Updated: Feb 18
Athletes can sustain a variety of injuries both during training and while competing. The types of injuries an athlete may sustain will depend significantly on their chosen sport. Runners, for example, are more likely to experience foot and knee-related injuries, while swimmers may potentially injure their shoulders.
It probably won't surprise you to hear that sports injuries are quite common, especially in adolescents under the age of 15. AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) reports that, in 2011-2012, 36,000 people 15 years old or older were hospitalised because of an injury sustained while playing a sport. Over three-quarters of these patients were men. While not all sporting injuries will land you in hospital, they do often need more treatment than merely icing and strapping them.
We believe that approximately 50% of sports injuries are preventable. You can reduce the risk of injury or long-term damage by knowing how to protect yourself and why, as well as what to do if you are injured.
If you have a sporting injury book an appointment with one of our sports physiotherapists and get the right treatment and rehabilitation plan to get you back in the game. Many of our physiotherapists are keen sporting enthusiasts who focus on treating sports-related injuries.
What causes common sports injuries?
Common causes of sporting injuries include direct impact, muscle or joint overuse, or when a part of the body experiences an application of force greater than it can structurally withstand.
Sports injuries have two classifications:
Acute sports injuries are sudden injuries, for example, landing awkwardly thereby spraining your ankle.
Chronic sports injuries are caused by repeatedly overusing a group of muscles or joints. Poor technique or having structural abnormalities can also cause chronic sporting injuries.
It's essential to get your doctor or physio to look at any injuries you get while playing sports. Injuries can often be underestimated, for example, you think you’ve sprained your ankle when you might have a fracture. Downplaying an injury so you can keep playing can lead to long-term damage.
Because teenagers are still growing, their injuries can be quite different from an adult athlete’s injuries. An adolescent’s bones will grow before the muscles and tendons do, pulling them tight making them more susceptible to injuring their muscles, tendons and growth plates.
Teenagers are also quite likely to downplay their injuries as they don’t want to stop playing. Any changes in their technique, complaints of nightly pain, or reduced interest in going to practice can be an indication that the injury is worse than believed. It’s always good to have injuries assessed and treated to reduce the possibility of long-term damage.
What are the most common types of sports injuries?
Some of the more common injuries sustained in sport are:
Cuts and scrapes (abrasions)
Sprains or joint injuries, including pain and swelling
Concussion (in some cases accompanied by a loss of consciousness) - a mild injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head
Dehydration (losing too much fluid)
Bleeding or broken nose caused by a blow to the nose
Dental damage (a blow to the jaw can cause teeth to crack, break or fall out)
Stress fractures in which repeated impact can lead to a crack in the bone, for example, constant jumping on a hard surface.
How are sports injuries treated?
The treatment of your sports-related injury will depend greatly on the severity of the injury. Treatment can include a combination of:
Pain medication or anti-inflammatories
Serious injuries may need surgery and rehabilitation.
If the pain persists and the injury is taking longer than expected to recover, then you need to have the injury reviewed and properly diagnosed by your doctor or physiotherapist. Imaging tests such as x-rays may be used to identify damage to the soft-tissue or bones.
You shouldn’t return to your sport until your doctor or physio has given you the all-clear. Returning to your sport before you have adequately healed can lead to further injury and delayed recovery. Your physiotherapist can help you put together an exercise plan to help you maintain your fitness without compromising your recovery.
In some instances, an injury might have long-term implications. It might mean you cannot return to the same level of play, no matter how much rehabilitation or treatment you receive. In these instances, continuing to play can lead to continued damage or disability.
What to do if you are injured while playing sports
When you are first injured, you may experience pain, swelling and redness over the injured area. It’s important to apply first aid as soon as possible. We recommend using the RICE principle:
Rest - Avoid putting strain or pressure on the injured area
Ice - Apply ice as quickly as possible (although if you need immediate medical attention, prioritise that over-applying ice). Cold treatment will work best in the first one to three days after the injury. Don’t apply the ice directly to the skin, use a cloth or towel to protect the skin. Ice should be left on for less than 15 minutes with an hour to two hours between re-icing. After a day or two, if your injury permits, you can start applying heat.
