3 Common Sports Injuries and Rehabilitation

Category: Sports No comments

According to research from Johns Hopkins, approximately 3.5 million children and adolescents are injured playing sports each year, which is roughly 10% of those who participate in sports during the same time period. Interestingly, most sports-related injuries, 62% to be exact, occur during practice rather than during competition. Football, basketball, and baseball/softball account for the majority of injuries.

When sports injuries do occur, they tend to affect the same body regions regardless of sport or activity. The most common injuries are ACL tears, ankle rolls, and damaged rotators cuffs. In addition, concussions are common across all activities from bike riding to organized sports. Here is a look at these common injuries along with insight into how they are addressed.

ACL Injury

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is a part of the knee and connects the femur (thigh) to the tibia (shin). Though just one of several ligaments that support and stabilize the knee, the ACL’s position makes it more prone than most to injury. Commonly, a side impact to the knee causes either partial or full tearing of the ACL. In many cases, this injury is accompanied by medial collateral ligament (MCL) damage and cartilage damage.

ACL reconstruction doctors generally use graft replacements of the ACL to restore function to the knee. The graft can be taken from cadavers or harvested from other locations in the patient’s body. This surgery is common and good results should be achieved by a qualified surgeon. Though the injury is painful, recovery from surgery is straightforward and discomfort is minimal.

Rolled Ankle

A rolled ankle (also referred to as twisted or sprained) is something that affects almost everyone at some point in their life. The ankle is a highly mobile joint with limited muscle support. That means that it relies on ligaments for support and ligaments are more readily injured than tendons, particularly in highly mobile joints. A rolled ankle may result from stretching supporting ligaments or, in severe cases, from tearing them.

Treating stretched ligaments requires reset and relaxation in most cases. Ice and elevation can reduce swelling while non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs can help to reduce pain. In most cases, the injury will heal within a week or two. If a rolled ankle feels no better after a few days, then medical attention is required. In these cases, the injury is usually more severe and includes tearing of ligaments. Partial tears may heal on their own, but will require a boot for immobilization. Complete tears require surgical intervention.

Rotator Cuff

Like the ankle and the knee, the shoulder is a highly mobile joint. Unlike the ankle and the knee, injuries to the shoulder are generally in the form of muscle/tendon tears rather than ligament tears. The rotator cuff muscles, of which there are four, attach the humerus (upper arm) to the scapula (shoulder blade) and allow for the 360 degrees of movement that the shoulder is capable of. A tear in any one of these muscles constitutes a rotator cuff injury.

Partial rotator cuff tears are generally treated with immobilization, but complete tears usually require surgery. In some cases, the tendon (connects muscle to bone) is pulled completely free of the bone (avulsion injury) and must be pinned back into place. Rotator cuff injuries often require months to heal and intensive physical therapy if full range of motion is to be regained.

The Bottom Line

Sport injuries are common, particularly concussions, which is why equipping children, teens, and even adults with proper safety equipment is necessary. Keep in mind that the majority of injuries occur during practice and not competition, perhaps in parts because standards are relaxed. Vigilance and proper prevention can go a long way to reducing risk of injury and improving sporting events for everyone.

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