Understanding and preventing sports injuries
text size

Understanding and preventing sports injuries

Explore common sports injuries, their causes, and effective treatments to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle

Understanding and preventing sports injuries

Sports injuries are a common occurrence that can affect weekend warriors, amateurs, and seasoned professional athletes alike. The physical demands of sports activities inherently carry the risk of injury. However, similar injuries can also occur in active individuals such as explorers, factory workers, and others, not being strictly limited to sports.

There are two main types of sports injuries: acute and overuse. Acute injuries result from a sudden impact or forceful movement and include sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures. Classic examples of acute injuries are a sprained ankle from a missed step or a pulled hamstring during a sprint. On the other hand, overuse injuries develop gradually over time due to repetitive stress on a particular body part, with tennis elbow and golfer's elbow being common examples.

The most common sports-related injuries involve the wrist, ankle, shoulder, and knee. Several factors contribute to these injuries, including improper technique and equipment, inadequate warm-up and cool-down routines, overtraining, and pushing beyond physical limits. Understanding these injuries, their causes, and prevention is crucial for staying healthy and active. Once an injury occurs, knowing the best approach for prompt and proper treatment is essential to facilitate recovery and prevent complications.

This article delves into the prevalent shoulder and knee sports injuries, detailing their causes, symptoms, and treatment approaches to promote rapid and successful recovery.

Shoulder Injuries

The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the human body. Its unique anatomical structure, including the shallow socket of the shoulder blade (scapula) and the versatile range of motion provided by the surrounding groups of muscles and tendons, makes it prone to injuries due to decreased stability. The most common types of shoulder injuries are rotator cuff tears and shoulder dislocations.

1. Rotator Cuff Injury: The rotator cuff consists of four shoulder muscles and tendons that join and hold the head of the humerus to its shoulder blade socket. They converge, fuse, and work together like a cuff around the shoulder joint to facilitate arm movements. This injury is common and increases with age.

  • Cause: Repetitive overhead motions, reaching upward, or sudden forceful impact.
  • Symptoms: Constant pain, weakness, restricted movements, and difficulty lifting the affected arm.
  • Treatment:

1. Rest: Avoid activities or postures that aggravate the injury.

2. Ice Therapy: Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours, multiple times daily, to reduce inflammation.

3. Physical Therapy: Exercise and muscle stretching to enhance the stability and flexibility of the shoulders.

If the condition does not improve, it is advisable to consult a doctor. For severe injuries involving torn ligaments, surgical repair may be necessary.

2. Shoulder Dislocation: The shoulder, with its remarkable range of motion, is also prone to dramatic injury—dislocation. Dislocations occur when the two bones of the joint, the humeral head and the socket in the shoulder blade (glenoid cavity), become separated. This is usually accompanied by the tearing of supporting capsule ligaments, tendons, muscles, bone, and neurovascular injuries in severe cases. 95% of dislocations are anterior, but posterior or inferior dislocations are possible depending on the mechanism and direction of the impacting forces.

  • Cause: A forceful impact or sudden, extreme rotation can cause the humeral head to pop out of its shallow joint socket.
  • Signs and Symptoms: Intense pain, swelling, a visibly deformed shoulder, weakness, and an inability to move the arm.
  • Treatment:

1. Seeking medical attention is crucial to reduce the humeral head back into its joint socket and assess any associated injuries and damages.

2. Immobilise the shoulder by putting the arm in a sling to promote healing.

3. Physical Therapy: Exercise to regain strength and maintain range of motion.

Surgery may be necessary for some patients who develop recurrent dislocations or fractures.

Knee Injuries

Knees are prone to injuries, especially among athletes in sports or activities involving high-impact collisions or pivoting to change direction. Common knee injuries include anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears or ruptures and meniscus injuries.

1. ACL Injuries: An ACL injury is a tear or sprain of the anterior cruciate ligament, a strong band of fibrous tissue that plays a critical role in maintaining knee stability by preventing the shinbone (tibia) from sliding forward excessively relative to the thighbone (femur).

  • Cause: Sudden stopping while running, pivoting to change direction, landing awkwardly from a jump, or direct impact to the knee.
  • Treatment:

- R.I.C.E. Method: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation to reduce potential complications.

- Surgery for instability, associated injuries, and failure of conservative management may be necessary. Patients with ACL injuries should discuss their circumstances, including lifestyle, activity level, occupational demand, and goals, with their orthopaedic surgeon to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

2. Meniscus Injuries: The meniscus is a crescent-shaped rubbery cartilage that sits within each knee joint, providing cushioning, lubrication, and stability to the knee.

  • Cause: Meniscus injuries typically result from excessive twisting or rotating of the knee while bearing weight on it. A weakened meniscus due to degenerative changes with ageing is more susceptible to injuries.
  • Symptoms: Pain, swelling, stiffness, catching or locking of the knee, and difficulty straightening the knee fully.
  • Treatment:

- Treatment for meniscus injuries can start with traditional remedies, including rest, ice, and physical therapy, which play a crucial role in regaining strength, flexibility, and stability in the knee joint.

- Arthroscopic surgery may be necessary in some cases to repair or remove the torn meniscus.

Injuries to the shoulders and knees can significantly reduce mobility and function, especially during sporting activities or vigorous exercise. Early awareness of such injuries and timely treatment and rehabilitation play a crucial role in regaining full function and preventing long-term complications. Minimally invasive arthroscopic surgeries are suitable for treating shoulder and knee injuries in individuals who do not respond to conservative treatments or have limitations due to their activity levels, lifestyle, or occupational demands. Following a doctor's treatment guidance and seeking advice are essential for effective recovery from injuries, returning to favourite activities, and living an active lifestyle with strength and confidence.

Author: Sorawut Laoratanavoraphong, M.D, Anuchart Lalitwongchai, M.D, Wirat Kongcharoensombat, M.D., Ph.D.  Orthopedics Sports Medicine Surgeon, Orthopedics Clinic, MedPark Hospital. Tel. +66 2023 3333.

Series Editor: Katalya Bruton, Healthcare Content Editor and Director, Dataconsult Ltd. Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum at Sasin provides seminars and extensive documentation to update business on future trends in Thailand and the Mekong Region. Contact: info@dataconsult.co.th Tel: 662-233-5606/7

Do you like the content of this article?