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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The joint of your elbow is made up 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, you could knock these bones out of alignment. This condition is known as an elbow dislocation.
Common symptoms of a dislocated elbow include intense pain in the elbow and possibly the inability to move the arm. The elbow also usually looks oddly twisted or deformed, due to the movement of the bones.
If you think you’ve dislocated your elbow, consult a doctor immediately. Depending on the severity of the dislocation, it could be a medical emergency. That’s because when the bones that make up the elbow move, they can disrupt the nerves and blood vessels that run through that area. If circulation to your arm is disrupted, it can cause permanent damage that may even require amputation.
Your sports medicine specialist will take an X-ray to determine the extent of the dislocation, and he or she likely also will ask you to move your arm and hand to evaluate whether or not you have circulatory or nerve damage to the arm, hand or elbow.
One way to treat a dislocated elbow is to physically push the bones back into their normal places. But if the injury is too serious for this method to be effective, surgery is necessary to repair ligaments and put bones back where they belong. Further surgery also might be necessary to repair damaged blood vessels and nerves.
After your arm bones have been returned to their normal orientation, physical therapy or rehabilitation exercises might be necessary to help you regain movement in the arm.
The piriformis muscle is a small muscle that runs from the spine’s base through the buttocks. It helps you rotate your leg outward, away from your body. Because the sciatic nerve tends to run close (or even through) the piriformis, if this muscle becomes tight, it can exert pressure on the nerve. This causes pain that radiates down the leg (sciatica pain) in a condition known as piriformis syndrome. This is most common in athletes who use their legs in repetitive motions, such as runners.
Piriformis syndrome commonly causes pain and tenderness in the buttocks, pain that can radiate down the leg to the hamstrings or calf muscles, but unlike a hamstring injury, the hamstring isn’t tender when touched. Finally, you may find that you have a decreased range of motion in your hip.
This condition is generally caused by tightness in the adductor muscles (which help bring your legs together), which means the muscles that move your leg apart must work differently, causing increased strain on the piriformis muscle.
If you think you have piriformis syndrome, rest and ice the affected area. Stretching the piriformis muscle can also help alleviate pain, but if you find that the discomfort persists, consult a sports medicine professional. He or she can make a definite diagnosis and may prescribe you specific stretching and strengthening activities. You may also undergo various testing, such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) to rule out other causes of your pain. Ultrasound is sometimes used as part of physical therapy, and in particularly severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
To prevent piriformis syndrome from coming back, keep the piriformis and your hip rotator muscles flexible through stretching, and increase training gradually.
Median nerve entrapment, also known as carpal tunnel syndrome, may not be known as a sports injury, but in fact the condition can be caused by activities such as swinging a squash or tennis racket. Symptoms commonly include numbness and tingling in the hands or wrist, and pain when moving the fingers or hand. You also may feel weak when you try to carry bags, and as though you are losing fine muscle coordination in your fingers.
The median nerve runs through your wrist and to parts of your hand, including the palm, thumb and some of your fingers. When the carpal tunnel (where the nerve runs through the wrist to the hand) becomes inflamed due to swelling from repetitive motions, it can put pressure on this nerve, causing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you think your median nerve has become entrapped, your physician can make sure this is the correct diagnosis. He or she will examine your hand and wrist to see where and when you feel pain, numbness and tingling. You may also undergo tests, such as wrist X-rays, to rule out other causes of your pain.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can decrease swelling and improve your symptoms. Treatment measures include exercises to strengthen and stretch your hand and wrists. Yoga also tends to improve hand and wrist function. In some cases, however, surgery to reduce pressure on the median nerve is necessary to heal carpal tunnel syndrome.
Once you’ve recovered from carpal tunnel syndrome, prevent it from coming back by increasing your activity (such as playing tennis) gradually, and by continuing to stretch and strengthen your hand and wrist. You may also want to consult an expert to improve your grip or swing to reduce strain on your wrist.
Groin injuries can be some of the most painful and most difficult to treat; one such injury is known as osteitis pubis. This condition occurs when the base of the bone where the two halves of the pubic bone meet in the middle (the pubic symphysis) become inflamed. Bony growths can also develop around the pubic symphysis.
Osteitis pubis is most common among soccer players and runners and causes intense pain that may be chronic. Symptoms include dull or sharp pain and tenderness in the groin area, located in the front and center of the pubic bone. In addition, this pain can sometimes spread up into the lower abdominal region and even down through the upper legs.
Causes of osteitis pubis are diverse. Increasing training too quickly, exercising on uneven and/or hard surfaces, tight muscles, and imbalanced muscle strength can all lead to osteitis pubis. Poor running or walking form can also cause osteitis pubis, as can having legs that are not the same length.
If you think you may have osteitis pubis, rest, ice, compress and elevate the affected area. After a period of rest, if your symptoms remain, consult a sports medicine professional. He or she can rule out other possible causes of your pain, and may recommend stretching or strengthening exericses to put you on the road to recovery. An X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan may also be used to detect the telltale sign of osteitis pubis (a widened, irregular pubis symphysis).
Once your osteitis pubis has cleared up, prevent it from coming back by always wearing well-fitting footwear, increasing your training and mileage gradually, keeping your body strong and limber, and allowing yourself sufficient rest between training sessions to let your body recovery.