Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear

You’ve probably heard of professional athletes sidelined by an anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tear. This injury, caused by pivoting suddenly and twisting the knee in the process, can make your knee feel shaky or unstable. It also causes swelling and intense pain, and you might hear a popping sound at the time of injury. If you experience these symptoms and suspect that you have torn your ACL, see a doctor immediately, because this can be a potentially serious injury that can cause long-term complications, such as early-onset knee arthritis, and often requires surgery.

The anterior cruciate ligament connects your thigh bone, or femur, to your lower leg bone, which is known as the tibia. Athletes at risk of damaging this ligament are those who play sports which require suddenly changing direction while running, such football, basketball, gymnastics and soccer. Also, for reasons that remain unknown, women are more likely to tear their ACL than men.

If you think you have torn your ACL, your doctor will ask you questions to establish whether your injury is, indeed, an ACL tear, and he or she may take an X-ray to establish the root of your knee pain. Until you see your doctor, stop training; in fact, it is best to completely immobilize the knee using a splint to prevent making the injury worse. If your foot or lower leg becomes blue and cool to the touch after your injury, you should head to the emergency room immediately, as this may be a sign you dislocated your knee, cutting off circulation to the rest of your leg.

If your ACL tear is mild, you may need to use crutches and perform physical therapy to help the ligament heal. In more serious cases, however, surgery is necessary to repair the torn tissue.

Learning proper sports techniques and staying in good physical condition can help prevent an ACL tear, as can mastering ways to minimize stress on the ligament while being active. Performing exercises to strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps also can help prevent an ACL tear by making your leg more stable.

Achilles Tendonitis

According to a well-known Greek myth, the god Achilles was impervious to the arrows of his enemies—except for his heel, which proved to be his downfall. This part of the anatomy can also prove to be a problem for athletes who participate in sports that demand a lot of jumping, starting and stopping, such as tennis, basketball or running up and down hills.

That’s because increasing this kind of activity too quickly, or doing too much, can lead to Achilles tendinitis, also commonly known as Achilles heel.  Your Achilles tendon attaches the muscles that run down the back of your calf to your heel bone, and it can acquire small tears that inflame the tendon.

Achilles tendinitis can cause dull pain, swelling and stiffness in the heel, which may seem to feel better immediately after you start moving, but then worsen again as you continue the activity such as running or jumping.

Basic at-home remedies, such as rest, compressing the heel and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, help Achilles tendinitis heal in the majority of cases.

But if the tendinitis isn’t going away, if your heel makes a crackling noise when you touch it, or if you can’t bend your foot towards the ground, you may have ruptured the tendon, and you should see your doctor immediately. He or she will examine your foot and may use magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to evaluate whether your heel pain could stem from another injury.

If you do have Achilles tendonitis, your doctor may suggest you add extra support to your shoes, since the condition also can result from over-pronation, in which the feet have flat arches. You may also need to use crutches or a supportive boot to take pressure off of the heel. In the most extreme cases, surgery might be needed to snip off the enflamed tissue surrounding the tendon.

To prevent a recurrence of Achilles tendonitis, make sure you increase your activity level gradually, and that you stretch the tendon and your calf muscles regularly to keep them pliable. Using these tips, Achilles’ downfall doesn’t have to be yours.


Your brain is a delicate organ; luckily, the fluid between the brain and the bony skull usually provides plenty of cushioning. If you hit your head very hard, however, your brain can shake inside of your skull, potentially causing serious problems with brain function. Sports that can boost your risk of a concussion include those that potentially involve collisions, such as snowboarding, boxing, hockey, soccer, football, biking and skiing.

Symptoms of a concussion can vary, and if you think you or a friend, family member or teammate may have suffered from a concussion, it’s important to visit a physician as soon as possible, since an untreated concussion can have symptoms that persist for months, and can even cause permanent brain damage. Common symptoms include losing consciousness after the head injury; feeling drowsy; and being unable to recall what happened around the time of the injury. Signs of a concussion that may require emergency treatment include becoming disoriented or confused; having pupils that are unequally dilated; vomiting; muscle weakness; and trouble walking. Because concussions can involve the head and spine, take care when moving someone who may have had a concussion.

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the concussion. For children and young adults, a concussion that causes loss of consciousness generally means the athlete will have to wait at least three months to resume practice. A trained health professional can evaluate when it is safe to return to training. Sufficient rest is crucial before returning to play to prevent potentially serious complications that can arise if a concussion does not heal fully, or if the athlete suffers from another brain injury.

To prevent a concussion, be sure to wear adequate protective gear, such as a helmet, when participating in high-risk sports such as biking or skateboarding.

