If you belong to an organized sports team, or if you exercise regularly, you may at some point suffer an injury. Often, these injuries occur in someone who is just taking up sports or those who becomes overzealous about the exercise regimen.
The more commonly injured areas of the body are the ankles, knees, shoulders, elbows and spine. Here are some conditions that I see regularly in my office:
Strains and Sprains
Although bones can sometimes be fractured with acute sports injuries, the most commonly injured structures are the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Tendons attach muscles to bones, and ligaments attach one bone to another.
An acute twisting or overextension of a joint can lead to tears of muscles and tendons, called “strains,” and tears of ligaments result in “sprains.” These tears range from mild to severe. In mild injuries, just a few fibers are torn or stretched. Severe injuries, where there is a tear through the full thickness of the structure, are most often considered unstable injuries and frequently require surgical intervention. The intervertebral disc, a ligament between the vertebrae of the spine that works as a shock absorber, can also be torn, resulting in a disc bulge and/or herniation.
Ankle sprains most often involve tears of one or more of the ligaments along the outside of the ankle. Knee ligaments, including the larger external supportive ligaments and the smaller internal stabilizing ligaments, can also be torn. The cartilage on the back of the patella (knee-cap) can also become eroded from overuse, leading to a condition termed chondromalacia patella.
In those who are training too much, overuse of a particular joint or joints in the body can result in pain and dysfunction. These injuries are called “overuse syndromes.” A common overuse injury is tendinosis, also called tendinitis. In this condition, the tendon becomes inflamed from repetitive use. In the shoulder, the rotator cuff (a complex of muscles that stabilizes and moves the shoulder) becomes inflamed, resulting in rotator cuff tendinitis. Tennis elbow is another form of tendinitis that occurs along the outside of the elbow, most commonly in tennis players. In golfer’s elbow, the tendons on the inside of the elbow are affected.
For overuse types of injuries, I recommend the following:
Generally no more than 48 hours of rest and/or immobilization is needed, depending on the severity of the injury. In most cases, the sooner the person becomes active after an injury, the more rapid is the recovery. In fact, long-term immobilization can sometimes be harmful to recovery.
Ice or heat
Ice or heat can be helpful with pain reduction and tissue healing.
Compression of the area may reduce the amount of swelling from the injury.
Elevation of the injured arm or leg above the level of the heart is thought to be helpful in reducing swelling.
Recent research has demonstrated that some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may actually slow the healing process by restricting the body’s natural healing mechanisms, so they should be used sparingly.
Recent research has shown us that, in some cases, joint manipulation can be helpful with pain reduction and more rapid recovery.
If you or someone in your family has been injured while exercising or playing sports, give our office a call to schedule a consultation. We may be able to help.
— Dr. Waldron