Elbow Dislocation

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.

Piriformis Syndrome

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.

Entrapment of the Median Nerve

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.

Osteitis Pubis

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.

Stress Fracture of the Fibula

The fibula is one of the two bones that make up the lower leg, and is the thinner of the two (the other bone is the tibia). Because your lower leg can bear quite a bit of weight and strain during sports that require running and jumping, these bones are prone to stress fractures, or tiny cracks in the bone. Although the fibula is the site of a stress fracture less often than is the tibia (because the tibia, being larger, takes on more of the weight and strain), the fibula can develop a stress fracture.

Athletes whose feet overpronate (rotate inward and downward) have a higher risk of a stress fracture of the fibula. That’s because overpronation means some of the muscles in the lower leg must work harder while running. Symptoms of a stress fracture of the fibula commonly include pain and tenderness, especially when you place weight on the leg or when you press on the bone with your finger.

If you think you have a stress fracture of the fibula, you should stop training and rest the leg. Stretching the muscles of the leg can facilitate healing, as can wearing a brace for support. It’s very important to make sure you are free from pain before you resume activity, since failure to allow the fibula to heal properly can cause the injury and pain to linger for months.

To prevent a stress fracture of the fibula, make sure you increase mileage and training gradually, and that you wear equipment and footwear that properly support your feet and legs, if applicable.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is among the most common causes of foot pain. It occurs when the thick band of connective tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, known as the plantar fascia, degenerates, causing a sharp pain that is worst when you wake up in the morning and which may temporarily go away as your foot warms up and becomes more limber; the pain may return if you sit for long periods of time. Runners are at a particularly high risk of plantar fasciitis, especially those who are overweight or pregnant, or whose footwear fits improperly or does not provide sufficient support. Other sports that can cause plantar fasciitis include those that require running and jumping, such as basketball or ballet dancing.

First-line treatment of plantar fasciitis consists of resting the affected foot, icing it, stretching the plantar fascia, and using tape or a brace to support the plantar fascia and remove any strain that might be placed on it during everyday activities. You might also consider a night splint to support your foot.

If the pain doesn’t go away or gets worse, you should see a sports medicine professional. To make sure plantar fasciitis is really what’s causing your pain, he or she may recommend sports massage, physical therapy and store-bought or custom-made orthotics for your athletic shoes so they support your feet properly and promote healing. If all else fails, surgery may be necessary to lengthen or detach the plantar fascia.

To prevent plantar fasciitis or its recurrence, increase mileage gradually, keep your plantar fascia limber by stretching out the foot, and make sure your footwear provides proper support.

Navicular Stress Fracture

In many sports, the foot can take quite a beating, and over time, this can lead to a stress fracture. The navicular, a bone in the foot that sits atop the heel bone, can be vulnerable to stress fracture, and this injury is rather common among athletes who do a lot of jumping and running.

Sports that particularly increase the risk of navicular stress fracture include track and field, ballet, football, basketball, rugby and gymnastics. Common symptoms of the injury include swelling in the midfoot and pain that may last for months. This pain may fade away with rest, but tends to return when you resume activity. In addition, pressing on the so-called “N spot” between the foot’s arch and the heel on the bottom of the foot causes tenderness if a navicular stress fracture is present.

If you think you might have a navicular stress fracture, you should consult a medical injury specialist as soon as possible. That’s because letting this injury go untreated can cause long-term foot pain; early treatment is crucial. The specialist may use a bone scan or magnetic resonance image (MRI) to look at your bone and see whether it has the tiny cracks characteristic of a stress fracture.

If you do have a stress fracture, you likely will need a cast for at least six weeks, or until the tenderness in your foot is gone. Your sports medicine specialist might recommend physical therapy and rehabilitation and strengthening exercises to strengthen the foot and regain range-of-motion.

To prevent a recurrence of your navicular stress fracture (or to prevent it in the first place), make sure your equipment and footwear fit properly, and increase training and mileage gradually. Shock-absorbing inserts for your shoes can also protect the bones of your foot from the stress of your own body weight.

