What are the most common sports injuries? Top Ten (Part 2)

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In our first blog in our series on the top 10 sports injuries, Allan Munro from the University of Salford, BASRaT and Manchester Sports Rehab provided his feedback on some of the most common sports injuries and how to treat them properly, to maximise performance and reduce recovery time. This time, we thank Andy Hosgood from Summit Physio and elevateyourclinic.com for his contributions to this article, and for medically reviewing the facts presented. As a follow up to the injuries from the previous blog, these are the top 5 most common sports injuries and how to treat them.

5. Sciatica

Sciatica pain is often used to describe the pain that travels from the hip or buttocks down the back of the leg, even to the feet. Sciatica is not usually muscle pain (although it can be), it’s usually related to an irritation to the sciatic nerve. Sciatica pain can also present numbness or tingling in the feet and buttocks when it’s associated with a pinched nerve or a bulging disc.

Andy Hosgood says:

Sciatica pain can be treated with self-care at home, performing key stretches and fortifying exercises that help strengthen the core and pelvis to help reduce compression of the sciatic nerve. Physiotherapy or sports therapy is advised as well as massage therapy for mild cases, and painkillers are suggested for more severe cases (all medicines must be discussed with GP or pharmacist before being taken. Exercising often, including with the aid of resistance bands and a foam roller like the BackBaller and keeping active is a good way of keeping sciatica pain away. You should also take care to sit ergonomically and to reduce time spent sitting still if you have an office job and spend most of your time sitting down. Try to lose weight if you’re over the healthy limits for your height and age as this will help relieve excess stress and pressure on your joints.

You should consult emergency services if you’re feeling sciatica pain on both sides, or the pain is so severe it has stopped you from doing your day to day activities.

4. Hamstring strain

The hamstring is a muscle that runs through the back of your thigh. It is easily injured because most sports include activity to the muscle group one way or another (bending the knees). The hamstring muscle is often associated with being tight and this can lead to strains or tears if you don’t warm up properly, or if you’re pushing yourself too much. There are three levels of strains to the hamstring muscle group; minor strain, partial tear or complete tear. A minor strain can take a few weeks to heal, but a partial or complete tear of the muscle can take months to fully recover.

Andy Hosgood says:

Hamstrings are involved in most leg movements, and most sports. This is why they are such a common injury. However, it is very easy to protect them and ensure you can continue training as usual. The first thing is warming up properly, making sure all muscle groups in your thighs are involved in your warm-up and that you use dynamic stretching to prepare the muscle for the activity it is about to undergo. Slight stretches that gradually prepare your muscles for the activity should be performed before and after exercising.

As with any injury, prevention is better than cure and one of the most important things to do to prevent hamstring injuries is to make sure you have ideal flexibility in your hip joints. Building strength in your hamstrings will allow muscles to cope with the high amount of load that is repeatedly applied throughout the exercise. Exercises like deadlifts and Nordic curls are two popular choices of hamstring exercise.

It is also easier to get hurt if you’ve had a hamstring lesion before. Applying the PEACE and LOVE technique at home will usually heal a hamstring strain within a few weeks, however, if there is any bruising to the back of the knee or the injury is not improving (or getting worse) then a medical diagnosis is needed, and most probably extensive physiotherapy to recover from a serious tear.

3. Tennis or golf elbow

The medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis and for golfers elbow is medial epicondylitis. This is a common injury for people who practice sports that tend to overuse their forearm muscles and tendons around the elbow joint. As the name suggests, tennis players and golfers may experience this type of injury often, but it can occur from any type of overuse of the tendons, for example, while playing the violin.

If you experience pain localised to your elbow and upper forearm, or have difficulty lifting or bending your arm, or problems gripping small objects like pens or a toothbrush, you might have lateral or medial epicondylitis.

Fun fact: When the pain is mainly around the outside area of your elbow, it’s called tennis elbow. When the pain concentrated on the inner part of your elbow, it’s called golfer’s elbow!

Andy Hosgood says:

Tennis elbow is a self-limiting condition, which means, your injury is preventing you from repeating the movements that hurt you in the first place. This type of injury will heal on its own if you rest that arm and stop the strenuous activity of the muscle group (although it can take a long time to heal). Recovery and rehabilitation require patience together with a well-structured loading programme to help strengthen the tendon and prevent reoccurrence.

When an injury is acute or has just occurred, there are ways to self-care at home, using cold compresses to reduce pain and swelling. Physiotherapy or sports therapy is recommended if the injury is chronic, or the activity that hurt you is part of your day today. Some injuries may also require interventions such as shockwave. A tendon that is too damaged might require surgery to be removed, and recovery can take up to a year.

