Feb 5, 2016
Prevention of Common Sports Injuries
Preventing injuries before they occur means saving yourself unnecessary pain, time and money. Some people may simply be unaware of how to avoid common sports injuries. A recent study shows that sport injuries are happening more frequently than ever, with an estimated one million sports injuries occurring each year in Australia.¹ To put this in perspective, that is one in every 17 Australians who are getting injured in sport a year, and up to 50% of those injuries could be prevented.³
The International Olympic Committee and many other national sporting bodies have begun teaming up to share the latest findings and views on how to best protect athlete wellbeing’s on and off the field. This proactive attitude shouldn’t just be for professional athletes, it can also be applied to any individual regardless of age or level of sport.
If you are an athlete or if your children are involved in sports it’s beneficial to learn about common types of sport injuries and preventative measures.
Dislocations occur when a strong force pushes the bones in a joint out of alignment. Contact sports such as rugby or excessive stretching may cause dislocations. The dislocated bone may be able to be put back in place, but the connective tissue surrounding the joint may have severe damage.
Once you've dislocated a joint, you may be more susceptible to future dislocations. To prevent dislocations it is best to take precautions to avoid falls, play safely and avoid recurrence. To avoid a recurrence, do strength and stability exercises as recommended by your doctor to strengthen your joint.
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation is a common practice for most sports injuries. In some cases, a dislocated joint might go back into place naturally after this treatment. If the joint doesn’t return to normal naturally, you will need to see a doctor.
A shin splint is when pain along the shin bone occurs usually at the front outside part of the lower leg. Shin splints are common with runners, especially when running on hard surfaces.
Proper running shoes and orthotics are a preventative measure for shin splints. It is also important to ease into running on different surfaces. For instance, if you usually run on soft surfaces, run fewer kilometres on hard surfaces until your muscles and soft tissue can make the adjustment.
It can take weeks to even months for a shin splint to heal. It is imperative to find out what caused the shin splints and make the appropriate adjustments to prevent them from occurring again. It is best to speak with a doctor and refrain from running in order to let your shin splint heal.
Commonly referred to as a broken bone, fractures are a fairly common sports injury. There are two different types of fractures; an acute fracture caused by a one-time injury to the bone and a stress fracture caused by repeated stress on a bone over time.
Alternating activities that accomplish the same fitness goals can help to prevent injuries by not putting too much force on one place. Also keep in mind not to push yourself too hard when starting a new sport, try setting incremental goals and work up to bigger goals. A healthy diet with calcium and vitamin D help you to maintain strong bones and may help you to avoid injuries. It is also crucial to use proper equipment during sport or any type of exercise to prevent easily avoidable injuries.
If you think you have a stress fracture and pain or swelling occurs contact an orthopaedic surgeon. Most stress fractures take six to eight weeks to heal, so an important part of treatment is rest. If the activity that caused the stress fracture is resumed too quickly, larger, harder-to-heal stress fractures can develop. With recurring injury it is possible that a stress fracture may never heal properly. In addition to rest, shoe inserts or braces may be used to help these injuries heal. Acute fractures on the other hand are usually treated in hospital with the application of a cast immobilisation, external fixation, traction, or a functional cast or brace depending on the injury.
Mild knee injuries include iliotibial band syndrome, runner’s knee, or tendonitis. These injuries tend to be caused from overuse or overload. Severe knee injuries can involve damage or bruising to cartilage or ligaments. These types of injuries may be caused from sport or overuse.
The four major ligaments in the knee that are commonly injured are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL).
ACL injury and other ligament injuries can be caused by:
- Twisting your knee with the foot planted
- Getting hit on the knee
- Extending the knee too far
- Jumping and landing on a flexed knee
- Stopping suddenly when running
- Suddenly shifting weight from one leg to the other
Strong muscles can help to prevent these types of injuries. As well, therapists can target weak muscle areas and identify ways to improve strength in those areas.There are also a wide variety of prevention programs that have been created for adolescents to make sure they develop safe habits in sport.
Treatment for severe knee injuries is typically surgery. Nonsurgical treatments for knee surgery such as bracing, crutches, and physical therapy may be effective for elderly patients who have a very low activity level. Fortunately collateral ligament tears tend to heal on their own, but most ACL tears need a surgeon to reconstruct the ligament.
This article provides a general overview of sport injury prevention. Please consult your GP or surgeon for any medical advice.
1. Finch C, Owen N. Injury prevention and the promotion of physical activity: What is the nexus?. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2001;4(1):77-87.
2. Safe Sport for Kids. A National Youth Sports Injury Prevention Initiative [Internet]. 2016 [cited 27 January 2016]. Available from: http://www.safesport.org.au/
3. Sma.org.au. Sports Injury Stats | Sports Medicine Australia [Internet]. 2016 [cited 27 January 2016]. Available from: http://sma.org.au/resources-advice/sports-injuries/sports-injury-stats/
4. Flood L, Harrison J. Hospitalised sports injury, Australia 2002-03. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; 2006.
5. Chalmers D. Injury prevention in sport: not yet part of the game?. Injury Prevention. 2002;8(90004):22iv-25.
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