By John C. Kagan, M.D.
Whether you enjoy golf or tennis on the weekends, play soccer on a recreational sports team or never miss a chance to work out at the gym, a sprain, strain, pop, tear or pull can quickly relegate you to the sidelines.
Unfortunately no one is immune to injuries from participating in athletic activity. Even twisting your ankle while walking on the beach can put you out of commission for days or weeks.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, sprains and strains are the most common injuries that result from being active. These injuries can include everything from muscle pulls, neck pain and shoulder impingement, to lower back pain, tennis or golf elbow, runner’s knee, shin splints, hamstring injuries, groin pull, ankle sprain, Achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis or arch pain in the foot.
Sprain Versus Strain: What’s the Difference?
Muscles, ligaments and tendons play an important role in keeping the joints stabilized and the body functioning correctly.
A sprain occurs when there is an injury to a ligament, a band that connects the bones to a joint in the body. Ligaments help stabilize joints in the knees, the elbows, the ankles, wrists and other parts of the body. After a fall, blow to the body, twisting movement, incorrect landing after a jump or other trauma, such as running on an uneven surface, the ligaments can become stretched beyond their limit.
A strain occurs when there is an injury to a muscle or tendon, the fibrous cord of tissue that connects a muscle to the bone. Repetitive, overuse of a muscle, overstretching, excessive muscle contraction, or a blow to the body can result in a strain.
Pain, swelling, inflammation and difficult bearing weight on the injured area are the typical symptoms for both sprains and strains. A severe
sprain may tear the ligament, making the joint unstable. A severe strain may tear or rupture the muscle or tendon, pulling it away from the bone.
Treating Common Sports Injuries
Many sports injures are painful, but mild, and can be treated with what is referred to as RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. After the injury, stop participating in the activity to avoid further damage and to rest the muscle, tendon or ligament. At home, apply an ice pack, or wrap crushed ice or a bag of frozen peas in a towel and place on the injured area for about 15 minutes.
Compression means wrapping a sore elbow, ankle, knee or wrist with an ACE bandage. And when possible, elevate the injured area.
Following these four action steps can reduce swelling and limit blood flow to the area, which can provide short-term relief from pain. Over-the-counter inflammatory medication can also be helpful.
But when should you call the doctor?
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends consulting a physician for all but very mild injuries. The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine suggests that letting an injury go untreated can worsen the injury or lead to more serous complications
Severe sprains or strains may require a brace, casting or even surgery. Even a mild injury may benefit from modified activity, immobilization and physical therapy.
The bottom line is early diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation can allow you to regain full motion and strength.
Be safe and be smart. Playing sports or participating in a regular fitness exercise program can go a long way in helping maintain a healthy, active lifestyle at any age. Remember, if your sport or recreational activity of choice is outdoors, be sure to protect yourself from Florida’s sunny tropical weather by wearing a visor and applying sunscreen.
10 Prevention Tips
Many sports injuries are preventable. The key to reducing the risk of injury or re-injury is to exercise good judgment, listen to your body, never play through the pain and avoid chronic strain from overuse.
Here are 10 tips to help you stay in the game:
1. Stretch daily to stay flexible
2. Wear the right kind of shoes and be sure they fit well
3. Gently warm up your muscles and then cool down after the activity
4. Use protective equipment where appropriate
5. Participate in a regular conditioning program to build core strength and maintain muscle tone
6. Don’t play through pain or tenderness
7. Rest; give yourself time to recover after intensive training or play
8. Learn proper techniques for the sport
9. Don’t push too hard to return to the same leviel after an injury
10. Work up to strenuous play; don’t go from sedentary to athlete in one day
Orthopedic surgeons are doctors who specialize in treating musculoskeletal injuries that affect the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons, joints and cartilage. Dr. John Kagan has more than 30 years of experience treating patients of all ages with orthopedic-related conditions. Learn more about his expertise at www.kaganortho.com or call 239-936-6778.