Most of us will have pulled a muscle or sprained a joint at some point, whether we've been out jogging, playing sport or even just running for the bus. However, the benefits of exercise are huge and far outweigh the risk of injury.
What are the common types of sports injury?
A strain is a tear or stretch in the muscle. Although they're elastic, muscles can tear when they're overstretched or overworked.
Tears can be minor – you might feel some muscle stiffness or tightening. Serious tears occur when a larger portion of the muscle is torn. More serious tears usually result in sudden pain. Later on, you might experience swelling and it can be painful to bear weight or stress on the area. The most common sports-related strains are in the groin and hamstrings.
A sprain is when a ligament is torn, stretched or twisted. Ligaments provide support for your joints. Unlike muscles, ligaments have limited elasticity, and sometimes, under extreme stress, the tendon can be almost entirely torn (ruptured).
Sprains can cause tenderness, pain, swelling and bruising. With ruptures, the pain is severe. The ankle is one of the most commonly sprained joints.
Repetitive movements can result in muscles and tendons becoming inflamed. Shin splints from running is one example – this refers to painful shins caused by inflammation of the area around the bone.
Tendon inflammation is called tendonitis, and it can be very painful. Examples include:
• Achilles tendonitis – sports such as squash and badminton, which involve lunging, put a lot of strain on the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf to the heel
• Tennis and golf elbow – tennis elbow is inflammation of the outer tendons of the elbow, while golf elbow is inflammation of the inner tendons
A stress fracture is an overuse injury, where tiny cracks in your bone occur because of repeated impact. The weight-bearing parts of the leg are common places for these injuries. Distance runners are among those prone to stress fractures. You'll experience an ache or burning sensation that intensifies when you're running. Talk to your pharmacist about treatment options. If symptoms persist, visit your Doctor.
What's the best way to avoid injury?
• When they're cold, your muscles are more susceptible to injury, as they're less elastic. This is why warming up before playing sport or exercising is important
• Don't push yourself beyond your fitness level
• Using the correct footwear is also important, as well as the appropriate safety equipment for other sports such as shin pads for football
When you're running, always use running shoes. They're designed to absorb shock, and can help prevent inflammatory conditions, such as shin splints.
When playing field sports, it's important you wear appropriate footwear for the conditions. This will help prevent you twisting an ankle, slipping or accidentally colliding with other players. Boots with screw-in studs are for soft ground, while moulded soles are for firm ground. For artificial surfaces, use astroturf boots.
• Warm up properly before sports or exercise and wear the appropriate sports footwear
• Avoid running on uneven ground
• Talk to your pharmacist or Doctor if you experience pain while exercising