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How to treat and Prevent Sports Injuries

Updated on March 1, 2014

Sports injuries can be a real bummer. They always hit you right before the big game, or while your girlfriend is watching you in your big rugby match for the first time. They can lead to weeks, and in severe cases months out from training and playing if left unattended and not treated promptly and correctly.


Here are some common injuries that can occur in any given sport;

  1. Muscular Strains
    A sprain is different from a Strain, even though they are often used interchangeably. A strain affects muscles and tendons, rather than ligaments. A tendon is different from a ligament in that instead of attaching bone to bone, a tendon attaches muscles to bones.

    There are two common types of strains that can occur;

  • Acute strain

    This type of strain occurs when there is significant trauma to the affected muscle. This can arise from twisting, excessive stretching and lifting weights outside your norm.

  • Chronic Strain

    A chronic strain can occur from overuse of a muscle, or repetitive movements over prolonged periods of time.

  1. Ligament Sprains

    A ligament sprain can be a debilitating injury that will leave the athlete in great amounts of pain. A ligament sprain can occur from joints twisting in the wrong direction, hyperextension, falling awkwardly or extreme force to a joint.

    There are three types of sprains

  • Grade I Sprain
    A grade I sprain occurs when there is slight overstretching or a small tear to a ligament. These are accompanied by swelling but no difficulty weight bearing.

  • Grade II Sprain

    A grade II sprain occurs when there is quite significant tearing to a ligament. This is accompanied by large swelling, bruising and loss of functional ability. In some instances an MRI may be required.

  • Grade III Sprain

    This is when the ligament is completely ruptured or has been torn from the bone. Large amounts of swelling, bruising and loss of functional ability will occur. The ability to weight bear is also diminished, and the athlete will require crutches to walk. In most cases a complete rupture will require surgery to heal.

  1. Fractured bones

    There are two common types of fractures that an athlete can experience when training and playing sport;

  • Acute Fracture

    An acute fracture occurs when there is significant trauma or force applied to the bones. The pain and swelling occur immediately after the injury, and the athlete won’t be able to bear weight on the affected area. There will also be bruising in an acute fracture.

  • Chronic fracture

    A chronic fracture is a fracture that occurs over time, and isn’t the result of major trauma or force applied to bones. Instead a chronic fracture occurs over many weeks, due to overuse or repetitive use. An example of this is shin splints, which is due to small fractures developing in the shin due to excessive amounts of running or jumping on hard surfaces.

  1. Muscle tears

    Muscle tear occur when the muscle is stretched beyond its normal range of motion and cannot withstand the stress being applied to it. This results in major swelling and the inability to use the affected area.

    Treating an acute sports injury

    When treating an acute sports injury, i.e. one that occurs as a result the most accepted immediate form of treatment is R.I.C.E. Rice stands for, Rest, Ice, Compression, elevation.

    When the injury initially occurs, The activity should immediately be stopped. Ice should the applied to the affected area immediately, and can be secured in place by the use of glad wrap. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin, as frostbite can occur to the skin.

    If there is a sports medic the event, see them, and they will be able to apply strapping tape and ice to the affected area. If you are experienced in applying strapping tape, use tape to immobilise the injured area. Ice can be applied in conjunction with strapping tape.

    The ice should be applied for 20 minutes at a time every hour after an injury has occurred. When resting the injury at home, elevate the affected area above the heart, to reduce the amount of swelling that can build up to the damaged area. The aim of RICE is to reduce the swelling, so that the injured area can be used as soon as possible. Also apply a compression bandage to the affected area if that is possible, as this pushes the swelling out of the injured area.

Be sure not to use any sort of heat for the first 48 hours after injury, as it can increase blood flow, which can increase the amount of swelling that occurs.

After 48 hours has passed, and the swelling and pain is very minimal, you may not need to see a physiotherapist. If you are still in great amount of pain, the swelling is still quite and you have difficulty weight bearing, you should see a GP or physiotherapist. This is an indication that there is significant damage to tissues or bone structures. If you believe that a rupturing of ligaments has occurred, see your GP for a referral for an MRI. If you believe that there may be some form of significant damage to the tissues, see a doctor and/or physiotherapist. It is better to know early on than to play with an injury and do even more damage than there already is.

Preventing future injuries

In order to prevent sports injuries, a few simple measure can be put into action when undergoing your training regime.

  1. Always warm up before physical activity. This one seems like a no brainer, you’ve been told to do it since you were a kid. It is one of the most important things to do before physical exercise however. It allows blood flow to your muscles, which in turn helps them to limber up so that they don’t tear when you start doing intense physical exercise.

  2. Have regular massages. This may seem like something reserved for only the most extreme of athletes, however a simple massage can do wonders for your muscles. Deep tissue muscles can release the tension building up within the connective tissue of your muscles. This is a good way to cool down your muscles.

  3. Stretching. Another no brainer. However, the more flexible that your muscles are, the longer they will be able to function before they become tight and start ‘freezing up’. This means that if your muscles are more flexible than another person, you will be able to use them for a longer period of time before they will become stiff and sore. It also increases your range of movement, so when you take a nasty fall, your range of movement is increased. This means your muscles will be used to stretching that far, and your risk of a tear will be significantly decreased.

    So make sure you look after your body, and don’t do anything crazy. Just remember when you’re injured, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.


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