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Common Fall Sports Injuries: Signs, Symptoms, Treatments

Anyone who plays sports knows there’s always a chance of getting injured in the game. That’s why many coaches carry first aid kits. Injuries are most likely to occur in contact sports, to people who aren’t typically active, or those who don’t warm up properly before playing.   

Many athletes try to shake off an injury in order to stay in the game. Nobody likes riding the bench! That may work for mild bumps or falls, but more serious injuries need to be treated right away.  

The most important treatment for a sports injury is to stop playing immediately or risk further damage. The next treatment for many sports-related injuries is RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) on the field or bench. Quick thinking and RICE can reduce swelling, relieve pain, and help your body heal faster.  

If school-aged athletes have taken the summer off from training, returning to a high-intensity sport in the fall can be a bit of a shock to their bodies. Suddenly starting up intense workouts and repetitive drills can cause overuse injuries and falls.  

The Fall sports typically include running and other forceful, repetitive motions which can lead to injuries. Here are the injuries we see the most: 

Ankle Sprain 

An ankle sprain occurs when ligaments around the ankle are stretched or torn. Ligaments are bands of connective tissue that connect two bones in a joint. Sprains tend to happen when the ankle is forced past its natural range of motion, like when you roll an ankle or twist it unnaturally. 

Use RICE immediately after getting injured. 

Sprains can cause bruising, inability to bear weight, limited mobility, pain, stiffness, and swelling.  

Treatments may include wrapping the ankle, wearing a brace, elevating the foot, resting it, keeping weight off the ankle, and over-the-counter pain relievers.  

Ankle injuries are very common sports-related injuries, occurring most frequently in football, basketball, soccer, and volleyball.  

Runner’s Knee 

Runner’s knee is a name for pain around the kneecap and in front of the knee. It’s also called patellofemoral syndrome. It can be caused by several factors, like abnormal movement of the kneecap, overuse, improper training, changes in playing surface or footwear, or a change in the intensity or frequency of physical activity.  

Runner’s knee causes pain in the front of the knee and during activities, stiffness that makes it difficult to perform everyday activities, and popping or crackling in your knee. 

Treatments may include RICE, avoiding activities that hurt the knee, therapeutic exercise, and over-the-counter pain relievers.  

Runner’s knee is most often caused by sports with repetitive stress on the front of the knee, like running, basketball, cycling, skiing, and soccer. 

Concussion 

A concussion is more than a bump on the head – it’s an injury that affects your brain activity. They’re caused by hits to the head from falls, equipment, and impacts with other players.  

Symptoms can include confusion, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, headache, nausea, sensitivity to light, slurred speech, and vomiting. A concussion without many symptoms may seem mild, but every concussion affects the brain. And in some cases, the symptoms can linger for weeks or even months.  

Recovering from a concussion requires rest – physical and mental. Treatment includes avoiding activities that worsen physical symptoms or require concentration, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and limiting exposure to light if light sensitivity is a symptom.  

Falls cause the most concussions, but they’re also common in football, basketball, rugby, hockey, and soccer. 

Tendonitis 

Tendonitis is irritation or inflammation in the connective bands that attach muscles to bones, called tendons. It occurs most often in the elbows, heels, knees, shoulders, and wrists. Tendonitis is often caused by repetitive movement that puts excessive stress on the tendons. 

You might have noticed that some forms of tendonitis are named for the sport that most often causes it. 

Symptoms can include dull, aching pain that worsens with movement, mild swelling, and tenderness. 

Treatments include resting the injury, physical therapy, over-the-counter pain relievers, and possibly surgery. 

Tendonitis is common in baseball, basketball, bowling, golf, swimming, and tennis. 

MCL/ACL Tear 

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are two of the four ligaments that stabilize the knee. The ACL is often injured from sudden stops, changes in direction, or hyperextension of the knee. Injury to the MCL is often a result of a hit from the side, forceful direction change, hyperextension, or bad landing. 

Symptoms can include swelling, stiffness, instability, pain, and loss of range of motion. 

Treatments for a torn ACL depend on the severity of the tear and can include rest, rehabilitation, or surgery. MCL treatments include rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and a brace.   

ACL and MCL tears tend to occur in soccer, basketball, skiing, and football. 

Collarbone/Shoulder injury 

Shoulder injuries include torn muscles, joint injuries, strained ligaments, shoulder dislocations, and fractures (collarbone). They are often caused by impacts, overuse, or bracing yourself in a fall.  

The collar bone connects the sternum to the shoulder bone. It is one of the most frequently broken bones. Collarbone pain can be the result of a joint injury or fracture. 

Shoulder injuries can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, decreased range of motion, or a visible break (collar bone).  

Treatments depend on the injury but may include anti-inflammatory medications, ice, rest, or surgery. 

Sports with high rates of shoulder injuries include baseball, softball, swimming, tennis, and weightlifting. 

The risk of being injured is a fact of life in sports. Many coaches, parents, and athletes keep athletic tape, bandages, ice packs, and other basic first aid supplies in their cars or equipment bags and hope they never need to use them. Being prepared for an injury is a smart strategy. A quick, informed response can help minimize the pain and damage and get the player back in the game sooner.  

At AmeriCare Physical Therapy, we treat athletes of all ages with the goal of maximizing mobility and function, minimizing pain, and getting them safely back in the game when they’re ready.  

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