Safety and Wellness

Dealing With Sports Injuries

Prevention First

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The best way to deal with sports injuries is to keep them from happening in the first place. Think of avoiding injury as just another part of playing by the rulebook. Knowing the rules of the game you're playing and using the right equipment can go a long way toward preventing injuries.

What Are Sports Injuries?

Sports injuries can happen to teens for many reasons. Some common reasons teens get injured when training or playing sports include not training or playing properly (or training too much), not wearing the right footwear or safety equipment, and rapid growth during puberty.

There are two kinds of sports injuries:

  1. Acute traumatic injuries, such as fractures, sprains, strains, concussions, and cuts, usually happen after a blow or force — like getting tackled in football or wiping out while skateboarding.
  2. Overuse injuries (also called chronic injuries) include things like stress fractures and tendonitis. They happen over a period of time, usually from repetitive training, such as running, overhand throwing, or serving a ball in tennis. Though they may seem minor, overuse injuries can be just as damaging as acute injuries. If they’re not treated, chronic injuries usually get worse over time.

What Can Be Injured?

You can get a sports injury anywhere on your body. Here are some key points to know about common sports injuries.

Head and Neck Injuries

Serious head and neck injuries happen most often in athletes who participate in contact sports (like football or rugby) or sports with the potential for falling accidents, such as horseback riding and gymnastics.

Head injuries include fractures, concussions, contusions (bruises), and hematomas. A hematoma is bleeding or pooling of blood in or around the brain caused by an impact to the head from a fall, forceful shaking of the head, or a blow to the head.

Neck injuries include strains, sprains, fractures, burners, and whiplash, which is an injury to the neck caused by an abrupt jerking motion of the head. Neck injuries are among the most dangerous sports injuries.

Back Injuries

Back injuries include strains, sprains, fractures, and contusions. Most back injuries are caused by twists or overexertion of back muscles during bending or lifting movements. These injuries are most common in contact sports like football and ice hockey, or in weightlifting, rowing, golf, figure skating, gymnastics, and dancing.

Sex Organ Injuries

When it comes to bruises, cuts, and other injuries to the sex organs, guys usually suffer more trauma than girls because the penis and testicles are outside the body and are more exposed. Injuries to the uterus or ovaries are rare, but breast injuries are common complaints among teen girls. As the breasts develop, they often can be sore, and a blow from a softball or a jab from an elbow, for example, can be painful.

Hand and Wrist Injuries

Hand, finger, and wrist injuries include fractures, dislocations, and sprains. They can result from a fall that forces the hand or fingers backward, a forceful impact to the hands, or a direct blow. Hand injuries often happen in contact sports, such as football, lacrosse, and hockey, or in sports like gymnastics, field hockey, rowing, and basketball where the fingers, hands, and wrists are at risk.

Foot and Ankle Injuries

Foot and ankle injuries include strains, sprains, fractures, and growth plate injuries. Because they support all your weight, feet and ankles can be particularly susceptible to injury during sports that involve a lot of running. Another reason some teens suffer foot injuries is because of differences in their feet, such as flat feet or high arches, that can make finding the right footwear difficult.

Taking Care of Sports Injuries

The most important thing to do when you think you might be injured is to immediately stop doing whatever sport has caused the injury, and see a doctor if you have any concerns.

Here are some other things to consider when you or someone else gets injured while playing a sport:

  • Some injuries should be taken seriously. Call your doctor if your pain is very bad, if it's worse when you're active, if the area is swollen, you're limping, or your range of motion is limited.
  • Know the difference between soreness and chronic pain. Soreness is temporary, but chronic pain continues over a greater length of time. For example, it's not always necessary to see a doctor right away if your shoulder is sore, but you should schedule an appointment if the pain gets worse at times or if it lasts for a week or more.
  • Never try to move someone who may have a neck injury. A mishandled neck fracture could lead to permanent paralysis or even death. If there is a chance that someone's neck might be broken (fractured), it's very important to keep the injured person still with the head held straight while someone calls for emergency medical help. If the person is lying on the ground, do not try to move him or her.

Getting Back in the Game

Your #1 question following a sports injury will probably be "When can I play again?" This depends on your specific injury and what your doctor tells you. You might be able to do other things while injured to stay fit, but check with your doctor first. These activities might include strength training and stretching, stationary cycles, swimming, water therapy, or rowing machines.

A rehabilitation program also can help you stay fit as you recover. Rehabilitation may be part of your treatment program and can include exercise, manual therapy from a physical therapist, and technology such as ultrasound that helps relieve pain, promote healing, and warm up muscles before stretching.

Playing Safe

Once you've recovered, you might need new protective gear to protect the injured body part. This can include modified shoes, tape to provide extra support, or additional padding to protect against a direct blow.

To help prevent reinjury, be sure to warm up before practice and games. Remember to take it slow when you first get back to your sport and gradually build back up to your preinjury level.

Also, know your limits. If the previously injured part (or any body part) begins to hurt, stop immediately and rest. Seek medical attention right away if the pain continues. After all, pain is your body's way of telling you something isn't right.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014
Originally reviewed by: Amy Stanford, MSN, CNP

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

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