The Seven Most Common Sports Injuries
What weekend warriors need to know about preventing and treating the seven most common sports injuries
1. Ankle sprain
What it is: Most athletes have experienced a sprained ankle, which
typically occurs when the foot turns inward. This turning stretches or tears
the ligaments on the outside of the ankle, which are relatively weak.
What you can do: With an ankle sprain, it’s important to exercise to
prevent loss of flexibility and strength — and re-injury. You can ask your doctor or physical therapist to help you
know what kinds of exercise you should do.
When to see a doctor: It’s important to note where the sprain has
occurred. “A 'high ankle sprain' is slower to heal and should probably be seen
by a doctor to make sure the bones in the lower leg did not separate,” says R.
Marvin Royster, MD. Royster is assistant team physician for the Atlanta Braves
and an orthopedic surgeon with Peachtree Orthopedic Clinic in Atlanta. One way
to recognize a high ankle sprain is that this sprain usually causes tenderness
above the ankle.
2. Groin pull
What it is: Pushing off in a side-to-side motion causes strain of the
inner thigh muscles, or groin. “Hockey, soccer, football, and baseball are
common sports with groin injuries,” says Royster.
What you can do: Compression, ice, and rest will heal most groin
injuries. Returning to full activity too quickly can aggravate a groin pull or
turn it into a long-term problem.
When to see a doctor: “Any groin pull that has significant swelling
should be seen early by a physician,” Royster says.
3. Hamstring strain
What it is: Three muscles in the back of the thigh form the
hamstring. The hamstring can be over-stretched by movements such as hurdling —
kicking the leg out sharply when running. Falling forward while waterskiing is
another common cause of hamstring strains.
What you can do: “Hamstring injuries are slow to heal because of the
constant stress applied to the injured tissue from walking,” says Royster.
“Complete healing can take six to 12 months.” Re-injuries are common because
it's hard for many guys to stay inactive for that long.
4. Shin splints
What they are: Pains down the front of the lower legs are commonly
called “shin splints.” They are most often brought on by running — especially
when starting a more strenuous training program like long runs on paved
What you can do: Rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medicine are
the mainstays of treatment.
When to see a doctor: The pain of shin splints is rarely an actual
stress fracture — a small break in the shin bone. But you should see your
doctor if the pain persists, even with rest. Stress fractures require prolonged
rest, commonly a month or more to heal.
5. Knee injury: ACL tear
What it is: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) holds the leg bone
to the knee. Sudden “cuts” or stops or getting hit from the side can strain or
tear the ACL. A complete tear can make the dreaded “pop” sound.
When to see a doctor: Always, if you suspect an ACL injury. ACL tears
are potentially the most severe of the common sports injuries. “A completely
torn ACL will usually require surgery in individuals who wish to remain
physically active,” says Royster.