Sports injuries result from acute trauma or repetitive stress associated with athletic activities. Sports injuries
can affect bones or soft tissue such as ligaments, muscles, and tendons.
Children are more likely to suffer sports injuries than adults since a child's vulnerability is heightened by immature reflexes, an inability to recognize and evaluate risks, and underdeveloped coordination.
In 2002, about 20.3 million Americans suffered a sports injury. The highest rate is among children age 5 to 14 years (59.3 per 1000 people). As many as 20 percent of children who play sports get hurt, and about 25 percent of their injuries are classified as serious. Boys age 12 through 17 are the highest risk group. More than 775,000 boys and girls under age 14 are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for sports-related injuries. Between one half and two thirds of childhood sports injuries occur during practice or in the course of unorganized athletic activity.
Types of sports injuries
About 95 percent of sports injuries are minor soft tissue traumas. The most common sports injury is a bruise (contusion). It is caused when blood collects at the site of an injury and discolors the skin.
Sprains account for one third of all sports injuries. A sprain is a partial or complete tear of a ligament, a strong band of tissue that connects bones to one another and stabilizes joints.
A strain is a partial or complete tear of a muscle (tissue composed of cells that enable the body to move) or a tendon (strong connective tissue that links muscles to bones).
Inflammation of a tendon (tendinitis) and inflammation of one of the fluid-filled sacs that allow tendons to move easily over bones (bursitis) usually result from minor stresses that repeatedly aggravate the same part of the body. These conditions often occur at the same time.
SKELETAL AND BRAIN INJURIESFractures account for 5 to 6 percent of all sports injuries. The bones of the arms and legs are most apt to be broken. Sports activities rarely involve fractures of the spine or skull. The bones of the legs and feet are most susceptible to stress fractures, which occur when muscle strains or contractions make bones bend. Stress fractures are especially common in ballet dancers, long-distance runners, and in people whose bones are thin.
Shin splints are characterized by soreness and slight swelling of the front, inside, and back of the lower leg and by sharp pain that develops while exercising and gradually intensifies. Shin splints are caused by overuse or by stress fractures that result from the repeated foot pounding associated with activities such as aerobics, long-distance running, basketball, and volleyball.
A compartment syndrome is a potentially debilitating condition in which the muscles of the lower leg grow too large to be contained within membranes that enclose them. This condition is characterized by numbness and tingling. Untreated compartment syndrome can result in long-term loss of function.
Brain injury is the primary cause of fatal sports-related injuries. A concussion can result from even minor blows to the head. A concussion can cause loss of consciousness and may affect balance, comprehension, coordination, hearing, memory, and vision.
TREATMENT Treatment for minor soft tissue injuries generally consists of compressing the injured area with an elastic bandage, elevation, ice, and rest.
Anti-inflammatory medications, taken by mouth or injected into the swelling, may be used to treat bursitis. Anti-inflammatory medications and exercises to correct muscle imbalances are often used to treat tendinitis. If the athlete keeps stressing inflamed tendons, they may rupture, and casting or surgery is sometimes necessary to correct this condition. Orthopedic surgery may be required to repair serious sprains and strains.
Controlling inflammation as well as restoring normal use and mobility are the goals of treatment for overuse injuries. Athletes who have been injured are usually advised to limit their activities until their injuries are healed. The physician may suggest special exercises or behavior modifications for athletes who have had several injuries. Athletes who have been severely injured may be advised to stop playing completely.