Frozen Shoulder

When the joint between the shoulder blade, or scapula, and humerus, or upper bone of the arm, becomes stiffened or less supple, it causes a condition known as frozen shoulder. When this occurs in athletes, it’s often due to trauma to the shoulder joint and is also called post-traumatic stiff shoulder. Sports that increase the risk of frozen shoulder include those that may cause you to fall, such as ice skating. The condition can also develop after a period of not using the shoulder joint at all. It’s most common among older athletes.

Symptoms commonly include aching, pain and loss of mobility in the affected shoulder. The shoulder often will heal itself without surgical intervention. However, if you think you may have frozen shoulder, consult a sports medicine specialist. He or she will examine your shoulder to establish the cause of your stiffness, and determine the extent of the damage to the joint.

You may be directed to perform rehabilitation and strengthening muscles for your shoulder, avoiding overstretching the joint. If these exercises prove ineffective, oral or injected steroids might be considered to help the shoulder heal. And if that doesn’t heal the shoulder, surgery may be necessary to release the stiffened shoulder capsule.

The prognosis for frozen shoulder is generally positive; most people’s shoulders return to normal without surgery, although it may take one to three years to heal.

Rib Stress Fracture

The serratus anterior is a muscle in your back that helps you perform pull-ups and push-ups. But when this muscle contracts repeatedly, it can batter the rib bones. One possible result is an overuse injury: stress fracture of the rib.

Sports that involve a lot of overhead motion, such as tennis or baseball, increase the risk of a stress fracture of the first rib when a muscle in the neck pulls on a small recession in the ribs known as the subclavian sulcus. Rowing also involves a lot of contraction of certain back muscles, and most commonly causes a stress fracture of the fourth or fifth rib. 

Symptoms of a rib stress fracture include soreness at the front of your neck, along with pain and tenderness around the shoulder blade.

If you think you have a stress fracture of the rib, stop training to avoid further damage. Then consult a sports medicine specialist. He or she will rule out other possible causes of your pain, and may use X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scan, a bone scan, and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate the extent of any possible damage to your rib.

If you do have a stress fracture of the rib, your sports medicine specialist likely will recommend you avoid using the arm, immobilizing it in a sling. It generally takes about eight weeks for a stress fracture of the rib to heal.

Use caution when you are given the go-ahead to get back to training. You may need to perform rehabilitation strengthening or stretching exercises to make sure that your muscles and bones are up to the task; certain strengthening exercises, which your sports medicine specialist or coach can recommend, can also decrease the risk of re-injury. In addition, increase your training gradually, and in sports such as rowing, don’t overload the resistance when training on an ergo-meter.

Hip Labral Tear

The cartilage that lines the rim of your hip joint’s socket is known as the labrum, and it helps hold your hip joint together by acting like a suction cup. When this cushioning tissue tears, the condition is known as a labral tear.

Sports that increase the risk of labral tear include golfing, soccer, football, ballet and hockey. A hip labral tear can cause a “catching” sensation or a clicking sound in the hip joint, along with hip pain and stiffness. But sometimes a hip labral tear can exist without causing any signs or symptoms.

The tear can occur in contact sports, such as football, if the hip is involved in a collision. The repetitive motions common in sports such as softball also can make one prone to a labral tear, as can structural abnormalities in the hip, which increase the amount of wear and tear the hip undergoes during exercise.

Consult a sports medicine specialist if you think you may have a hip labral tear. It’s important to get this condition treated, as it can predispose you to osteoarthritis and further hip injury later in life. The doctor may order an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get a close look at the problem and rule out other possible causes of your pain.

For some people, rest, pain relievers and compression are enough to heal the tear. Physical therapy can also help you recover, and can also assist you in avoiding re injuring the hip. Finally, surgery is necessary in rare cases to remove or repair the damaged tissue.

To prevent a recurrence of a hip labral tear, make sure you allow plenty of time to recover from exercise, and that you increase your mileage and training gradually.

Two other common athlete hip injuries are a hip flexor strain and a hip pointer.

Groin Strain

When you tense or tighten the muscles that stretch from the inner thigh bone to the inside of the pelvic too quickly or forcefully, it can result in a groin strain, also known as a groin pull. These muscles, known as the adductor muscles, pull the legs together. This injury is most common among athletes who run and jump a lot or who close their legs forcefully, such as in hockey, swimming, football, sprinting and and soccer.

Symptoms of a groin pull include pain and tenderness when you bring your legs together or lift your knee, and pain in the thigh and groin area. Usually, a groin injury heals on its own if you give it rest, apply ice to the area, compress the area and take an anti-inflammatory pain medication such as ibuprofen. Still, if you think you have strained your groin, it’s best to consult a sports medicine specialist, both to rule out other causes of pain and because a groin pull can actually tear the muscle and cause long-term pain that interferes with everyday activities. He or she may also recommend physical therapy to help the groin heal and prevent future injuries.

