Sports Injuries. So undesirable, yet so unavoidable! Whether you are a national athlete or playing at the school level, sports injuries are certainly a common thing. While sports is all about momentum and consistency, injuries are akin to stumbling blocks. A minor niggle is enough to keep you out of that all-important final or, at the very least, affect your performance. In fact, history books are replete with incidences where sports injuries have ruined athletes’ entire career. Some of those unfortunate souls include Bobby Orr, Shane Bond, Varun Aaron, Ledley King, and Ashish Nehra.
Bobby Orr, in particular, presents a compelling case. The ice hockey legend had won almost everything there was to win in the NHL just before the age of 28. However, before he could enter his prime, the Canadian legend suffered a freak knee injury from which he could never return. Although he is still among the greatest ever to grace the game (he was inducted in the Hall of Fame at 31, the youngest to do so), Orr’s could have been a grander story had he played more. Had he known more about his infamous knee injury beforehand and had taken proper precautions.
Sports injuries have the power to make or break your career. And if you are a sportsperson, knowing about them is all too vital. It helps in avoiding and recovering from them faster.
What are Sports Injuries?
Sports Injuries can be broadly described as an injury which occurs while playing sports or doing any athletic activity or exercise. Their occurrence may be due to overtraining, lack of conditioning or improper form and technique. Failing to warm up and cool down further increases the risk of sports injuries.
Sports injuries can broadly be classified as Acute and Chronic
Acute injuries are the ones that occur suddenly. These may be during playing or practising, such as sprained ankle caused due to an awkward landing.
Chronic injuries, on the other hand, occur due to overuse of muscle groups or joints. For example, Patellar tendonitis (pain over the knee) is due to overuse of knee muscles. Moreover, Faulty posture, poor techniques and structural abnormalities also contribute to the development of these injuries.
As per the statistics by NCHS (National Centre for Health Statistics US), almost 8.6 million sports and recreation-related injuries occur in a year. The common causes of sports injuries are overuse, direct impact, or the application of force that is greater than the body part can structurally withstand.
With increasing participation in sports, the competitive nature of the game over a period of time has led to an increase in the rate of injuries. In conjunction, the advancement in Physiotherapy and Sports Science research is also on the rise that helps bring down the incidence. However, there is not an appreciable awareness regarding these newer options. Through this article, we as Physios want to draw your attention to understand the dimensions of sports injury and the role of physiotherapy in the field of sports.
Types Of Sports Injuries
To simplify these sports injuries, they are broadly classified as:
- Sprains (sudden stretch or twisting force subjected to a ligament)
- Strains (fatigue, overuse or inappropriate loading of a muscle leads to muscle strain)
- Spasm (painful and tender increase in the tone of a muscle due to sudden demand placed on the muscle)
- Ligament tears (partial or complete break in the continuity of the ligament)
- Muscle ruptures (partial or complete tear in the integrity of a muscle)
- Dislocations (mal-alignment in the integrity of the joint)
- Fractures (discontinuity in the bony architecture)
- Meniscal injuries (disruption in the structure of crescent-shaped cartilage in the knee joint due to
- twisting or rotating movements at the knee)
- Concussion (a mild traumatic head injury)
Most of these injuries have an additional component of muscular imbalances which could also be the cause of the injury.
For example, if you are a bowler with a weak set of upper back muscles, you are more likely to land up with a shoulder injury. This is because the most common cause of injury is compensation done by shoulder muscles for the weaker upper back muscles. This overloads the comparatively smaller shoulder muscles causing fatigue and weakness in them. Hence, the strength of the muscles stabilising the shoulder joint is as essential as having a complete range through which your shoulder moves.
It is imperative to focus on the upper back muscles as it not only reduces the risk of injuries but also helps upgrade your bowling performance by enhancing stability to your shoulders and deducting the time spent out of practice due to an injury.
Sports Injury Treatment
The treatment for any sports injury will depend on multiple factors. These include the severity of the injury, age of the player and also the body part affected. However, the first line of management in almost all sports injury commonly involves the famous acronym RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation). Its modern-day version is POLICE (Protection, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
The swelling occurs in a majority of the cases. However, it resolves within the first few hours with appropriate Cryotherapy (using ice-bags/ gel ice-packs) and compression sessions. Early mobilizations have very likely to improve the rate of recovery. Progressively graduated exercises help reduce the risk of re-injury. On the contrary, sometimes immobilization becomes necessary to prevent further damage of the joint and tissue. It is important to consult an expert after an injury so as to make the right decision about recovery.
In sports physiotherapy, taping techniques, gentle manual mobilisations and equipment with modern facilities like electrical stimulation (electrical currents having therapeutic benefits), vacuum electrodes aid in achieving oedema reduction and accelerate the healing process. In these machines, the vacuum created inside the electrodes helps in creating space in the tissues. This, in turn, helps to promote draining of the swelling. An add-on effect is produced by electrical muscle stimulation that brings about active muscle contraction. This helps in promoting the removal of excess tissue fluid from the site of injury. As swelling reduction and early mobilization is necessary for an athlete to fulfil his early return to sport demands.
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Following this initial phase of injury management, the plan of care in the next phase involves working on the injured muscle groups, identification of weaknesses and generating stability in the supporting structures. Joint motion and muscle strength are simultaneously worked upon to yield the combined end result of normal and pain-free movements. It is important to perform exercises under supervision so as to have a healthy recovery. The understanding of the progression of exercises plays a crucial role in physical rehabilitation, particularly in sports injuries. Usually, the exercises are graduated from non-weight bearing to partial weight-bearing finally progressing up to full weight-bearing exercises in case of lower limb injuries.
In the later phase, physiotherapy exercises involve a lot of plyometric and sports specific training. Currently, the idea of sport-specific training is to be able to duplicate a specific skill or action of one’s sport or activity in a controlled atmosphere. These specific drills help to encourage players to have a stronger comeback as a part of the return to sports training. The exercises involved in this phase are exclusively athlete-centric and goal-oriented. It’s important to attain optimal & symmetrical muscle strength and joint mobility either side to minimise the re-injury incidence. Agility, balance and coordination drills while incorporating sport-specific activities help enhance performance in training sessions on the field. Combined with training sessions under the coach, we can thus help make a comeback stronger than the setback!
Are Sports Injuries avoidable? Of course!
We commonly come across people saying ‘injury is part and parcel of playing any sport’. Or tags like ‘no pain no gain’. But the concept is changing over a period of time. A fairly new concept of PREHAB – Preventive Rehabilitation is emerging and getting a focus in sports. The injury rate in sports cannot be nullified, but the risk and number of injuries sustained can be surely reduced.
As we saw earlier, Sports injuries are of two types:
- Traumatic injuries 2. Overuse Injuries
Traumatic injuries, as the name suggests, occur in that fraction of a second when the athlete executes on the field. However, overuse injuries are a resultant of the accumulated impact of imbalances existing in the musculoskeletal system. These imbalances could be in the form of strengths, lengths, and proprioception.
PREHAB basically involves working on these imbalances before they land up in overuse injuries. We, at REHAB STATION, can help you identify these imbalances and work on the time to help reduce the overuse injuries incidence. Like it is often said but rarely applied, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”, we help you work on these flaws to keep the chances of an injury to minimal and enhance your longevity as an athlete or passionate fitness enthusiast!