Sports injuries can occur almost anywhere on the body. Some of the most common sports injuries and their symptoms are described below.
A sprain is where one or more of your ligaments is stretched, twisted or torn. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue around joints. They connect one bone to another and help keep your bones together and stable.
Sprains often occur in ligaments around joints in the ankle or knee. The joint is not dislocated or fractured. The symptoms of a sprain include:
- inflammation (swelling),
- bruising, and
- restricted movement in the affected area.
Sprains are common injuries in many sports and, if necessary, can be treated with rest and anti-inflammatory medication.
A muscle strain is where muscle tissues or fibres are stretched or torn. A muscle strain is sometimes referred to as 'pulling a muscle'.
Tendons can also be strained. A tendon is the tough, narrow tissue at the end of a muscle that connects it to the bone.
Strains are caused by a muscle that is overstretched or that over-contracts. Symptoms of a strain include:
- muscle spasm, and
- a loss of strength in the muscle.
Strains are common to many sports, particularly those involving running, jumping or rapid changes of direction.
See Useful links for more information about sprains and strains.
Torn anterior cruciate ligament
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four ligaments in your knee. It can be torn if you suddenly stop or change direction, or land incorrectly from a jump. If you tear your ACL, you may hear a pop, or crack, at the time you are injured.
An ACL tear is a fairly common sports injury; 20% of all sports related knee injuries involve the ACL. The symptoms of a torn ACL include:
- a lot of pain in your knee,
- instability in your knee, so that you are unable to put much weight on it,
- inflammation (swelling) in your knee, and
- not having the full range of movement in your knee and, in particular, not being able to straighten your leg.
Depending on how badly torn your ACL is, you may need to have reconstructive surgery to repair it.
Tennis elbow (epicondylitis) is a painful condition that affects the outside of the elbow. It is caused by strenuous overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm and around the elbow joint.
The symptoms of tennis elbow include:
- tenderness around the elbow, and
- pain when moving the elbow.
Tennis elbow is caused by repetitive movement of the muscles in the lower arm. It can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication, an elbow splint to support the arm or a cortisone injection. Avoid activities that cause pain and, in a sporting setting,obtain advice to correct faulty technique.
See the Useful links section for more information about tennis elbow.
Golfer's elbow has similar symptoms to tennis elbow. However, due to the difference in arm movement in golf, the inflammation (swelling) occurs on the inside of the elbow, rather than on the outside.
Tendonitis is inflammation (swelling) of a tendon. Symptoms of tendonitis include:
- swelling, redness and pain at the injured area,
- restricted movement of the affected area, and sometimes
- a change in appearance of the affected area, such as a lump or a visible change in position of a limb.
Tendonitis is a fairly common injury that can result from a strain or tear in a tendon. Tendonitis can occur in the tendons around the shoulder, elbow, wrist, finger, thigh, knee or the back of the heel (Achilles tendonitis).
See Useful links for more information about tendonitis.
Blisters are small, fluid-filled swellings that form in the upper layers of skin when the outer layer of skin becomes damaged. Fluid collects under the damaged layer of skin, cushioning the tissue underneath and protecting it from further damage
The clear fluid that forms inside blisters is called serum. Serum is the part of the blood that remains after the red blood cells and clotting agents have been removed.
Blisters are a common minor injury caused by friction on soft skin. Endurance athletes, such as long-distance runners, sometimes develop blisters on their feet. Rowers are at risk of developing blisters on the palms of their hands.
Sore shins (sometimes known as shin splints) cause pain along the inside of the shin bone. The shin bone runs down the front of the lower leg between the knee and the ankle.
Sore shins are caused by inflammation (swelling) and tiny fractures (micro-fractures) in the surface of the bone. The main symptoms of sore shins are aching, throbbing or tenderness along the inside of the shin (which sometimes radiates to the outside).
Sore shins are a common injury in any sport that involves running and are often caused by doing too much training too soon. They can also be caused by running on hard surfaces or by running in shoes that do not have enough foot and ankle support.
Runner's knee (chondromalacia) is one of the most common types of knee injury. It develops when the cartilage underneath the kneecap softens or wears away, causing inflammation (swelling) at the back of the kneecap.There is no consensus among experts as to the cause of the pain but malalignment,overuse and trauma are the most commonly cited.
If you have runner's knee, you will experience soreness and discomfort beneath or to one side of your kneecap. It can also cause a grating sensation in your knee. Runner's knee is caused by the repeated impact of running on hard surfaces.
Head injuries can occur when a person receives a blow to their head during contact sports, such as rugby, boxing, ice hockey and football.
A head injury can sometimes cause concussion (mild, usually reversible brain damage which can last a few seconds or a few days). Someone with concussion requires medical treatment. The signs of concussion are:
- loss of consciousness/drowsiness
- light-headedness/feeling in a fog
- nausea, and /or sickness
- memory loss irritability
Repeated or severe blows to the head, such as those sustained in boxing, can sometimes result in permanent brain damage. Severe knocks to the head cause the brain to bang against the inside of the skull, leading to brain damage.
See Useful links for more information and advice about minor and severe head injuries.