Compression - Wrapping the injured area in a compression bandage can help support the area and reduce further swelling or bleeding.
Elevation - Elevating the area that's hurt can help reduce further swelling.
Remember, getting an injury diagnosed and appropriately treated increases your chances of a full recovery, and that the right treatment plan is recommended.
What happens if an injury is left untreated?
Injuries that are worse than you thought and are left untreated can often take longer to heal and may leave you with lingering pain. Leaving them untreated may also increase the likelihood they recur or leave you with joint or muscle stiffness. The sooner you get treatment, the better. Symptoms that linger for longer than three months are much harder to treat.
When is it an emergency?
Call an ambulance if there:
are broken bones
is an injury to the eyes, abdomen, head, face, neck or spine.
is a prolonged loss of consciousness.
What is Sports Physiotherapy?
The type of physiotherapy that specifically treats sporting-related issues and injuries is called sports physiotherapy. Sports physiotherapists have a particular interest in sports injury management and are skilled in the assessment and diagnosis of sporting-related injuries and issues.
A sports physiotherapist will help you:
accurately diagnose the issue or problem, including referring you to other medical practitioners where needed
rehabilitate the injured area
develop strength and flexibility
by recommending exercises to help you regain your fitness levels without compromising the injured area
preventative education and resources to help avoid re-occurrence.
Physiotherapy can help:
reduce joint swelling and stiffness
minimise the treatment term
improve scar tissue
speed up the rate of recovery in many cases
detect and correct bio-mechanical faults that could increase your risk of injury.
At Phytness, our Physiotherapists treat both amateurs and professionals from a variety of sports. We’ll put together an appropriate rehabilitation program, based on your goals and sport. If you have any questions about your sports injury, issues or any other condition, get in touch.
How can I prevent getting a sports injury?
The adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ is most certainly true in the case of sports injuries. To reduce or prevent the chances of being injured in sport:
Make sure you are fit enough and have the skills needed to take part in your chosen sport. Playing a sport you are ill-prepared for or suddenly increasing the duration, intensity, or frequency of an activity can result in an increased risk of injury. Remember to increase the length and intensity of your training gradually.
Maintaining your fitness throughout the year and taking part in different types of sports (cross-training) instead of focusing on one all year can help manage overuse of specific joints and muscles.
Wear the appropriate gear including shoes and safety guards (pads, mouth guards and helmets).
Make sure you are getting an appropriate warm-up before engaging in your sport.
Learn to use dynamic warm-up techniques.
Learn the right techniques and skills for the position you’re playing. Unsurprisingly, following the rules of the game and showing good sportsmanship can reduce the risk of injury.
If you have any vulnerable joints, you should tape or strap them before exerting pressure on them.
Avoid exercising between 11 am to 3 pm (the hottest time of the day).
Avoid dehydration by drinking lots of fluids before, during and after your sport.
Avoid overexerting yourself.
Use slow, gentle stretching after your sport to cool down your body.
Allow adequate recovery time between training and sporting sessions.
Our final tip: make sure you're getting enough sleep and nutrition. Lack of sleep and not eating well can impair your decision-making ability and leave the body in a slightly weakened state, increasing the risk of getting injured.
Phytness Healthcare - Your sporting partner
Our physiotherapists love sport. They use their knowledge and experience to help patients prepare appropriately for their sporting activities as well as assisting them to get better if they are injured. With Phytness HealthCare you are choosing a team that cares about you and your goals.
We offer the convenience of:
longer opening hours
8 am-7 pm Monday - Thursday
8 am - 6 pm on Friday
and Saturday mornings
free, easy parking at our multiple clinics in Wollongong
HICAPS on-site health fund claims.
Book an appointment
Book an appointment online, or call us on (02) 4285 1725 to make an appointment if you have any concerns around sports injuries.
The information in this article is general in nature and is intended for general educational purposes only. We recommend you book an appointment with your health practitioner to ensure you receive the correct diagnosis and treatment for your circumstances.