Abdominal Strain

Weight lifting, or even just lifting a heavy object using improper form, can cause an injury to the abdominal muscles that is known as an abdominal strain. This injury usually affects the front abdominal muscles, but can also cause pain in the muscles on the side of your abdomen, known as the oblique muscles. Football players and weight lifters are at the highest risk of this injury.

The first symptom of an abdominal strain is pain. You likely will find it very painful to do crunches or touch your toes, and you may experience muscle spasms in your abdomen. Severe abdominal strains also can cause swelling and bruising of the affected muscle.

If you think you may have strained your abdomen, the first line of treatment is icing the area, taking anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to decrease swelling, getting plenty of rest, and possibly stretching the area gently if this does not cause pain. If your pain persists, consult a physician to find out how you can better help your injury heal. In some cases, surgery is necessary to repair torn tissue, and steroid injections also are sometimes employed to facilitate healing.

It can take anywhere from weeks to months for an abdominal strain to completely heal; recovery time varies based on the severity of the injury along with your body’s response to treatments. Once you think your abdominal muscles have healed, use caution when returning to your training. First make sure you complete simple tasks such as doing crunches or touching your toes; this will provide a good indication of whether you have completely healed. Jumping back into training before the muscles have completely healed is dangerous; it can lead to another abdominal strain–perhaps one even more serious than the first one.

When you return to training, start slowly. Keep your core muscles–your abdominal and back muscles–strong by doing exercises such as crunches and working on an inflatable exercise ball. The stability that a strong core provides can help prevent future abdominal strains.

Rib Fracture

Contact sports such as football and rugby increase the risk of getting hit with a ball or colliding with another player. When this happens, an injury known as a rib fracture can occur. After the impact, if you have a rib fracture you likely will experience pain and swelling, especially when you breathe in. Your ribs might also feel tender to the touch. If the pain is severe, you should head to the hospital to make sure that the fractured rib hasn’t punctured your lung or any other organs. That’s because if a rib fracture is left untreated, it can lead to internal bleeding, lung collapse, respiratory failure and pneumonia.

If hospital treatment is not necessary, pain medication can help control the pain so you can breathe normally. Fractures that require treatment in a hospital can cause so much pain that narcotics are necessary. Surgical rib fracture repair is rarely necessary but may be employed if the rib fails to heal on its own. You may experience severe pain for weeks, and low-level pain can persist for months.

Once your rib has healed, physical therapy or rehabilitation might be necessary to regain the ability to return to normal activity levels. It’s recommended that athletes wait at least four to six weeks before returning to training to ensure the rib has fully healed.

Glenoid Labrum Tear

Your shoulder’s joint socket is surrounded by a structure called the labrum; this ring of cartilage supports the joint. Falling on your arm or using the joint repetitively in sports that require lots of throwing, such as softball and baseball, can partially or completely tear this tissue. This condition is known as a glenoid labrum tear.

Symptoms of this condition commonly include a decreased range of motion in the arm, a feeling of instability in the shoulder joint, pain when you raise the arm above shoulder level, and the sensation of grinding or popping when you move the arm.

If you think you have torn your glenoid labrum, consult a sports medicine specialist. He or she can diagnose you using X-rays (to rule out any other possible causes of your pain) and by doing a physical examination.

If you do have a glenoid labrum tear, your physician likely will direct you to take anti-inflammatory pain medication, such as ibuprofen, to cut down on swelling and dull the pain. He or she might also recommend physical rehabilitation exercises to help your shoulder heal. If these measures don’t take care of your glenoid labrum tear, surgery may be necessary to remove or repair flaps of torn cartilage around your shoulder joint. Wires or tacks may also be necessary to stabilize a heavily damaged joint. You also will have to immobilize the affected arm in a sling for three or four weeks after the surgery to let it heal.

At this point, you can begin rehabilitation exercises to strengthen the shoulder and bicep muscle, and although it takes three or four months for the shoulder to completely heal, you can begin some easy training specific to your sport six weeks after surgery. Starting slowly and increasing training gradually can help you avoid re-injuring yourself.

Ankle Sprain

One of the most common and best-known injuries is a sprained ankle. This occurs when the connective tissue in the ankle, known as ligaments, stretch beyond their limits; the fibers of the ligaments can even tear if the sprain is severe enough. It can occur when you step on an uneven surface or twist your ankle; the most common ankle sprain occurs when the foot twists so the sole faces inwards, overstretching the ligaments on the outside of the foot. Sports in which you suddenly change direction increase your risk of an ankle  sprain; these include tennis and basketball.

Symptoms of a sprain include a popping sound when you sprain it, quickly followed by swelling and pain. Swelling is a major factor in how quickly a sprain heals, so it’s important to minimize it as much as possible by applying ice to the ankle, keeping it elevated, and avoiding placing weight on it. Also avoid drinking alcohol, which can increase swelling, and do not apply hot packs. If you think you’ve sprained your ankle, take these measures and consult a physician as soon as possible to assess the severity.

