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Introduction To Sports Injuries

A doctor testing the knee of a football player for injuries in clinic.

Sports injuries are a common part of every sportsperson's career (whether recreational, semi-professional or professional). The common misconception is that pain during or after a sport is probably a result of a sports injury. However, pain after a workout, training, or playing a sport may be due to multiple reasons. In other words, pain experienced by a sportsperson, even a recreational one, is not always an injury. The most common causes of pain following training or vigorous physical activity may also be due to one of the following:

1. Muscle tightness

Usually as a result of inadequate stretching or “warm up” before starting a game, training, or vigorous physical activity.

2. Muscle fatigue

Usually occurs following frequent training or workout programs. This happens when the muscles do not get enough time to rest and recover following the previous session.


Delayed onset muscle soreness typically occurs after intense strength training, especially targeting the lower limbs, but can affect various muscles throughout the body. It manifests as muscle soreness that peaks around 2 to 3 days after a workout.

Guide to Increase Your Chances of Staying Injury-Free

Sports injuries can be avoided by ensuring the following aspects of your day are tied together seamlessly:

1. Sleep

Quality sleep is essential for athletes aiming for a long, injury-free career. Beyond providing rest to the brain and preparing the mind for workouts, sleep aids in muscle regeneration and building. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule, where you sleep and wake up at the same times daily, is vital for maintaining optimal physical condition. Prioritizing adequate rest and recovery is the initial step towards achieving your goals in training.

2. Diet

A common misconception about diet is that it involves cutting out certain foods or nutrients like fats and carbohydrates. However, a balanced diet contains a healthy dose of nutrients like fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. As the old saying goes, “Muscles are not built in the gym; they are built in the kitchen.”An imbalanced diet lacking in carbohydrates and healthy fats can lead to poor training performance and hinder results. Conversely, an excess of fats and carbohydrates may result in weight gain, which can negatively impact athletic performance and increase the risk of joint pain and injuries due to added strain.

3. Joint & muscle care

Maintaining optimal joint and muscle health year-round is essential. This involves prioritizing muscle flexibility through activities like yoga and stretching to reduce the risk of muscle tears. Adequate joint strength is also crucial, which can be supported by a balanced diet and appropriate supplements. Incorporating sustained stretching, mobility exercises, and yoga before activities can significantly contribute to injury prevention in the long term.

4. Gradual increments

Incrementally increasing one's efforts is vital for steady improvement and eventual sporting success. Pushing too hard before your body is prepared for intense activity can lead to injuries.

5. Consistency

Consistency is crucial for enhancing sports and workout performances. Irregular training, whether high or low intensity, can increase the risk of sports injuries. By maintaining regular training sessions and gradually increasing intensity levels, athletes can achieve steady improvements in performance and conditioning, leading to success in sports.

Navigating Sports Injuries: A Guide to Healing and Prevention

Even with consistent efforts, injuries can still happen. It's crucial to have a basic understanding of your body and its limits when it comes to handling training and sports activities. Gradually pushing and stretching these limits can lead to achieving greater feats and building a sustainable fitness, health, and sporting career.

Understanding Sports Injuries: Types and Risks

The intensity and type of injury you are at risk of sustaining depend upon your physical condition and the type of sport & its intensity. These injuries can range from:

Micro tears

Commonly occur during intense training and weightlifting. Despite their initial discomfort, these tears are actually beneficial for long-term muscle strengthening, as they prompt the repair and reinforcement of muscle fibres, resulting in stronger muscles. Given sufficient recovery time, typically ranging from 1 to 3 days, these micro-tears regenerate completely.

Trigger points or Knots

These are minor injuries caused by improper posture or form during exercises or from the build-up of lactic acid due to prolonged or intense workouts. While not serious, they can cause discomfort lasting from a few days to a few weeks if left untreated. Treatment typically includes rest, applying ice packs, stretching, and in severe cases, physiotherapy to release the knots.


