Doctors specializing in sports medicine diagnoses, treat and rehabilitate injuries caused by athletic activity. Sports medicine practitioners also help people improve their athletic performance and prevent future injuries. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to seek help from a sports medicine practitioner. Doctors specializing in sports medicine treat patients who enjoy working out at the gym and those who play sports for fun, too. Patients typically work with a variety of sports medicine practitioners (including a physician, orthopedic surgeon, physical therapist and an athletic trainer) to regain use of their injured limb or joint, while minimizing their disability and time away from sports, work and/or school.
Although exercise is a healthy habit (it wards off weight gain and improves cardiovascular health) it can sometimes cause injuries. While there are many reasons a patient may get injured on and off the field, these are the most common causes:
- Poor training practices
- Not stretching or warming up properly before physical activity
- Increasing activity too quickly
- Using wrong or ill-fitting workout gear
- Unexpected, accidental injuries, most often from contact sports participation
COMMON SPORTS INJURIES:
The severity of injuries can range from minor to very serious. Some of the most common sports injuries include:
There are two kinds of sports injuries: acute and chronic. Acute injuries, such as sprains, strains and fractures, typically occur suddenly during physical activity. For athletes, acute injuries are typically brought on by a blow or force — like getting tackled or hit during a rugby game. Signs of an acute injury include:
- Sudden, severe pain
- Loss of ability to place weight on the injured joint
- Tender joints and bones
- Loss of ability to move the injured joint
- Extreme leg or arm weakness
- A joint or bone that is visibly out of place
Chronic, or overuse injuries typically develop slowly over time, usually from repetitive training like running, swimming, throwing, or doing the same set of exercises too often. Signs of a chronic injury include:
- Pain during exercise
- Dull aches during periods of rest
WHEN TO CALL A DOCTOR:
It’s never a smart idea to “work through” the pain of a sports injury. If you are experiencing discomfort, stop exercising immediately. Being active while you’re in pain will only cause additional harm. Minor sports injuries, like bruises, and muscle cramps, can often be treated at home, while more serious injuries, like sprains and fractures, should be assessed by a doctor right away. Call a sports medicine practitioner when:
- You are in severe pain
- A new or recurring injury causes swelling or numbness
- You are unable to put weight on the injured joint or bone
- The injured areas feels unstable
There are many treatment options for sports injuries ranging from conservative to surgical. Depending on the root-cause of your pain and the extent of your injury, your physician may suggest one, or a combination of treatments.
Many sports-related injuries can be treated without surgery. Treatment suggestions will vary depending on the injury and the age and overall physical condition of the patient. Common recommendations include:
- The RICE Method: Rest, Ice (not to exceed 20 minutes at a time), Compression (to reduce swelling) and Elevation (keeping the injured area elevated to reduce swelling and pain).
- Over the Counter Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen reduce pain and swelling.
- Immobilization: Through the use of slings, splints, casts, and leg immobilizers, this treatment method keeps the injured area from moving and helps prevent further distress to the injured area.
- Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Rehabilitation: This treatment method utilizes special exercises and equipment to help patients regain their physical function after an injury. Physical therapists design and supervise individualized programs to help their patients reduce pain, improve muscle strength and get back to their regular exercise regimen.
- Electrical Stimulation (ESTIM): This modality uses an electrical current to strengthen muscles and decrease pain and swelling. The current also causes muscles contractions that increase blood flow and promote healing.
- Ultrasound: This non-invasive therapy uses sound waves to break up scar tissue, increase blood flow, decrease swelling and promote healing.
In some cases, surgery is needed to heal a sports injury. Common surgeries include:
GETTING BACK IN THE GAME:
After suffering an injury, many patients want to know when they can become physically active again. The answer to this question varies and greatly depends on the injury and the patient’s rate of recovery. Always check with your doctor or physical therapist before exercising after any type of injury.