The sports medicine specialist might take X-rays of your ankle to see whether you’ve broken any bones; other diagnostic tests might also be necessary to assess the damage to the ligament.

To treat a sprained ankle, you may need to use crutches to keep weight off of it. An ankle brace might also be necessary to provide additional support. Surgery is rarely necessary but may be recommended if more conservative methods don’t work. Once the ankle has healed, rehabilitation exercises likely will be recommended to regain strength and flexibility in the ankle and calf muscle.

To prevent a sprained ankle, warm up sufficiently before training; wear shoes that fit your feet well; and remain alert to your surroundings to avoid stepping on an uneven surface.

Trochanteric Bursitis

For runners who pound the pavement day after day, shin splints and blisters aren’t the only unwanted that racking up the miles may bring. Trochanteric bursitis, also known as hip bursitis, is another common injury among distance runners. It causes sharp pain at the point on the side of your hip bone; this sensation may become duller over time and may be worse after lying down or sitting. Symptoms are similar to those of a hip pointer.

Hip bursitis occurs when a tendon in the leg rubs against a fluid-filled sac, or bursa, that sits on the outside of the hip bone. This tendon connects the outside of the hip to the outer knee, and it passes over the bursa each time with every step. That’s why hip bursitis occurs most often in athletes the athletes who run a lot, performing the same motions with their hips and legs over and over again. These include runners, bicyclists and soccer players.

A doctor can tell you if you have hip bursitis, which can also be caused by bone spurs, hip surgery, or falling on your hip. Some people also have one leg that is slightly longer than the other, and this difference can affect your gait and cause hip bursitis.

Taking a temporary break from running may be necessary to make bursitis clear up, and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen also can be helpful. Rarely, a doctor may need to drain the fluid-filled sac on the hip if a significant amount of liquid has gathered in it.

Once your hip bursitis has gone away, you can prevent it from coming back by making sure you resume exercise gradually, and by lengthening and strengthening the muscles of your legs and on the outside of your hip.  These measures can help you get back on the running trail in no time.

Inflammation or Rupture of the Triceps Tendon

The triceps tendon sits on the back of your upper arm, connecting your triceps muscle to your elbow. Lifting weights that are too heavy means the connective tissue in your arm has to try to make up for this extra weight, putting excess strain on these tendons. This can rupture the triceps tendon or cause inflammation due to overuse, and is an injury most often found in weight lifters and football players.

Key signs of a triceps tendon rupture include pain and swelling at the back of and around the elbow. It may also be difficult to move your arm or flex or extend your elbow.

If you think that you have an inflamed or ruptured triceps tendon, consult a sports medicine specialist. He or she may take X-rays to rule out other causes of your pain, and likely will prescribe anti-inflammatory pain medication, such as ibuprofen, to decrease pain and swelling. You also should rest the affected arm.

The specialist might also prescribe rehabilitation exercises to boost strength, range of motion and mobility in the affected arm. If the rupture or tear is severe enough, surgery may be necessary to repair it. Remember to increase training slowly so as not to tax tendons and muscles that likely will have atrophied during the time you were resting the arm. To prevent this injury in the future, don’t increase the amount of weight you lift too quickly.

Elbow Fracture

Your elbow joint consists of three bones: the humerus, the radius and the ulna. These bones are held together by connective tissue, and these ligaments (in combination with the muscles of your arm) help hold the bones in place. If you fall and catch yourself with your hand, such as in sports that put you at risk of falling like ice skating and gymnastics, or twist your arm, you could fracture one of these three bones. This condition is known as an elbow fracture.

Symptoms of an elbow fracture commonly include sudden, intense pain; swelling; tenderness to the touch; stiffness around the elbow; and numbness in the fingers.

An X-ray is necessary to diagnose an elbow fracture and rule out other possible injuries such as a dislocation, so you should consult a sports medicine specialist as soon as possible. He or she might also examine your arm and hand to make sure that the injury did not hamper blood flow to the rest of the arm.

To treat an elbow fracture, all that may be necessary is keeping the arm in a sling for a few weeks to let it heal (under the close supervision of a sports medicine specialist). This method might also require wearing a cast or a splint.

If the fracture is serious enough to warrant surgery, however, it’s usually because the pieces of bone have moved out of alignment, and therefore your arm wouldn’t heal properly on its own, or because pieces of bone are sticking out of the arm from the fracture. To do this, screws and wires may be necessary to put the bone back together. Allowing the bones to heal improperly can result in long-term problems, such as an inability to fully straighten the arm.

After your elbow fracture has healed, get back into everyday activities slowly. Your doctor may recommend physical rehabilitation or exercises to help you regain strength and range of motion in the arm. Recovery is often a slow process; it can take six months or more to fully recover the arm.