If these basic measures don’t foster your groin’s recovery, and you suffer from pain for more than six months, you may want to discuss the possibility of surgery with your sports medicine specialist. However, surgery is a last resort, and you may not be able to return to your original level of activity even after completely healing from the surgery.

Once you’ve recovered from a groin strain, prevent it from coming back by stretching the area before exercise, and by performing strengthening exercises for your groin and the core of your body through exercise. Also, increase your activity gradually once you resume your training.

Elbow bursitis

The tip of your elbow may seem bony, but there’s actually a sac called a bursa that sits between the bones that make up the elbow. Elbow bursitis, also known as students elbow, occurs when this sac becomes inflamed or irritated, resulting in pain during activity and while at rest, swelling, difficulty in moving the elbow, and sometimes a feeling of warmth around the elbow.

Elbow bursitis can be caused by trauma, such as a fall, or long-term pressure on the elbow from leaning on it. Infection from a cut or scrape can also cause the bursa to swell, and this infection is what leads to the feeling of warmth some people with elbow bursitis experience. Because falls can cause elbow bursitis, athletes who play sports that put them at risk of falling, such as ice skating, hockey or gymnastics, or at risk of getting hit on the elbow, such as cricket, are at increased risk of this condition. But anyone who falls and experiences elbow trauma can get elbow bursitis.

If you think you have elbow bursitis, see your doctor or sports medicine professional. He or she likely will recommend that you immobilize the affected elbow; draining the fluid in the bursa may also be necessary, as may antibiotics if the bursa is infected. An X-ray of the elbow might be necessary to see if you have bone spurs; these sometimes are found in patients who get elbow bursitis often. Finally, surgery to remove the affected bursa might be necessary if lesser measures prove ineffective.

To prevent elbow bursitis, wear elbow pads to protect your elbow from getting hit with a ball and to cushion it if you fall.

Calf Strain

Running is great exercise and is a necessary part of training for a multitude of sports, but increasing mileage too quickly, or warming up or cooling down insufficiently, can lead to a strain of the three muscles of the calf in the back of your lower legs. Although you might try to continue running if your calf pain is mild, you’ll likely change your stride slightly without realizing it, and this can make the strain worse.

Athletes most prone to a calf strain are those who do a lot of running or who increase their mileage very quickly, such as distance runners, basketball players and soccer players. Running while you’re dehydrated also can put you at increased risk of a calf strain, so it’s important to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Finally, having low foot arches can make boost your chances of straining your calf muscles, so make sure you have appropriate footwear for running or training.

Rest and the use of ice packs and anti-inflammatory medication may be enough to help your calf heal; massaging it may also quicken recovery. But if the strain is more serious and pain doesn’t fade, you may have a more serious injury, and you should consult your doctor or sports medicine specialist so he or she can evaluate your symptoms and help put you on the road to recovery.

To prevent a calf strain, stay hydrated during exercise. Wear appropriate footwear, and warm up and cool down fully whenever you run or train. Additionally, strengthening and stretching certain muscles can protect against muscle strains, because the stretchier a muscle is, the less likely you are to pull it.

Sprained Wrist

Putting your hands in front of you to break a fall can bend your wrist backwards, putting immense strain on the ligaments that hold together the bones of your wrist. This can result in a wrist sprain. Therefore, sports that put you at risk of falling, such as figure skating, gymnastics, skiing, skateboarding and hockey, also increase the risk of wrist sprain.

If you’ve sprained your wrist, you’ll feel pain right away, and you might also feel tenderness, swelling or a burning sensation. When you move your wrist, the pain may worsen, and you might also hear a popping sound.

To evaluate whether you have a wrist sprain, your doctor will examine your arm and wrist, and may also order an X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance image (MRI) to rule out other causes of your pain, such as a broken bone, and to see whether the ligament is actually torn.

Depending on the severity of your sprain, you may simply need to wear a wrist splint to immobilize your wrist for seven to 10 days. If your ligament is partially or fully torn, surgery may be required for your wrist to heal correctly. This could be a crucial step, because incorrect healing can cause long-lasting, lingering pain in the wrist, and can also predispose you to injuring your wrist again. After you’ve healed from surgery, you’ll likely need to perform stretches and exercises to regain full use of your wrist. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to 10 weeks for your wrist to heal fully.

In the future, skiers can prevent wrist sprains by letting go of ski poles when falling to avoid twisting the wrist. Athletes should wear protective gear such as protective tape or a splint when participating in sports that increase the risk of falling or when walking or running in slippery or wet conditions.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Your knee’s structure is complex, and it’s responsible for supporting the weight of your body. These two factors make this joint the most commonly injured—in fact, between 5 and 6 million people each year seek treatment for knee injuries. One of these injuries is known as iliotibial band syndrome, or ITBS.

