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Top Five Most Common Sports Injuries

Boyd W. Haynes III, MD
Weekend warriors are people who participate in an activity (usually a sport) only in their spare time. These folks often sustain injuries because of a lack of consistent and sustained conditioning. After a mostly sedentary work week, 36-hole golf weekends and end zone catches can bring on a sports injury, with the most common being:  1) ankle sprain; 2) Groin pull;  3) hamstring strain; 4) shin splits; 5) knee injury – ACL tear
Ankle Sprain – Ligaments are the tough, stretchy bands connecting bones to a joint. They hold the bones together, but do allow for some movement. When ligaments are stretched beyond their limits, they tear and become deformed or sprained. Sprains most often happen when you “roll” your foot. This can happen if you come down too hard when attempting to catch a ball. It can also happen when you step into a hole and twist your foot. Ankle sprains happen when playing games with a lot of jumping or with a high likelihood of stepping on another person’s foot. Also, if you’ve had an ankle sprain before, you probably have weak muscles on the outside of the ankles, so you have a greater chance of spraining your ankle again.
Groin Pull – A groin pull or strain is a muscular tear in any of the groin muscles. This injury usually occurs in conjunction with high speed activities such as kicking, change of direction or sprinting. Putting too much stress on groin muscles can cause them to tear or rupture. It is important to accurately diagnose the source of the groin pain. The most common reason is a groin muscle injury, but you can also have this pain from hernia or other origins. Groin strains are graded 1, 2, or 3 depending on their severity. Grade 1 are mild injuries. Grade 2 are moderate and may or may not affect your ability to walk or participate in activities. Grade 3 are severe and debilitating. It’s important to see a doctor and get a thorough evaluation to be sure you are treated properly.
Hamstring Strain – This injury occurs when you strain or pull (tear) one of the hamstring muscles, the group of three muscles that run along the back of the thigh.  It can range from mild to severe, involving a complete tear of the muscle. Hamstring pulls or strains are most likely to occur when playing a sport that involves quick stops and starts, such as soccer, tennis, basketball, and football. Dancers and runners can also be susceptible to hamstring strains. Other ways this injury can occur include poor running mechanics, improper warm-up, muscle fatigue, lower back abnormalities (can cause muscle weakness). Most people start feeling better within a few days of injury; however, it is very important to stick to a proper rehabilitation process because re-injury rates are very high. Physical therapy, dry needling, massage, and kinesio taping are the best treatment options for hamstring strain. Surgery is very rarely required – it is limited to complete tears or to remove scar tissue from recurring hamstring tears.
Shin Splints – The shin bone (tibia) is the large bone in the front of your lower leg. Shin splints refers to pain along this bone. They are common in runners and dancers who have recently intensified or changed their training routines. This increased activity causes repetitive stress on the shinbone and connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone, which overworks the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue, causing tenderness and soreness.  If shin splints are new to you, the pain may subside when you stop exercising; however, if you allow it to continue, it may progress to a stress fracture. We recommend you consult your doctor if rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers do not ease the pain.
Knee Injury – ACL Tear – The knee joint is formed by bones called the femur, the tibia, and the patella. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of the four main ligaments that connect the femur to the tibia. The ACL’s main job is to prevent the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur, as well as providing rotational support to the knee. It is one of the most commonly injured ligaments of the knee, and most often occurs when people are playing basketball, soccer, football and skiing. Non-contact movements such as cutting, pivoting, sidestepping, and awkward landings cause an estimated 70 percent of ACL injuries, while 30 percent result from direct contact with another player or object. It is important to have a physician examine the injured person. Fracture needs to be ruled out, plus ACL injuries often accompany another injury within the knee, including tears to the meniscus or other ligaments. The ACL can be partially or completely torn. Partial tears have a more favorable outcome and are more commonly associated with a successful return to activity. After complete tears, some patients are not able to return to sports involving cutting or pivoting. Some patients even have trouble simply walking. On the other hand, there are rare athletes that are able to return to play with no restrictions. It all depends on the severity of the injury and sometimes just good or bad luck with the healing process.
Treatment is either non-surgical (over-the-counter pain medications and physical therapy recommended) or surgical. Again, it depends on the severity of the injury and the level of activity to which the patient hopes to return. Deciding against surgery makes sense for partial tears, people who participate in no or low demand sports, and children. Patients treated with surgical reconstruction of the ACL have high long term success rates. The goal is to prevent instability and restore the function of the torn ligament, which will allow the patient to return to sports. Individual patient goals should be discussed with their orthopaedic surgeon.
Many times sports injuries are preventable. Here are a few ways for weekend warriors can do your best to stay well:

  • Work out during the week. It is important to challenge your muscles to maintain its strength.
  • Stretch! Tightness can cause the weekend warrior to move incorrectly, therefore more likely to sustain injury
  • Warm up before you participate. Active warm up is best: high knees, butt kicks, light jogging are all examples of this. This prepares your body for work and increases blood flow to soft tissue
  • Manage your expectations to go from couch to marathon in a few months. Keeping realistic perspective will enable you to enjoy activities and stay well.
  • Hydrate before and after exercise. Dehydration starts before you hit the ball field. It can affect your physical abilities dramatically, including reaction time, speed, agility and muscular force.

We encourage you to exercise smart and stay well, but know that the physicians and physical therapists at OSC are here for you when you need us!

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