What are the most common sports injuries? Top Ten (Part 1)
What is a sports injury?
A sports injury is a lesion caused by or incurred while practising a sport or training for it. Some sports injuries are usually more common within a certain sport or practice style. For example, contact sports may have a higher incidence of concussions compared to golf or tennis, which would have a higher incidence of elbow injuries. The most common sports injuries according to the NHS are sprains and strains.
Sprain: torn, stretched or twisted ligament that comes from putting too much pressure on a joint.
Strain: tear to muscle fibres that comes from stretching a muscle too far or forcing it to contract too fast.
For those playing sports or participating in physical activity of any kind, any injury should be assessed by a qualified professional who can advise on appropriate treatment and rehabilitation to maximise recovery and reduce the likelihood of the injury happening again.
Most sprains and strains can be prevented with proper warm-up practices, wearing adequate footwear and keeping good form while exercising, but accidents can always happen. Sprains and strains can be healed at home with plenty of rest within 6 to 8 weeks using the PEACE (Protect, Elevate, Avoid, Compress, Educate) and LOVE (Load, Optimism, Vascularisation, Exercise) protocol. Cohesive bandages and elasticated tubular bandages are ideal for providing compression and support to sports injuries.
Dealing with serious injuries
More serious injuries may require medical attention and physiotherapeutic rehabilitation. Seek immediate medical attention if you’ve suffered a serious injury, broken bone, dislocation or a severe head injury. You can call 111 to consult with a General Nurse, and they will be able to refer you to 999 if required.
If you have severe pain
Seek out medical advice if you experience severe pain, discolouration, lumps or bumps around the injured joint, you can’t put any weight on the injured limb or joint, if you are unable to move the injured limb or joint or if there has been no improvement even after a few days of self-care and rest.
What if symptoms persist
Some injuries might require special treatment with a physiotherapist if symptoms persist. Your GP can refer you to a physiotherapist, sports rehabilitator or sports therapist, or you can seek advice from private practices of qualified sports injury professionals. Sports Injury Fix is a great resource to help you find the professional you need to fix you – or you can find a practitioner from BASRaT (British Association of Sport Rehabilitators)
Thank you to our professional advisors
Thanks to Allan Munro from the University of Salford, BASRaT and Manchester Sports Rehab, and Andy Hosgood from Summit Physio and elevateyourclinic.com for reviewing this article and sharing their professional advice with our readers.
Here is our top 10 countdown of sports injuries – enjoy!
10: Hip Flexor Strain
The hip flexors are muscles located on the top front area of your thigh and are responsible for lifting your knees up and moving your legs towards the trunk (the movement you would do to climb stairs, for example). Injuries to hip flexors can happen more often if the person did not warm up properly, or tried to change directions too quickly while running. For non-athletes, hip flexors are more prone to injuries if the person spends a lot of time sitting down because the flexors are not used to straining and can easily get hurt.
Allan Munro says:
The first step to treat a hip flexor injury is to apply ice in 20 min intervals the first three days after the injury, and then applying a Steroplast hot and cold pack, and performing slow and controlled little movements with the feet and legs to relax the muscle group involved in the strain. As this muscle group is not easily accessible, therapy is highly recommended to make sure the strain heals up properly before returning to any sports activities.
9: ACL tear or strain (knee ligament)
The ACL ligament is the one that runs through the back of the knee and it can get hurt from slowing down and trying to change direction or pivot too fast. Ligaments inside the knee can also be involved in an ACL injury, making it very painful. A complete tear of the ACL requires surgery, physiotherapy and many months of care before an athlete can go back to practising sports as usual.
Allan Munro says:
Athletes suffering from an ACL injury, will complain of swollen knees, pain or discomfort and instability when walking or turning corners. It is common in sports that require runners to change direction quickly, like football, basketball (and other indoor sports) and downhill skiing, for example. A minor injury can be healed with treatment and rehabilitation, allowing the ligament to heal as the knee becomes more stable. More severe injuries will require extensive rehabilitation and may need surgery.
8: Concussion or brain lesion
Most minor head injuries can be treated at home, such as slight bumps to the head. A concussion, however, is no small thing. A concussion is essentially an injury to the brain resulting from trauma to the head. The brain can recover on its own after a few days or weeks, depending on the severity of trauma sustained, but some lesions may need immediate medical attention, and repercussions can last months after the injury.
Seek medical advice if you’ve been knocked out, been vomiting since the injury, have problems with your memory, have a persistent headache, or identify changes in behaviour and interests.
Allan Munro says:
Recognition of the signs of concussion is hugely important, and if there is any doubt, the athlete must be removed from play. Athletes who have suffered a concussion should never resume normal training practices before being cleared by a qualified medical specialist.
For further information about concussions and how to spot the signs of a concussion, the RFU HEADCASE programme is an invaluable resource.
7: Pulled groin or groin strain
Any injury to the inner thigh muscle groups or can be regarded as a pulled groin. The muscles in your thighs are the ones responsible for moving your legs across your body. This muscle group can be injured due to sudden changes in direction or poor flexibility. Football and hockey players are prone to this type of injury but proper training of the area, thorough warm-up before training and practicing flexibility exercises regularly can reduce the risk of injury.
Allan Munro says:
Recovery time will vary depending on the severity of the injury and the fitness level of the person. Some injuries will require several weeks of rest and treatment before an athlete can get back to their regular training activities.
6: Shin splints
Shin splints are a pain in the lower leg bone (tibia) and are more common in athletes who perform a lot of running, or on people who have increased the distance, frequency or strain on their regular running or walking habits. Being overweight or having flat feet could also contribute to this type of injury, but only a doctor can make a proper diagnosis. This blog from Park Lane Performance and Rehabilitation explains more about shin splints and treatment.
Allan Munro says:
It’s not always clear why people suffer from this condition, but runners, walkers and people that do activities with repetitive weight bearing movements seem to be susceptible to the symptoms. Wearing old or inappropriate trainers, that lack the proper arch support, can also contribute to shin splints pain. Increasing range of motion of the foot and ankle and addressing issues of running biomechanics will help.
Check out part two of the top 10 sports injuries blog where we explore the five most common injuries in sport.
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