Extensor Tendonitis

The five tendons that stretch across the top of the foot are collectively known as the extensor tendons, and like other connective tissue, if these tendons become inflamed, it can cause pain and swelling, and this condition is known as extensor tendonitis.  The extensor tendons help pull the foot upward into an “L” shape, working as a team with the calf muscle, which pulls the foot downward. Athletes with the highest risk of extensor tendonitis are those who flex the foot repeatedly, such as in running, especially uphill.

Causes of extensor tendonitis can vary, from increasing mileage too quickly, to footwear that is worn out or  improperly supports the arch of the foot, to running on hills. Stiff calf muscles can also cause extensor tendonitis. Symptoms include pain on the top of the foot, discomfort while running, and swelling on the top of the foot.  Additionally, an inability to push the toes upwards toward the ankle when resistance is applied to the toes can be another sign of extensor tendonitis.

If you think you may have extensor tendonitis, the first step to recovery is to take a break from training. Resting, icing, using compression bandage and elevating the affected foot can all expedite healing. If pain persists or gets worse despite this treatment, however, you should consult a sports medicine specialist. He or she can rule out other possible injuries that could be causing your pain, such as a stress fracture, and can prescribe other ways to help your foot heal. It may be necessary to wear a brace or cast to support the foot, and special exercises–such as those that loosen the calf muscles–also might help speed healing.

After your extensor tendonitis has healed, keep it from coming back by wearing shoes that fit properly, and by increasing mileage gradually.

Footballer’s Ankle

As every athlete knows, repetitive motions can lead to wear and tear which can give way to painful injuries over time. The movement of kicking–such as in sports like soccer, also known as football–is no different. The repetitive strain kicking a ball can place on the connective tissue, or ligaments, in the front of the ankle, can lead to the painful condition known as footballer’s ankle. Because footballer’s ankle also can be the result of flexing the foot–not necessarily kicking with it–the condition also sometimes occurs in dancers, basketball players and baseball catchers.

Kicking repetitively can enflame certain ligaments and tendons in the ankle, making it painful to stretch the foot downward, straightening the toes. The extra room that these irritated ligaments can take up can mean they get trapped between the bones of the ankle, making it painful to move the foot upward, flexing it into an “L” shape. This is known as impingement syndrome because the ligaments get pinched between the bones. Extra bone growths known as osteophytes also can develop in the ankle, causing further pain when you flex your foot.

Footballer’s ankle can also cause weakness in the ankle, and you may experience a clicking sound as you flex and straighten the ankle.

If you think you may have footballer’s ankle, you should see a sports injury specialist as soon as possible. He or she can examine your ankle and rule out other causes of the pain. He or she will look for signs of swelling and establish which movements cause you pain. Finally, an X-ray might be necessary to evaluate whether you have developed bone growths in the ankle.

Sometimes rest, icing, using a compression bandage, and elevating the affected foot, along with stretches and exercises to encourage range-of-motion, are enough to clear up footballer’s ankle. If not, however, surgery may be necessary to shave away excess tissue and bone growths.

Muscle Contusion

Muscle contusions, in which the skin and underlying muscle is bruised, can occur in any contact sport, such as football, hockey or rugby, or during any activity that increases the chances of falling on a hard surface, such as figure skating. Usually this injury is minor and doesn’t even require taking a break from training. Sometimes, however, a particularly serious contusion can cause long-lasting pain or other complications, including acute compartment syndrome and myositis ossificans.

In addition to the discoloration that is the signature of a bruise, a contusion can cause swelling at the injury site. A very severe contusion also should alert you to the possibility of damage to the underlying muscle or bone, and a contusion in the abdominal area could potentially cause damage to internal organs.

For these reasons, you should consult a sports medicine specialist if you have symptoms of a contusion. He or she will perform a physical examination to identify exactly where the bruise is located, and may also use a computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, or magnetic resonant imaging (MRI) to make a diagnosis and rule out any other injuries.

To speed recovery, rest, icing, compression and elevation may be enough for relatively minor contusions, and your specialist may recommend you take an NSAID or other painkiller, such as Advil. Don’t massage the injured area.

Within a few days, swelling should go down, but you shouldn’t resume training until your specialist says you’re ready. Stretching, strengthening and range-of-motion exercises can all help you heal and regain your strength and flexibility.

Taking these precautions and treating your contusion correctly may knock you out of the game for a few weeks, but it can help you avoid more serious and potentially dangerous conditions.