Sports injuries - causes, treatment and prevention

Whether you play a team sport, enjoy running alone or working out in the gym, you'll want to do everything you can to avoid a sports injury.

sports injuries

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Of course, many sports increase your risk of suffering a traumatic injury, such as a broken bone or sprained ankle, but other injuries may develop over time. Any activity that regularly puts pressure on your bones, muscles and joints can cause a problem but often injury can be avoided.

Causes of sports injuries
If you have only recently embarked on a fitness kick, heading out for a 10-mile run straight away can put considerable stress on your body. Though your muscles, tendons and ligaments can withstand plenty of strain, they need time to adapt.

Warming up and warming down is also essential when engaging in sporting activity. The body's tissues are better able to cope with exercise when they are warm so exercises that increase the blood flow to the muscles can help to avoid unnecessary injury. At the end of a session, low intensity activities and flexibility exercises will allow the body to return to its normal state.

The right footwear is also a must, particularly for high-impact sports that involve running or jumping. Without the proper fit, support and cushioning injury to the joints can easily occur. Similarly, repeatedly using poor technique during sport or exercise can put excessive strain on the muscles, joints and ligaments so it is advisable to get proper instruction if you are trying a new sport.

Self care
The important thing to remember during any sporting activity is, if you feel pain, stop. No matter whether it is a sudden pain or you've had it for a while, pain is your body telling you to stop that particular movement. Carrying on regardless will only exacerbate the problem and make recovery harder and longer.

A lot of common minor injuries can be treated at home. Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen will ease inflammation as well as pain while an ice pack on the affected area for 10 to 30 minutes will help to keep the swelling down. Do not, however, place ice directly on the skin. Raise the injured area above the level of the heart to allow fluid to drain more effectively. Most importantly, rest it. A compression bandage can also be used to limit swelling.

Further treatment
The NHS advises that after 48 hours of self care, remove the compression bandage, if one is applied, and try to move the injured area. If the symptoms appear worse, it's time to seek expert help.

Depending on the type of injury, your GP may refer you to a specialist for treatment. Physiotherapy is the most common treatment for sports injuries - this involves the physical manipulation of the affected area, and aims to improve the range of motion and return normal function to the injured area.

A physiotherapist will also be able to help and offer advice on strengthening and stretching the affected area following an injury.

This type of treatment is available on the NHS but you may have to wait some time to see one. There are, however, plenty of specialist sports therapists working independently but if you decide to go direct to a therapist, make sure they are a regulated practitioner.

In some cases, it may be wise to seek the advice of a particular specialist, such as a podiatrist for problems with the feet or an osteopath, who focuses on musculo-skeletal problems. You may well have to pay though, as such therapies are rarely offered on the NHS.

Massage, heat treatments and ultrasound therapies are also popular amongst some sports therapists.