Sports Injuries and How to Treat Them

Sports injuries happen all the time. Some result from accidents but others are due to poor training practices, using improper equipment or through lack of conditioning.

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Sports injuries are commonplace.

The types of injuries

Two main types of injuries in sport are chronic and acute injuries.

Chronic injuries, known as overuse injuries, are the result of prolonged repetitive motion that is common in endurance sports such as swimming, running and cycling.

Some common types include stress fractures, shin splints, runners’ knee and plantar fasciitis and are linked to improper technique or trying to progress too fast.

Runners Knee is a common chronic sports injury.

On the other hand, acute injuries occur suddenly and are associated with a trauma like breaking a bone, tearing a muscle or bruising. The injuries could be a result of falling or obtained through an accident, for example, when a cyclist collides with an oncoming motorist on the road.

Chronic injuries outnumber acute injuries but because they are less disabling, they generally attract less medical attention.

Main Differences

Symptoms of a chronic injury are typically pain when performing the sports activity, and a dull ache at rest and swelling.

In a chronic injury, symptoms occur immediately.

Symptoms of an acute injury are a sudden and severe pain, swelling, inability to place weight on the joint, tenderness in the limb, inability to move the joint through its full range of motion, limb weakness and dislocation or breaking of a bone.

These symptoms occur within two weeks of an acute injury.

RICE treatment is common for injuries.

Injury Management

For a minor acute injury, most athletes use RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to treat it. As the injured part will be weak and vulnerable, resting will help it to heal.

When the swelling has gone down, you can then gently exercise the injured area, beginning with light stretching and being mindful not to push it to the point where you feel pain.

For a chronic injury, you can use rest and ice to treat it, but these usually are resolved with medication and therapy. In such injuries, preventing of recurrence is the most important aspect; most overuse injuries happen because of muscle fatigue or a lack of strength or endurance, indirectly causing muscle weakness.

To reduce the chances of sustaining a chronic injury, you can always use proper sports gear, warm up and cool down before exercise, and do not over-exert yourself in training.

When to see the doctor?

If your injury is not healing sufficiently with self treatment, it may be good to consult a specialist.

When is it a good time to consult a doctor?

For acute injuries, if you are feeling severe swelling, visible deformities such as large lumps or limbs bent in awkward angles, popping sounds when you move the injured area, inability to support weight on the injured area, joint instability, breathing difficulties, dizziness or fever, consult a specialist.

And for chronic injuries, if it is not showing any signs of improvement within one to two weeks, see a doctor. And if there is discolouration, bruising or severe pain after the first few weeks, seek medical attention immediately.

This article has been brought to you by Dr Tan Chin Hong, an orthopaedic specialist practising at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

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