Every year, nearly 2 million people seek emergency care for sports injuries, including professional athletes, serious amateurs and “regular” people who enjoy sports or other physical activity as a casual pastime. While some injuries can be relatively minor, others can involve significant tissue injury and require extensive therapy for recovery.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (MedlinePlus), the most common sports injuries in the U.S. include :
- Sprains and strains
- Knee injuries
- Swollen muscles
- Achilles tendon injuries
- Pain along the shin bone
- Rotator cuff injuries
The majority of sports injuries involve muscles, cartilage or tendons that become torn, strained or sprained.
Many injuries occur because of improper use of equipment, poor or improper technique, contact with another player or structure, lack of preparation before participating (such as neglecting to warm up or stretch) or simply poor body mechanics that cause unnatural or significant stress or strain on a joint, bone or other musculoskeletal component.
In recent years, sports injuries have become more prevalent as active baby boomers begin to experience more injuries related to the aging process. In fact, a survey from national Ambulatory Medical Care found sports injuries to be the second most common reason for doctor’s office visits in the U.S. (the common cold ranked number one).  As sports injuries have become more prevalent, researchers have been seeking novel ways of treating them to correct injuries and preserve tissue health long term.
Symptoms of Sports Injuries
Because sports injuries can affect so many tissues and cause so many different types of injuries, the symptoms associated with them can be diverse. Symptoms occur most often at or near the site of the injury, and the most common symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness
- Diminished range of motion or inability to move a limb or digit
- Pain when pressure is applied to the site of injury (including standing on an injured leg)
- A body part that appears out of alignment, as in dislocation
- “Popping” noise at the time of injury
- Grating or grinding sensation in a joint
- Grating or “creaking” sensation in a tendon (crepitus)
Injuries that involve the head and neck, though rare, can also cause seizures, loss of consciousness, confusion, mood changes, paralysis, vomiting, vision loss and other symptoms related to nerve damage or brain swelling.
Minor sports injuries may respond to the traditional approach abbreviated as RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation – as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and inflammation. :
More serious sports injuries can require rehabilitation including physical and occupational therapy to restore strength, range of motion and mobility, and hopefully, to enable the patient to resume regular physical activity including the sport that initially caused the injury. Some injuries require surgery to repair broken bones, torn tendons or ligaments or dislocations.