These happen when a ligament or tendon is forcefully stretched beyond its limits. This typically results in mild inflammation. Immediate remedies include stopping the activity and applying an ice pack to the affected area to reduce pain. Recovery time varies based on the severity but usually ranges from a few hours to a few days, often resolving without medical intervention. However, stretching or massaging the area is not recommended for sprains.


Muscle or ligament tears, like the rotator cuff tear in the shoulder, can occur due to acute and excessive strain, often during sports or physical activities. This strain may result from inadequate warm-up, fatigue, or sudden stretching. Diagnosis is typically done by healthcare professionals, sometimes requiring imaging studies. Symptoms include severe pain exacerbated by movement of the affected muscle. It's crucial to avoid stretching the muscle further, as this can worsen the tear. Immediate discontinuation of activity and seeking medical attention are advised. Applying an ice pack and immobilising the muscle until medical help is obtained is recommended.

Ligament injuries

These commonly result from abnormal twisting or bending of a joint during physical activity, often accompanied by a noticeable "snap" and severe pain. Treatment and recovery time vary depending on the affected muscle or ligament and the extent of the tear. Surgical or non-surgical treatments may be necessary, determined by medical professionals after reviewing scans. Healing time can range from 6 weeks to 6 months.


Fractures, common in contact sports, can range from simple hairline cracks to significant bone damage.

Joint injuries

Joint injuries can be classified into three types: joint dislocations, osteochondral fractures, or soft tissue tears within the joints. Examples include meniscus tears in the knee joint or labral tears in the shoulder. Dislocations require immediate medical attention to restore the joint to its anatomical position. Surgical repair or debridement may be necessary, depending on the extent of the damage. Non-medical management is an option if an immediate return to sports is not necessary. Recovery time ranges from 6 weeks to 6 months, with a comprehensive rehabilitation protocol essential for full recovery. At Sri Balaji Hospital, we offer injury-specific rehabilitation protocols tailored to each type of joint injury to help athletes return to peak performance.

The Most Common Types of Investigations Used for Sports Injuries

The type of investigation I recommend depends on the suspected injury. For bone injuries like fractures or dislocations, a simple X-ray is usually sufficient. Minor soft tissue injuries such as knots or sprains may not require any imaging studies. However, if a muscle or ligament tear is suspected, an MRI scan may be recommended.

The Treatment Options

Treatment options always depend on the extent of the injury.

  1. Rest: Useful in case of simple tears and sprains.
  2. Ice pack application: Useful in case of simple tears and sprains.
  3. Bracing: Recommended when an injured muscle, bone, or joint requires immobilisation to prevent further injury before transferring the individual to the healthcare facility. It can also be used as a treatment option when immobilisation is necessary for addressing the diagnosed problem.
  4. Analgesics: Helpful to minimise pain and reduce inflammation in and around the injury.
  5. Arthroscopic (keyhole surgeries): Arthroscopy is highly effective for treating sports injuries. This technique surpasses open surgeries by avoiding damage to surrounding muscles and structures. It precisely visualises affected ligaments, muscle fibres, and bone fragments, leading to improved repair outcomes and faster recovery.
  6. Open surgeries: Crucial for repairing structures damaged by sporting activities, especially in cases where arthroscopic surgeries are not as effective. This is particularly true for severe, extensive joint damage and neglected sports injuries.

It's important to take proper measures as soon as possible in the case of small sports injuries, as it can significantly impact the healing process. Once you have recovered, continue practising safe techniques:

  • Use appropriate sports gear.
  • Follow proper warm-up and cool-down routines to prevent re-injury.
  • I recommend exploring additional measures to support your recovery if symptoms persist.

Medications and Pain Management in Sports Injury Care

When incurring a sports injury, medications are a big part of your healing process. Over-the-counter options like ibuprofen and naproxen can help with pain and swelling. They're good for mild to moderate injuries. However, in worse cases, I might recommend stronger medication to combat the swelling and pain.