The best way to treat tennis elbow is to prevent it. If the condition is associated with the sport you practice, developing a good strength programme which incorporates, wrist, elbow and shoulder strength work and changing your technique can help you reduce the risk of getting tennis elbow. The NHS estimates that 1 out of 3 people will get tennis elbow at some point in their lives, and 1 out 5 people go to see their GP about tennis elbow type injuries.

2. Shoulder injury

Shoulder injuries cover a lot of different lesions to the shoulder area: strains, misalignments, dislocation and sprains. Most injuries will heal on their own within two weeks, applying ice and resting the joint. You should not stop using the shoulder altogether, it is recommended to do slow movements.

The NHS classifies shoulder pain under different possible causes, these may include:

Pain or stiffness that does not go away, possibly caused by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, frozen shoulder

Andy Hosgood says

Check with your GP if you require a referral to a rheumatologist, or if your condition can be cared for at home.

Pain that gets worse when you use the joint, possibly caused by tendonitis, bursitis, impingement (rotator cuff tendon rubs against a bone or another tendon)

Andy Hosgood says

Check with your GP is your pain does not go away with ice compresses and rest after two weeks. You are likely to need physiotherapy to ease the stiffness, or you might a have frozen shoulder.

Tingling, numb, weak, clicking or locking, possibly caused by shoulder instability, hypermobility of the joint or nerve impingement

Andy Hosgood says

Seek advice of a physio or sports rehabilitator who will be able to advise on suitable treatments such as exercise therapy. Joint pain is moderate and will only improve long term if the muscle supporting that joint gets stronger. Also ensure when doing strength work to slowly progress the load and intensity to suitable levels. Joint pain might get better with hot baths, warm compresses or heat rub cream on the area.

Sudden intense pain, inability to move the arm, change in shape/position, possibly caused by a dislocation or misalignment of the should but it could also be a ruptured or torn tendon. A dislocated shoulder can occur when you fall heavily on your arm, or if you play contact sports such as rugby. The arm sits in a very shallow socket, which gives the shoulder a lot of mobility but also makes it very delicate.

Andy Hosgood says

A dislocated shoulder can take up to 12 weeks or more to heal after it’s been put back into place. DON’T TRY TO DO THIS YOURSELF. Emergency services can treat a dislocated shoulder and put it back into position reducing the damage to the joint. If serious, surgery might be needed to restore the joint inside the socket and recovery will take longer. You will need medical assistance to be properly diagnosed and exercise based therapy after the injury is highly recommended to heal the tissue properly.

1. Patellofemoral syndrome

Knee injuries are the most common sports injury, occurring across disciplines and at all ages and fitness levels. Knee injuries are often caused by muscle imbalance, overuse or when participants try to do too much exercise too soon. The kneecap is supposed to move with the groove at the end of the femur, but swelling can interrupt the normal movement. This can occur when the quadriceps muscle (muscle at the front of the thigh) becomes overactive or tight.

Andy Hosgood says:

Pain in the knees can often be treated at home with rest and compression (PEACE and LOVE) but some injuries might require long term physiotherapy to help strengthen the muscle groups supporting the kneecap and the femoral grooves. In some extreme cases, some may require surgery if there is a broken tendon or a severe tear with damage to the articular cartilage of the joint or associated damage to other soft tissue areas. Seek medical assistance if your pain does not improve in two weeks, or if your knee has changed colour (heavily bruised), is heavily swollen and painful or has changed shape. Seek professional advice from a physio or sports rehabilitator who will guide you on how sports tapes (such as Sterotape Premium or Sterotape-K Kinesiology Tape), foam rolling and stretching can be used for the prevention and treatment of knee injuries.


The long and short of sports injuries

Most sports injuries can be prevented with proper warm-up and cool down and having good strength and flexibility and good technique.

Accidents, however, are inevitable. Having a basic knowledge of first aid (and being prepared with first aid equipment) and home treatments can definitely help reduce the impact of an injury. If pain persists, you should always consult with your GP and if needed, get a referral to a physiotherapist. Alternatively, you can always visit a private physiotherapy clinic or sports rehabilitator to get a diagnosis and rehabilitation, and to prevent further damage to muscle tissue and joints.

Sterosport can provide athletes and physiotherapists with high-quality materials to treat and prevent sports injuries.

Thanks to Allan Munro and Andy Hosgood for their valuable suggestions. You can find them at Manchester Sports Rehab, and elevateyourclinic.com

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