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Although many sports injuries can be self-diagnosed and treated using the P.R.I.C.E. method, some need the attention of a trained medical professional. If you think that an injury looks misshapen, cannot move normally, is extremely swollen, has changed skin color, or is simply not getting any better, then you need to see a doctor. Another sign of a potentially major problem is when you can’t put any weight on the injured area or it buckles under normal pressure.
Some injuries will require surgery if they are severe enough. Consult an orthopaedic surgeon if you have any questions or feel that you may have an injury that requires more than the P.R.I.C.E. protocol at home.
Rehabilitation and Preventing Future Injuries
Whether you need surgery or not, physical therapy will be key to recovering from any sports-related injury. At Countryside Orthopaedics, our physical therapists will design a treatment program that will increase flexibility, improve strength, and restore your range of movement. Treatment may include Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM), dry needling, kinesio taping, and other therapies, depending on the location and severity of your injury. Your physical therapist will also give you tips on how to prevent future injuries with proper stretching and warm-up exercises.
We understand that there is nothing worse than having to give up a sport that you love. If you are experiencing any pain or movement issues, contact Countryside Orthopaedics today. With the proper rehab and a little bit of time, we’ll get you back to doing what you love.