Common Sports Injuries

Now that summer is upon us and the weather is nicer, more people both young and old participate in outdoor activities. As you know exercise is good for your heart and overall health in general. Aerobic activities such as walking, running, hiking, riding bikes, playing tennis, racket ball, baseball, softball, volleyball, football, swimming, etc. are recommended to stay healthy.

But then there are always those unexpected injuries that present at the most inopportune times. Having sustained a knee injury following a fall while running, I’ve suffered an impaired quality of life and inability to run due to chronic knee pain. I am finally considering laparoscopy to have the torn cartilage removed.

The seven most common sports injuries are:

  • Ankle sprain
  • Groin pull
  • Hamstring strain
  • Shin splints
  • Knee injury: ACL tear
  • Knee injury: Patellofemoral syndrome – Injury resulting from the repetitive movement of your kneecap against your thigh bone
  • Tennis elbow (epicondylitis)

Apply ice immediately after a common sports injury. It’s an anti-inflammatory, without many side effects. Use ice for 20 minutes every one to two hours for the first 48 hours after the injury. Don’t use heat during this time — it encourages swelling and inflammation.

Strains and Sprains are the most common sports injuries. Sprains are injuries to ligaments, the tough bands connecting bones in a joint. Suddenly stretching ligaments past their limits deforms or tears them. Strains are injuries to muscle fibers or tendons, which anchor muscles to bones. Strains are called “pulled muscles” for a reason: Over-stretching or overusing a muscle causes tears in the muscle fibers or tendons.

Ligaments and muscle-tendon units are like springs. The tissue lengthens with stress and returns to its normal length, unless it is pulled too far out of its normal range. Sometimes, common sports injuries are preventable. Some injuries we bring on ourselves because we’re not conditioned for the activity. Regular daily physical work outs can keep the body conditioned and strong to help prevent injury.

Every workout should start with stretching and a gentle warm-up to prevent common sports injuries. Getting warmed up increases blood flow to the muscles, gets you more flexible, and could decrease injuries. Overuse injuries are common and preventable. Gradually start working out lightly before engaging in the activity full force. Stop when you are fatigued. Muscle fatigue increases your risk of all injuries.

Usually, common sports injuries are mild or moderate — there’s some damage, but everything is still in place. You can treat them at home using the PRICE therapy method which will be discussed later. But you should expect that some common sports injuries may take months to heal, even with good treatment. If a sprain or strain is severe, however, the entire muscle, tendon, or ligament is torn away, and surgery may be needed.

There are three stages of healing once you’ve incurred a sports injury. Stage 1: Inflammation (1 – 4 days) Pain, swelling & redness occur during this process where tissues lack blood flow and triggers the body’s immune response system to remove the damaged tissues. Stage 2: The Proliferative Phase (4 – 21 days), Oxygen and nutrient flow to the damaged area is restored allowing for repair of collagen. Scar tissue is formed. Stage 3: Remodeling Phase (21 days -2 years), scar tissue is degraded and type I collagen is laid down in its place restoring a more normal function.

The PRICE method for treating common sports injuries

Using the PRICE method to treat any common sports injury will help get you back in the game sooner.

Swelling is a normal response to these injuries. Excessive swelling, though, can reduce range of motion and interfere with healing. The key is to limit swelling and start healing faster after common sports injuries.

P — protect from further injury
R — restrict activity
I — apply ice
C — apply compression (Compression with an elastic bandage will help reduce swelling)
E — elevate the injured area (Elevating the injured area above the heart will also reduce swelling)

Apply ice immediately after a common sports injury. It’s an anti-inflammatory, without many side effects. Use ice for 20 minutes every one to two hours for the first 48 hours after the injury. Don’t use heat during this time — it encourages swelling and inflammation.

Over-the-counter pain relievers usually relieve the pain of common sports injuries to a tolerable level. If they don’t, it’s probably time to see a doctor.

As an Anti-Aging Specialist, I would be remiss if I failed to mention recommended nutrients and dietary supplements as well as new procedures such as stem cells to aid in healing of sports injuries.

The correct combination of nutrients, antioxidants, and dietary supplements can work in conjunction with the appropriate medical treatment to facilitate the healing process in less time. Omega 3 fatty acids act as anti-inflammatory agents. Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that aid in the healing process. Herbs and spices such as turmeric, curcumin, bromelain, cinnamon, cloves, basil, thyme, oregano, cumin, chili powder, sage, ginger, parsley, and black pepper all act as anti-inflammatory agents. In addition to these, nutrients such as vitamin A, copper, zinc, and vitamin C fight inflammation, injury, infection and facilitate the healing process.

While stem cell therapy is becoming more available in other parts of the world, it is only available in research here in the United States. Stem Cells are the repairmen of the body and have been used to treat non-healing bony fractures, herniated lumbar (lower back) disc, avascular necrosis (stages 1 – 4) of the shoulder, hip, knee, or ankle, osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, or ankle or degenerative joint disease, partial tear of the rotator cuff, other knee injuries such as a meniscus tear or tear of the ACL or MCL.

Stem cells live inside all of us in various tissues, poised to leap into action to repair damage as it occurs. The problem is that as we age or get big injuries, we often can’t muster enough of these cells to the site to fully repair the area.

When to get medical attention for common sports injuries

If you suspect a serious injury or if you have any of these signs, see a doctor:

  • Deformities in the joint or bone — it looks “crooked,” or moves abnormally
  • You cannot bear weight or can’t use the limb without it “giving way”
  • Excessive swelling
  • Changes in skin color beyond mild bruising
  • It’s not getting any better after a few days of PRICE therapy

Pamela Egan, MN, NP, ABAAHP Diplomat, CDE is a board certified Adult & Family Nurse Practitioner, a Fellow of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Health Practitioners, Certified Diabetes Educator, and Clinical Specialist in Gerontology/Mental Health. She can be reached at 985-892-3031 or