Most Common Sports Injuries
Unfortunately, injuries occur frequently in most sports. It’s important to treat sports injuries correctly in order to prevent further problems. Below is a list of some of the sports injuries I see and how I commonly treat them:
1. Dislocations - Shoulder
A dislocated shoulder usually happens when the arm is being held straight out to the side and then forced backward. If the shoulder doesn’t look right or the normal muscle bulge from the deltoid seems to be missing, this is a sign of a dislocated shoulder. The athlete also usually feels or hears a pop and is in a lot of pain. A dislocated shoulder should be put back in place (reduced) by a health profession (EMT, athletic trainer, nurse, physician, etc.) who has been trained to do this. Because young athletes’ shoulder joints are naturally looser than older athletes’, they are more prone to these injuries. Most of these athletes can avoid repeat dislocations by strengthening their shoulder muscle through physical therapy.
2. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears
ACL tears are serious knee injuries that can occur with a collision such as a blow to the outside of the knee from another player, but may also occur when an athlete lands a jump or tries to turn suddenly without any impact. An athlete who has torn the ACL usually feels or hears a pop in the knee and most often are unable to continue their activity. Large swelling of the knee also develops within hours. The athlete usually has a difficult time even walking normally. An athlete who has experienced a popping or tearing feeling in their knee followed by large swelling should see a physician (orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine physician) soon. The trained physician can often determine that the ACL has been torn simply by physical examination. Most young athletes with ACL tears will need to have surgical reconstruction of their ACL in order to return to their sport.
Most athletes who become dehydrated are simply not drinking enough. Other factors that can lead to dehydration include exercising in the heat when they are not accustomed to it, drinking too much caffeine or having a viral illness. Extreme thirst, headache, nausea, abdominal pain and muscle cramping are common signs of dehydration. If an athlete suffers from dehydration, they should stop exercising and drink plenty of water. Young athletes may be more prone to dehydration because their thirst drive is not as well developed.
Concussion can occur in many sports and usually occurs from a direct blow to the head. However, a concussion can also occur with a rapid turning of the head. Common symptoms and signs include headache, dizziness, blurry vision, appearing confused and slow to answer questions. The main treatment for a concussion is rest, which for the athlete means no athletic activity, plenty of sleep and brain rest, including minimal use of electronics. Research has shown that young athletes may be more susceptible to concussions and may require a longer period of rest for their brains to return to normal function.
5. Hand or wrist (fractures/sprains/tendonitis)
Fractures of the wrist usually occur with a fall on the outstretched hand. If swelling at the wrist and pain with movement of the wrist occur, there is likely a sprain or fracture. An x-ray is typically needed to tell whether the wrist is broken. Most wrist fractures can be treated in a cast. If the broken bone is crooked, straightening of the bone under anesthesia may be required. In severe cases, surgery may be required to properly align the broken bone. Young athletes can fracture the growth plates at the wrist, which may result in the bone not growing normally even after the fracture has healed.
6. Turf toe (hyperextension of the big toe)
Turf toe usually happens when the athlete pushes off forcefully going forward on a hard surface with the big toe being forced upward. This injury can happen after one such push-off or may happen after repeated push-offs. If turf toe occurs, there may be some swelling at the base of the big toe, but usually there is just pain, especially with moving the toe up. In order for the injury to heal, the athlete has to avoid fast running or pushing off until the swelling pain go away. Applying ice can be very helpful. A sports physician or podiatrist may also recommend a stiff shoe or a special shoe insert to keep the toe from bending up. Fortunately, young athletes are usually more flexible and perhaps for this reason don’t often get turf toe.
7. Meniscus tears
The meniscus, which is c-shaped cartilage in the knee that serves as a shock-absorber, is usually torn with a twisting injury of the knee, sometimes after a deep squat. The athlete often feels or hears a pop. Pain when straightening or bending the knee fully, painful popping and swelling are signs of a meniscus tear. This injury often requires surgery. Certain meniscus tears in young people, especially those younger than 15, may simply heal with rest.
8. Shoulder injuries
Many athletes who use their arm repetitively, such as baseball pitchers or swimmers, can develop rotator cuff tendonitis or a problem known as impingement. The rotator cuff muscles are small muscles deep in the shoulder that hold the arm bone (humerus) and the shoulder blade (scapula) together. These muscles can get overworked with too much activity, causing pain. Impingement can occur in young athletes with loose shoulders in which excessive movement of the humerus at the scapula may cause pinching of the rotator cuff. If an athlete is exhibiting pain with normal athletic activities, especially overhead motions and loss of power, they may have a shoulder injury. If the shoulder is injured, rest from activities that cause pain is essential. Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles and the muscles that move the shoulder blade with physical therapy can help in the healing process and can prevent these problems from happening again. Young throwers can also develop an injury to the growth plate at the top of the humerus with excessive throwing, known as Little League Shoulder. All young throwers with a painful shoulder should have x-rays to make sure their growth plate is not being injured.
For more information about Texas Children's Sports Medicine, visit here.
To read more about common sport injuries, check out this article from Cy-Fair Magazine.