Typical Injuries and How to Treat Them
No matter what precautions are taken and exercise and training regimes are followed by athletes, injuries are bound to happen from time to time.
Below are some of the more common injuries that happen to athletes and how to treat them.
Ruptured Achilles TendonThe Achilles tendon attaches the muscles in your calf to your heel. Rupturing your Achilles usually occurs through either wear and tear or due to a heavy fall which results in excruciating pain above the heel which causes bruising and swelling of the leg and foot. You will be put in a cast or given a walking boot for between a month and around 10 weeks and out of action for around 3 to 4 months.
FracturesBone fractures are one of the more serious sporting injuries as they also damage the tissues around the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Usually occurring in the arm or leg in athletes, they are usually caused by a direct kick but can sometimes be inflicted indirectly, e.g. if you have a ball struck at you hard or you collide with somebody or something. Sometimes, it is easy to spot a fracture as the limb will look out of shape. Treatment involves covering and elevating the limb and keeping it immobile. Once at the hospital, you’ll probably be put in a cast to keep it from moving until the bone heals. Depending on the severity of the fracture, most uncomplicated ones tend to take between 5 weeks and 3 months to heal.
Ligament DamageBasic ligament damage usually occurs through twisting an ankle or knee when you’ve been stretching to reach the ball for example. It results in immediate pain and bad swelling. Treatment is to apply ice and the athlete must rest and follow a recommended recovery program. A return to action can take anything from a month to 3 months. However, if you rupture the anterior cruciate ligament in your knee, this can be very damaging and can even threaten your return to competitive sport. Most athletes are usually out of competitive action for anything up to a year and even longer following an anterior cruciate ligament operation. And, whilst in a lot of cases, you’ll be able to return to some kind of rehabilitation program a few months earlier; it can take a further several months to build up sufficient strength in your knee before you’re able to compete again, especially in high impact contact sports such as football and rugby.
Back InjuriesInjuries to your back are equally as common in non-contact sports like tennis and golf as well as contact sports. They can include muscle strains and tears which are not as serious and which take around a month to 2 months to heal usually but more serious injuries to do with your spinal cord or vertebrae may require surgery and your return (if you’re able to return at all) is dependent on how serious the injury is.
Hamstring InjuriesHamstring injuries occur by over-extending your muscle at the back of your leg and can often happen if you haven’t warmed up properly. It’s often easy to spot a hamstring injury as an athlete will suddenly pull up and stop running for no apparent reason clutching the back of their thigh. Applying ice and elevating the leg is the way to treat a hamstring followed by rest and then following a recovery program. Depending on their severity, they usually take between a fortnight and a month to heal. Quite often, an athlete often changes their training and preparation following a hamstring as they can often re-occur which usually means an athlete will adopt a different training strategy to prevent this from happening.
Shin SplintsShin splints are often a sign of an athlete playing too much sport or playing on hard surfaces or switching surfaces such as from clay to hard courts in tennis for example. It causes pain and inflammation of the muscles at the front of your lower leg (tibia). Rest is the main course of treatment but some athletes may have tape put around their shins or a leg brace fitted. They might also consider more cushioned footwear as they recuperate and may even adopt a different running style. Only when the pain in your shins has subsided is a return to action possible and that can take anything from a month to 2 months.
Sprained AnklesA sprain can occur when you go over on your ankle and hear a tear or a snap. You’ll be in great pain and there is often a lot of swelling and you’ll find it difficult, if not impossible, to walk. The immediate application of ice and compression is crucial when treating a sprain but it’s important that you do not remove your shoe or boot until the swelling has been reduced. A sprain usually takes between a week and a month to recover from depending on its severity.
CrampCramp is when a muscle goes into spasm and it’s often associated with fatigue, e.g. you’ll often see athletes going down with cramp if they are playing extra time. It is also a symptom of dehydration if you haven’t taken enough fluids on board and/or if the climate is extremely hot. Gently massaging and stretching the affected muscle is the first point of treatment and, in severe cases, ice can be applied. Calves are the areas most prone to suffering from cramp and holding the muscle with one hand and pulling back your toes with the other can often be sufficient to relax the spasm to enable you to continue playing. If that’s not possible, you’ll usually recover after a day’s rest and recuperation.
And Finally…the Dreaded Metatarsal Injury!Up until a few years ago, not many people outside the world of sport had even heard of the metatarsal injury but it seems to have become more infamous following a few high profile footballers who have fallen victim to it.
Metatarsals are the 5 long bones in your foot and they are usually fractured either by somebody stamping on your foot or through over-use. Your foot will be very tender and will swell. Rest is the only cure and you’ll usually be asked to wear a walking boot for extra protection in the early stages after the injury occurring.
Recovery can take anywhere between a month and 2 months depending on the severity and which particular metatarsal(s) has/have been damaged.
All of the above are the kinds of injuries which occur most frequently amongst athletes and whilst injuries are sometimes inevitable, you should seek advice from a physio about steps you can take to stay as injury free as possible. And, if you do suffer from one of the injuries above, remember that treatment and recovery times stated are general guidelines and to seek medical advice as to your treatment and recovery program as your specific case might be different.