Each year in the U.S., about 8.6 million people over the age of 5 injure themselves from playing sports. About 3.5 million kids and teens get hurt in organized sports. You can hurt yourself suddenly, such as from falls and bumps. Or injuries can happen over time when you overuse certain parts of your body.
What Are the Most Common Sports Injuries?
Your chances of getting hurt depend on the sport, as does the likely location of your injury. Strains and sprains are the most common across all sports, accounting for about 40% of all types. A strong core helps to prevent them.
Strains and sprains
Strains affect muscles and tendons in different places. Sprains, on the other hand, affect ligaments when movement causes them to stretch too much. Wrestling, soccer, hockey, and football put you at the highest risk for these two types of injuries. But you can also get them while running or swimming. In these cases, you may get them in your lower back or legs. In rowing, golf, and gymnastics, strains and sprains can affect your hand or forearm.
A common type of knee sprain is one in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). If you play baseball, basketball, or football, you can get thumb sprains. Short-lasting ankle strains and sprains are the most common injuries in the lower body. They can happen in football, basketball, and soccer.
Kids are more likely to break their bones than get a strain or sprain. This is because the ends of their bones tend to be weaker than their tendons and muscles.
- Treating strains and sprains. If you see bruises or feel pain, treat the injury as muscle damage. Take time to rest and ice the area for 15 to 20 minutes a few times a day for the first 2 to 3 days. After the first 3 days, start to stretch and put soft pressure on it to massage the area and work out the pain.
Then, switch to putting heat on the area. It can help if you wrap the area with a cloth bandage. Raise the area as well to lower swelling. Limit your activity for a couple of weeks to allow the muscles to fully heal.
If you feel pain in your shin area, this happens from inflammation and microtrauma of the shinbone (or tibia). The shin is what covers the front of your leg under your knee. This injury is common in runners and basketball players.
- Treating shinsplints. Resting helps ease the pain. Medicines such as common pain relievers, stretching, and wearing supportive shoes can also help.
This is inflammation in your tendons, which connect your bones to your muscles. If you feel pain from overuse of the same movements, you may have it. Tendinitis can happen most commonly in golf, tennis, baseball, or skiing.
- Treating tendinitis. If you have pain or swelling in your tendons, see your doctor. Your doctor will likely ask you to rest, apply ice, or they’ll prescribe pain relievers. If it doesn’t get better, they may want you to try physical therapy, surgery, or steroid shots. Steroids are natural and man-made substances that do different things in your body. They help to decrease inflammation.
Broken bones and fractures
There are a few kinds of fractures, also known as broken bones, including:
- Stress fractures: Sometimes called hairline fractures, these happen most commonly in running and basketball.
- Longitudinal fractures: These happen along the length of the bone.
- Spiral fractures: These don’t break the bone in a single, straight line.
Fractures happen when too much force on a bone cracks it.
Most fractures happen in the arm, hand, or finger. Inline and ice skating, skateboarding, football, baseball, and gymnastics are just a few of the sports where you’re most likely to get fractures. But you can break your bones from playing any sport.
- Treating broken bones and fractures. If you have pain, swelling, bruising, or can’t move a part of your body normally, you may have a broken bone. Sometimes, a bump appears where a bone broke. Your doctor can test to see if the bone is broken. Some fractures may need a surgeon or other doctor to realign the bone. If you get a splint or cast after realignment, it needs to stay on for several weeks.
This happens when force moves the end of a bone out of position where it meets with another bone in a joint. This is less common than a fracture. Dislocations tend to happen in such sports as basketball and gymnastics. Research shows that the most commonly dislocated joint is the shoulder.
- Treating dislocations. When you notice that a joint hurts, swells, or looks out of place, see your doctor. They’ll move the bone back into place. It’s a good idea not to try to do it yourself. Your doctor will likely give you medication for pain, or they may put you in a splint or brace to keep the joint in the proper position.
This can happen when you take a blow to the head. It can also occur from any force to the body that causes a rapid change in direction. More concussions are being reported among high school athletes because of greater public awareness. Ice hockey, rugby, and football are the most dangerous sports for concussions among young athletes.
- Treating concussions. After you take any force to the head, get medical attention right away. You may experience at least one of the following:
- A headache
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Balance issues
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feel very sluggish
Your doctor can tell you if you have a concussion. They can be serious, and it is important to rest after a concussion. Your doctor can also tell you how bad your condition is and suggest how much time you need to take off from your sport. You may also need to take everyday things slowly.
How Can You Prevent Sports Injuries?
You may not always be able to prevent them. But it helps to know the risk factors. Falling is the leading cause of sports injuries. Other common reasons include overexertion and being struck by or against something.
Here are some ways to avoid getting hurt:
- Stay flexible by stretching.
- Start slowly.
- Use equipment to protect yourself from harm, such as helmets, padding, and supportive shoes.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Rest as much as possible during exercise.
- Make sure you fully recover first before starting again.