Sports injuries are an eventuality that any person who enjoys and plays sports will face at some point in their lives. It doesn’t matter the ability level of the athlete or the chosen sport, injuries are as much a part of the game as winning or losing. However, when injuries occur, it is important to know how to treat your pain so you can get back in the game faster. Sports injuries that are left untreated often worsen over time and could result in chronic pain and limited mobility as you age.
So what risk factors are there for suffering a sports injury?
While there is a risk of being injured at almost any time while playing a sport, there are some risk factors that can elevate the risk of suffering a sports injury:
- Fatigue — As your body tires, the movements you make may become less precise and more sluggish. Your form, swing or stroke may begin to degrade. It is during this time that the body is more prone to injury. A swing with poor form may pull a muscle, or a single misjudged step can result in a sprained foot or ankle. Know when your body is fatigued and call a timeout or ask for a sub to help reduce the chance of suffering a sports injury.
- Failure to properly warm up — Warming up with light walking and stretching is a great way to reduce the risk of suffering a sports injury, while going from zero to maximum effort is a great way to pull a muscle. This happens frequently to baseball players who pull a hamstring going from standing still in the batter’s box to sprinting down to 1st base. Even if your warmup is only five minutes of light stretching, there are still significant benefits to reducing sports injury.
- Inadequate, worn or ill-fitting equipment — For any sport that requires a lot of gear to play, having that gear be in good working order is a must. Ill-fitting shoes can put an athlete at risk of turning an ankle. Equipment that is too heavy, such as a tennis racket, bowling ball or baseball bat can cause extra strain on muscles and tendons. Excessively worn equipment may not provide adequate protection. If your sports equipment has a finite life span, replace it when necessary to lower your risk of sports injury.
How can I treat my sports injury?
Once a sports injury occurs, your first thought should be to turn to the RICE method. The RICE method is very effective at treating many sports injuries, and is only four steps:
- Rest — First and most importantly, if you believe you’re injured, give your body a rest! You risk further damage to the injured body part by continuing to play through the pain. This could also result in permanent muscular or skeletal damage.
- Ice — In addition to rest, icing is a very effective way to treat most sports injuries. Ice reduces swelling and pain. Apply to the affected area for 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off as often as possible in the first 24 hours.
- Compression — Wrapping the affected area in a bandage can help prevent swelling. The bandage should be snug, but not too tight, as that would cut off blood flow to the area and prevent healing.
- Elevation — The goal with elevating the injured body part is to have it resting above your heart. This reduces pain and throbbing and can help alleviate fluid buildup in the area.
When should I seek immediate medical treatment for sports injuries?
While many sports injuries can be treated at home, there are some symptoms that require immediate medical attention including:
- Visibly broken bones or joints
- Inability to bear weight on the injured body part
- Weakness or instability in the joint
- Back pain especially coupled with tingling or numbness
- Pain that does not go away or pain that interferes with sleep
- Loss of consciousness
Rehabilitation treatment options for sports injury
For sports injuries that could benefit from a course of physical therapy treatment, there are many useful therapy techniques that can aid the recovery process, such as:
- Range of motion exercises and stretching
- Muscle and core strengthening exercises
- TENS unit muscle stimulation
It does not matter whether you’re trying to reclaim your college glory days, an aspiring high school athlete or a weekend warrior, sports injuries a part of the game. Bouncing back from injury quickly is the key to maintaining your quality of life. The physical therapists of Back in Motion Physical Therapy are here to help! If you have a new or lingering sports injury that may benefit from physical therapy, contact one of our patient coordinators to set up your initial consultation today. We have center and branch locations in Gorham, South Portland, Portland, Newport, Brewer, Waterville and Auburn, Maine to better serve your needs.