Sports injuries can range from scrapes and bruises to serious brain and spinal cord injuries, but most fall somewhere between the two extremes. Here are some of the more common types of injuries.
Sprains and Strains
A sprain is an injury to a ligament, one of the bands of tough, fibrous tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint and prevents excessive movement of the joint. An ankle sprain is the most common athletic injury.
A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon. A muscle is a tissue composed of bundles of specialized cells. A tendon is a tough, fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone. Muscles in any part of the body can be injured.
Repetitive Motion (Overuse) Injuries
Fifty percent of sports injuries in kids are overuse injuries that are completely preventable. These happen when there has been a repetitive strain on the tissues. In children, this rarely occurs in free-play activity, but it’s very common in organized sports.
Kids aren’t just little adults! Their skeletons are immature because their growth plates are still open. This means they are more likely to have injuries from overuse, especially in the knees.
Painful injuries such as stress fractures (a hairline fracture of the bone that has been subjected to repeated stress) and tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) can occur from overuse of muscles and tendons. Some of these injuries don’t always show up on x-rays, but they do cause pain and discomfort.
The best immediate treatment is easy to remember:
R – Rest
I – Ice
Tips for Preventing Sports Injuries
1. Warm up and cool down with slow, gentle activities, such as walking. Save stretching for your cool-down period. Never bounce when you’re stretching.
2. Build up gradually until you reach the length and intensity of exercise you’re aiming for. Don’t try to get there overnight.
3. Be sure you have the right equipment, including a helmet, and use it correctly. Wear supportive, well-cushioned shoes for running, aerobic dancing, and walking.
4. Change your activities so that you use different muscle groups. For example, alternate days of walking with biking, aerobic dancing, or swimming. This is called cross-training.
5. If your only chance to exercise regularly is in the early morning or evening when it’s dark outside, make sure to play it safe. Runners and others who use the streets should have fluorescent patches on their clothing and equipment.
Adapted from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) website: www.niams.nih.gov.
The information included in this article is for educational purposes only, and is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Get professional treatment if any injury is severe. A severe injury means having an obvious fracture or dislocation of a joint, prolonged swelling, or prolonged or severe pain.