The iliotibial band is a strip of connective tissue known as a ligament that stretches from the outside of your hip all the way down to your tibia, or shinbone. Certain sports and activities—long-distance running, or sports requiring a lot of running, such as soccer and basketball—can tighten this band to the point that it rubs against your thighbone as you move your leg. This causes irritation that can lead to sharp pain and tenderness on the front or outer side of your knee, but doesn’t generally cause swelling. You might also feel a clicking sensation when you move your knee.

ITBS can occur when you increase your running or biking mileage too quickly, or if you perform exercises such as hill running or weight-lifting with poor form, putting undue strain on your knee joint. The degradation of your running shoes can also irritate the knee, as can weakness of the hip muscles that help you move from side to side. You may initially only feel pain while running, and this discomfort may temporarily disappear when you take a break from training. But eventually, the condition can worsen, making simply walking a very painful task.

That’s why if you have think you may have ITBS, you should see a doctor or sports medicine specialist. He or she will likely have you ice the knee, decrease your activity level and perform stretches to boost flexibility in the area. You may also need to see a physical therapist to heal the knee. If all else fails, surgery may be necessary, but more conservative treatments generally do the trick. If you’re determined to keep up your physical fitness while you’re resting, lower impact activities may be an option, such as running in a shallow pool or using an elliptical exercise machine.

To prevent a recurrence of ITBS, make sure you keep your hip muscles strong and that you stretch in the way your physical therapist or sports medicine specialist instructed you to. Also, always increase your mileage slowly to make sure your knee is up to the task.

Patellar tendonitis

The tendon that connects the knee cap, or patella, with your shin bone is known as the patellar tendon. Without it, you couldn’t extend your lower leg to do things such as jump, kick a ball, pedal a bicycle, or run. But when you do these activities repeatedly, or if you have problems with alignment in your legs, feet or hips, this tendon can become overly stressed, causing it to become inflamed. This condition, which is called patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee, is most often seen in bicyclists, soccer and basketball players, and runners.

Common symptoms of patellar tendonitis include swelling, pain and tenderness right below the kneecap; pain may worsen when you walk or run, especially down a hill or stairs. If you think you may have this condition, your doctor  can make a diagnosis by having you walk, run or squat to see if this causes pain and to examine your alignment. He or she may order X-rays, ultrasounds and other tests to rule out other causes of the pain, such as bone problems or tears in the cartilage below or behind your kneecap, or to get a detailed view of the patellar tendon.

If it’s established that you have patellar tendonitis, there are a number of measures you can take to get your knee on the road to recovery. You’ll need to rest the knee by avoiding the activities that caused the inflammation in the first place, and by staying away from exercise that causes knee pain. Your sports medicine specialist may give you the go-ahead to keep in shape with low-impact activities such as running in a pool, and you might also enlist the help of a band that wraps just below the kneecap, which helps siphon strain away from your patellar tendon.

You may also need to perform stretches to ease the condition, or learn exercises to strengthen the patellar tendon, and muscles around the patella; increasing the strength of your quadriceps muscles can also help. Finally, it may be necessary to learn better techniques for jumping or kicking to reduce the strain you put on your patellar tendon; a sports medicine specialist can help you do this.

The same methods that can help your knee heal also can help you prevent the return of patellar tendonitis: Keeping your muscles strong and well-stretched, and making sure you have good technique when it comes to motions you make repeatedly, such as jumping and landing. Finally, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t try to play through pain; addressing knee pain when you first notice it maximizes the chances that you will fully recover from an injury.

Fracture of the Talus

You may have never heard of the talus bone, but without it, you would be unable to walk. This bone is located between the base of your leg bones and your heel bone, providing a crucial source of stability so that your legs and feet can support your body weight. A fracture of this bone is called a talar fraction, and it occurs mainly as a result of a car accident or a fall, and with increasing frequency among snowboarders. That’s because the boot used in snowboarding is not rigid, and therefore can’t fully protect your ankle against injuries.

A fracture of the talus causes intense pain, which is accompanied by swelling. You also likely will find you can’t bear weight on the injured ankle. Your sports medicine specialist will ask you about these symptoms, and likely will order an X-ray or even a CT scan to get a better look at your talus and to make a diagnosis.

Treating this fracture can prove challenging, but leaving it untreated, or letting it heal improperly, can cause significant problems down the road, including chronic pain and potentially debilitating arthritis. It could take weeks to months for your fracture to heal. The common treatment approach is a removable boot or a cast to immobilize your foot, and you’ll likely need to use crutches to avoid putting weight on the affected ankle.

If parts of the fractured talus have moved out of alignment, however, surgery will be necessary. A surgeon will make an incision, then move the bones to their correct locations before securing them with a screw. After that, you’ll need to wear a cast until the fracture has healed, then perform physical therapy exercises to regain maximum function of the ankle. Along the way, your doctor may use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to take note of how much blood is flowing to the foot; weak blood flow can slow healing and even cause the bone to die, in a condition known as a vascular necrosis or osteonecrosis.

Once you’ve fully healed, the only way to prevent re-injuring your ankle is by avoiding the activity that caused it. Unfortunately, that may mean your snowboarding days are over.