Sports Injuries encompass a wide range and degree of conditions and aren’t limited to professional athletes. In fact, most sports injuries occur during seemingly innocuous activities. We might be engaged in something we do all the time, like chase our toddler around the house playing tickle-monster, or playing a pre-BBQ, backyard badminton or croquet game with friends. Oftentimes, these injuries seem to come out of nowhere – one funny move or unlucky twist and all of the sudden, that tell-tale sharp, numbing pain overtakes us.
First rule of any injury is to STOP what you’re doing.
Type A’s may fool themselves into thinking that playing and practicing through an injury is a good thing. We’re tough, right, no big deal? So keep on.
Wrong. There is no benefit to playing it tough; you will make your injury worse and extend your healing process.
After an injury, most doctors recommend RICE: Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.
RICE relieves pain, reduces swelling and speeds up the healing process. If you injure yourself and don’t have access to medical care, RICE is your safest bet until you can get the area of injury properly examined. Other possible treatment plans include over the counter pain relievers, stabilizing the area to prevent movement and further aggravating the point of injury and rehabilitation with a chiropractor and physical therapist. For acute injuries, surgery may be necessary.
Most Common Sports Injuries
Most sports injuries involve the lower half of the body and occur while running, jumping, or quickly cutting and shifting directions. The majority of these types of injuries result in a sprain or a strain, such as a sprained ankle or a strained hamstring.
The difference between a sprain and a strain is that a sprain injures ligaments, bands of tissue that connect two bones together, while a strain involves an injury to the fibers that attach to the bone, such as muscles and tendons.
Patellofemoral Syndrome encompasses a wide range of knee (patellar) thigh (femoral) injuries, such as anterior cruciate ligament injuries (ACL), collateral ligament injuries and torn meniscus. A slip or fall onto the knees may case swelling of the knee joint and muscle imbalance. The kneecap, or patella, may shift in its normal tracking range and if not addressed, may create even further injury.
Visualize the kneecap as a sliding mechanism, much like a sliding patio screen door. Once installed, the screen door moves smoothly back and forth in the doorframe groove. If your 80lbs dog were to slam into the door and take out of the groove, it would no longer open or shut as easily. In fact, it may not move at all past a few degrees.
The same thing happens to our knee. Your kneecap tracks in a groove at the end of the femur (thigh bone.) If a fall causes swelling or muscle imbalance, the kneecap no longer tracks the way it should, which can creates more swelling, greater imbalance, and the likelihood of repeated or chronic injury.
After employing the RICE technique described above, please seek professional advice. You may be given gentle isometric and/or static strengthening exercises to strengthen all of the muscles which keep the knee in alignment: inner thigh (medial), outer thigh (lateral), quadriceps (front of thigh) and hamstring (back of thigh.) If you have chronic knee pain, you may be experiencing a condition in which your muscles have “turned off” due to injury. Getting them to “fire” or engage properly, may be the answer. Getting muscles to fire and stabilize can be accomplished with something as simple as the temporary use of Kinesio tape. More severe injuries may require a knee brace to help stabilize the area.
Shoulder injuries are almost as common as knee injuries. The shoulder is designed to move in a wide range of motion but most of us are weak in the shoulder area. We lack flexibility and strength, which does not bode well for a joint that must be stable within a wide range of motion. Shoulder injuries include dislocation, misalignment and muscle or ligament strain.
Shoulder injuries usually occur with repetitive misalignment, such as when the humerus (upper arm bone) is often overextended in sports like swimming, softball and baseball. Dislocation, strain and misalignment can also happen from a sudden fall. Let’s say you’re skiing, snowboarding or skateboarding. You’re not using your shoulder, but all of the sudden, you fall and catch yourself with a straight arm. That fall could very well cause an AC joint separation, which affects the tissues that connect the AC joint (acromioclavicular joint) to the injured shoulder area.
Like our patellofemoral injuries, the standard treatment of care for a shoulder injury is RICE, which will reduce swelling. Any pain that persists for more than two weeks should be evaluated by a qualified professional.
Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow
Despite its name, you don’t have to play tennis or golf to experience this injury. Tennis elbow indicates a strained tendon, a painful inflammatory condition which affects the forearm tendons when overloaded by repetitive use. Anyone who overuses their arms and wrists is prone to this injury: tree-trimmers, painters, carpenters, butchers, cooks, assembly line workers and musicians are all prone to experience a strained tendon.
Your family physician may attest to having seen this classic type of stress injury happen to people from all walks of life: the commonality they all share is that engaging in repetitive movements, overusing one side of the body and moving their limbs in misalignment. Alignment is precisely how a chiropractor can help! Our expertise is to realign your body so that you move consciously and without injury.
Acute Injuries and Overuse Injuries
Acute injuries are usually the result of a single, traumatic event. Common examples include wrist fractures, ankle sprains, shoulder dislocations, and hamstring muscle strain. Acute injuries tend to occur as a result of a sudden movement or fall and can not be ignored.
Concussions are an example of an acute injury caused by a blow or fall to the head, commonplace in sports like Rugby, Football and Boxing. Concussions also occur if we faint. Let’s say you have low blood sugar or get up suddenly and experience low blood pressure, you may fall and give yourself a concussion. Always see a doctor after a concussion, even if it doesn’t seem serious at the time. Common concussion symptoms include: headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea or vomiting, slurred speech, sensitivity to light, and a delayed response to questions.
Overuse injuries are subtle: they occur over time, making them challenging to diagnose and treat. Overuse injuries are the result of repetitive micro-trauma to the tendons, bones, and joints. Common examples include tennis elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, pitching elbow, runner’s knee, jumper’s knee, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, hip flexor strain, groin pulls, sciatica and hamstring strain. Overuse injuries occur as a result of regular physical activities. That yoga class you take three times a week? If you’re pushing down into chaturanga and back up to upwards facing dog and not doing it in proper alignment, 10 times per class, three times per week…guess what? Two, three, five years down the line you will absolutely injure yourself. A tell-tale sign of pre-injury is an aching, soreness, clicking and grinding in the joints. This is very different from sore muscles. When joints hurt and complain, it’s our bodies’ way of telling us that we need to correct our alignment or face the consequences.
Alignment is crucial in everything we do. If your bones are aligned, you are less likely to move in a way that taxes the body and causes an imbalance. When we are misaligned, our movements may cause subtle, micro-trauma to the tendons, bones and joints. The trauma adds up and one day, the body simply has enough and gives out, and “all of the sudden,” we feel pain from actions and motions that used to be “normal.” Both acute and overuse injuries may be prevented with regular chiropractic care.