Remember, while medication can aid the healing process, they're often a part of the whole treatment plan. As your healing progresses, including rehab exercises and therapies will help you regain full health.

Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy for Sports Injuries

When recovering from a sports injury, rehab and physical therapy are crucial to getting back in shape. Since every injury and person is different, your rehab plan will be tailored just for you. Your therapist will work with you on exercises for certain muscles based on your physical activity, sport or daily routine. After the initial healing process, rehabilitation focuses on regaining strength, flexibility, and movement. Your physiotherapist will personalise your rehab plans with modalities like cold, heat, water, or massage therapy.

By getting stronger and learning the right ways to move, you're less likely to get hurt again. Your dedication to rehab shows your will to not only heal but also to get ready for any future challenges.

Sports Injuries: Questions You Should Ask Me

With a sports injury, it is key to understand your condition and how to heal. Here are some questions you might want to ask me to learn more about your sports injury:

- What's my injury, and how bad is it?
- What can I do to get better?
- Do I require medications, and how do I use them?
- How long will it take to heal from my injury?
- Will the injured site become as good as before?
- Do I require physical therapy to heal?
- What can I do to avoid this injury in the future?

With these answers, you'll be ready to handle your injury and take steps to keep from getting hurt again.

Prevention Strategies for Sports Injuries- Techniques and Equipment

Preventing injuries is key for a safe and fun time in sports. It keeps you from getting hurt and ensures you can return to your sport after a break, feeling sure and less likely to get hurt again. Taking care of your body now means you can enjoy your sports for a long time. These precautions will help you stay out of harm's way for a long time to come.

Warm-Up and Proper Techniques

Before you jump into your sport, warming up is key. For runners, a warm-up could be a quick walk and moves like leg swings. Swimmers might do arm circles and shoulder stretches, and team sport players could do drills for their sport.

Use the Right Equipment

Having the right gear is key in sports to protect you from getting hurt. It's also about ensuring it fits right and is right for your actions. Ill-fitting gear can be uncomfortable and increase your chances of getting hurt.

Recovery and Returning to Sports After Injuries

After a sports injury, regaining your health and reconditioning your body to return to the sport is paramount. Healing is more than just fixing the injury but also avoiding getting hurt again.

Recovery Timeline and Techniques for Sports Injuries

Healing time can vary depending on the issue and the extent of the injury. You might heal small injuries like sprains in a few days to weeks. But big injuries like fractures or torn ligaments might take months. During this time, following a rehabilitation plan with easy exercises and stretches is key to regaining your movement and strength back.

Resuming Activity and Preventing Re-injury in Sports

As you start to feel better, you might want to go full speed in your sport again. But it's better to go slow. Start with easy exercises and build up. Make sure you can move without hurt or stiffness before you do more.

Listen to your body; it'll tell you if you're going too fast or too soon. If it hurts, take it as a sign to slow down and heal more. By doing this, you're not just healing but also preventing future injuries.

Embracing Your Path to Recovery from Sports Injuries

Getting over a sports injury isn't just about getting back to normal; it's about taking care of yourself for the long run. Taking each step from figuring out what's wrong to healing is key.

At Sri Balaji Hospital, we promise to give you care that fits you. Our team has the best ortho doctors to help you heal from sports injuries. Contact us to know more about our personalised medical care. We'll ensure you get the right treatment as you work toward getting better and returning to the sports you love.

Dr. Balaji Subramanian

Dr. Balaji Subramanian

I'm Dr. Balaji Subramanian, M.B.B.S., M.S.Ortho, proudly serving as the Director at Sri Balaji Multi-Speciality Hospital & Pvt. Ltd, Chennai. With 14 years of dedicated experience, I excel in orthopaedics, traumatology, and joint replacement. My passion lies in precise fracture fixation and pioneering minimally invasive approaches for hip and knee replacements.

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