It's no secret that training and competing can take a toll on an athlete’s body. Movements like running, swimming, jumping, tackling, kicking and pivoting, done on a regular basis, can lead to wear and tear on one’s muscles, joints and bones. This holds especially true if proper technique is not adhered to while training. Each of our Sports Rehabilitation Center staff members is highly-qualified to treat a wide range of sports injuries in our patients. However, we feel it just as important for athletes to have their own basic understanding of injury prevention as well as the types of conditions they should be on the lookout for.
Tips for Preventing Sports Injuries
Whether you are an amateur or a professional athlete, the following tips can help reduce your chance of sustaining a serious sports injury:
- Get a pre-season physical to check for any health issues prior to training.
- Increase your flexibility by performing a dynamic warm-up prior to practice and competition followed by static stretching post activity.
- Consult with a coach or physical therapist about how to incorporate appropriate strength and conditioning training into your practice schedule.
- Wear protective equipment (i.e. mouth guards, helmets, heart guards, pads, eye wear) as well as gear that is properly fitted.
- Maintain use of proper technique while training and competing.
- Stay active during the off-season so that you are prepared to return to your regular training regimen later in the year.
- Stayed hydrated to avoid fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness and other symptoms.
- Take periodic breaks during practice and plan to take at least one day off each week to rest and recover.
- Pause your activity if you feel pain and discuss it with a doctor, physical therapist or athletic trainer.
Common Injuries by Sport
Even if all of the above tips are followed, it is still possible for a lingering sports injury to occur. This is why it is important to have a basic knowledge of what to be on the lookout for. Below is an overview of common injuries grouped by sport. Learn the basics of how these injuries may occur, how they may be prevented and how they can be treated:
Baseball and Overhead Athlete Injuries
Baseball and softball players at any level of competition may experience a range of arm-related injuries involving the shoulder, elbow, hand or wrist. This is due to overuse caused by repetitive throwing, bat swinging and even catching balls at high speeds.
Because baseball/softball players (particularly pitchers) are especially prone to shoulder irritation, rehabilitation exercises specific to throwers, a reduced amount of throwing and improved throwing mechanics are recommended to help manage the pain.
Like baseball/softball players, overhead athletes (i.e. volleyball, tennis and water polo players) are also apt to experience shoulder injuries triggered by repetitive movements. Rest, proper conditioning and solid mechanics may aid in controlling short-term soreness or discomfort; however, persistent pain may signal a more serious condition that requires surgery, such as shoulder instability or a bad tear.
Contact Sports Injuries
By definition, contact sports require some level of contact between players. So it comes as no surprise that these impacts, combined with repetitive running, pivoting and kicking, can lead to multiple types of sports injuries.
But while these injuries can affect any part of an athlete’s body, two common areas of concern include the head and knee. Concussions for example, are commonly seen in high-collision sports like football, rugby and hockey. While wearing properly fitted protective equipment helps to reduce the risk of a concussion, forceful falls, tackles, kicks, checks or other forms of contact can still cause trauma to the head. Although this type of injury requires initial medical intervention, rest and time (in addition to any instructions from a doctor) is usually what it takes to recover.
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries can result from a direct hit to the knee or from repeated running, jumping, pivoting or other high-impact movements. Physical therapy and rehabilitation are recommended for this type of knee damage. An ACL Injury Prevention Program to help support recovery or risk prevention may also be considered. For ACL tears combined with other knee injuries, surgery is often advised.
There are many factors that can contribute to a running injury, including errors in training, improper running shoes, anatomic irregularities or even extreme running surfaces. Additionally, those who are new to running, have recently resumed training after an injury, or have increased running speed or distance are also more susceptible to getting hurt.
Injuries of the knee are especially prevalent among runners. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), also known as “runner’s knee,” is one example of a common injury often brought on by overuse. Stress fractures and other conditions of the shin, feet and heels can also develop and amplify if training modifications, proper rest and/or rehabilitation are not carried out.
The most common injury for golfers is back pain. Many golfers do not swing the club the same way each time and therefore place unnatural stresses and forces through the back. High level and/or professional golfers may also experience back pain due to overuse. Additional injuries that golfers encounter include "golfer's elbow" (inflammation of the tendons originating at the inner part of the elbow), and pain or injury to the neck, shoulder, wrist, hips, knees, and foot or ankle. Our golf-specific online tool "Protect Your Game" offers a range of injury prevention tips, warm-up and exercise videos, and nutritional information.
The Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center also offers golf specific training services that can improve your game while reducing the risk of injury. Our United States Golf Teachers Federation (USGTF) and Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) trained physical therapists and performance coaches use their expertise to help enhance your physical fitness for golf and improve your game.
Although swimming is a sport that requires total body strength and movement, shoulder injuries are most likely to be experienced by competitive swimmers. Often referred to as "swimmer’s shoulder," this common condition involves pain due to inflammation of the rotator cuff and is usually a result of overuse, improper stroke technique or a combination of both.
Working with a coach to adopt sound stroke technique is one way to help prevent injuries, as is a regimen of core and shoulder strengthening exercises. Swimmers should also communicate instances of pain to their parents/coaches and physical therapists so that changes in training can be made or a rehabilitation program can be started.
In addition to the conditions featured above, there are many other sports injuries that an athlete can sustain. This is why it is important to speak with a physician or physical therapist about any pain you may be experiencing. Communicating the location, duration and intensity of your pain to a healthcare professional will help him or her determine the type of injury you have and how best to treat it.
Tisch Sports Performance Center
Whether you've recovered from an injury and are ready to return to your sport, or looking to avoid athletic injuries in the first place, our Sports Performance Services team is here to support you in your goals. The Performance Center offers a range of services for the prevention of sports-related injuries, as well as personal training, sports-specific analysis, and personal fitness profiles.