No matter your age or fitness level, if you participate in sports or pursue other recreational activities like hiking or climbing, you’ve probably suffered a sports injury at one time or another. The most common sports injuries know no boundaries with regard to sport. Rather, it’s the type of movement your sport requires that predetermines which injuries you’re most likely to suffer during practice or play.
There are two types of sports injuries – acute and chronic – and their causes and aftercare greatly differ.
An acute injury is one that happens suddenly, without warning. Sprains, strains, pulls, tears, and breaks can all be classified as acute injuries. Physical contact in sports like football, basketball, and soccer can lead to serious injuries like fractures, but the most common acute injuries can also be unrelated to physical impact. According to WebMD, four of the seven most common sports injuries are acute injuries:
More often than not, a chronic injury is the result of overuse or repetitive movement of the same joint over time. Of Web MD’s top seven most common sports injuries, three are chronic conditions:
If you suffer an acute injury like an ankle sprain, however, and continue to reinjure or aggravate the affected joint, you may develop a chronic problem with weakness, swelling, and discomfort.
Some common sports injuries like strains and pulls can be prevented by doing some light cardio to “warm up” the muscles before working out. LiveStrong recommends that athletes warm up for at least five to 10 minutes before working out or competing, and longer if you’re sore from a previous workout or if your sport requires “intricate” movement (think gymnastics where amplitude in movement is key).
Stretching can help prevent and ease shin splints, a chronic issue that plagues runners and walkers who get over ambitious with training – going too fast, too long, or training too many times per week without sufficient rest. Easing into a new walking or running regimen is the best way to prevent shin splints altogether; stretching and massage can provide relief once shin splints set in.
Strengthening exercises can help prevent re-injury and chronic problems after suffering a sprain or tear, and a supportive brace can provide additional protection during recovery. Ask your doctor or trainer to recommend a treatment regimen to aid your recovery. They may advise you to train as if you were just starting from scratch – slowly, without pushing yourself too hard, too fast.
While many sports injuries are accidental and can’t be prevented, a combination of smart training that includes a regular warm up, stretching, cool down, and strengthening to keep the muscles surrounding joints strong will help keep you safe during practice, play, and competition.