Sports Injuries

Sports Injuries: A Comprehensive Overview

While there is no definite definition of a sports injury, sports injuries are generally regarded as injuries suffered while participating in exercises or sports. However, this certainly does not mean that such injuries can only occur during sports. In fact, such injuries often occur from mundane everyday activities such as work, commute, indulging in hobbies and so on. To add to the confusion, many sports injuries have been assigned names based on the sports in which they are commonly seen. An example would be that of a tennis elbow. In fact, most patients who suffer from tennis elbow have never play tennis in the life!

Sports injuries do not only occur in physically demanding sports such as CrossFit, or “violent” sports like mixed martial arts. Sports injuries can even occur in seemingly gentle or sedentary sports such as esports. However, the common injuries encountered in various sports will often be different. Someone who practices mixed Martial arts may suffer sprains, fractures and dislocations of various joints but one who competitive esports may suffer tendonitis of the fingers or chronic neck strains.

What are the risks of getting a sports injury?

Unfortunately, sports injuries can occur to anyone at any time. However, there are some risk factors to look out for.

1. Age – both younger and older athletes’ risk of getting a sports injury. Younger athletes tend to take more risks and indulge in their sports at a higher intensity hence increasing the risk for injury. An older athlete, on the other hand, is at a higher risk of injury simply because the ageing process has made him or her slower and more inflexible. In addition, their musculoskeletal systems are also weaker and are more easily injured.

2. High impact sports such as rugby for American football.

3. Combat sports such as judo, mixed martial arts (MMA), Brazilian jujitsu.

4. Starting a new sport which you have never tried before

5. Restarting a sport after a long break

6. Not warming up sufficiently before doing your sport

7. Poor or sloppy technique

8. Worn out or poorly maintained sports equipment

9. Overtraining/ overdoing things

 

What types of sports injuries are there?

The list is endless! But certainly, some conditions are more commonly encountered. 

Contusions:

Depending on the force of the impact and the sight of the impact, contusions can result in something as minor as a bruise to something as serious as a brain bleed or injury.

Sprains:

Sprains refer to joint injuries caused by forcing a joint to move beyond its natural limits or in ways that the joint was not meant to move. Sprains usually result in either partial tears of the joint ligaments or the covering of the joint known as the capsule.

Strains:

Strains refer to partial tears of either a tendon or a muscle.

Tendon Tears:

Tendons connect muscles to bones. Tendon tears can vary in severity from partial tears to complete ruptures of the tendon.

Muscle Tears:

Muscles move joints by contracting. Muscle tears can occur if muscles are excessively stretched or if muscles are forced to lengthen during contraction (eccentric contractions).

Ligament Tears:

Ligaments hold joints together. Their job is to stabilize joints and prevent dislocations. Ligament tears can also vary in severity from partial to complete tears.

Fractures:

Fractures can occur if a joint or bone is subjected to excessive bending forces. However, fine cracks can occur in bones simply from repeated forces placed on the bone. For example, a long-distance runner may develop cracks in the shins from excessive running. Such fine cracks are known as stress fractures. 

Dislocations:

Most joints in our body comprise cartilage capped bone ends articulating with each other. If the articulating bone ends and are forced apart and are no longer in contact with each other, the condition is known as a joint dislocation. Some joints in a body, for example, the shoulders and fingers are more prone to dislocations then are other joints like the hip or the knee. However, a sufficiently violent injury can cause any joint to become dislocated.

 

Types of Sports Injuries:

Spine

• Neck and Back Sprains: These are extremely common. They can occur if the neck or back is bent awkwardly or forcefully. 

•  Annular Tears: Lifting heavy loads, especially with poor technique (e.g. during exercises like deadlifts) can place excessive pressure on the discs between the vertebrae of the lower back resulting in cracks in the outer covering of the disc. This will cause pain in the back and lumbar regions that can radiate to the buttocks and upper thighs.

•  Slipped Discs: A slipped disc refers to a condition where the soft jelly like core of the intervertebral disc becomes extruded from the disc, compressing the nerves that exit the spinal cord. Patients will experience pain and numbness usually is parts of the arm or leg, depending on which disc is involved

 

Shoulder

•  Dislocations: The shoulder joint is the most commonly dislocated joint in the body. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. If the arm is elevated and extended backwards, the ball may get displaced from the socket and get stuck out of the socket. Shoulder dislocations are very painful and the joint needs to be put back in place as soon as possible. In many patients, a first-time dislocation may weaken the shoulder predisposing the patient to recurrent dislocations in the future. 

• Rotator Cuff Tear: The rotator cuff is a group of muscles together with their tendons that are attached to the arm. They help to move the shoulder and contribute to shoulder stability also. Partial tears of the rotator cuff are common in very active individuals, but complete tears often occur in “older” patients above the age of 50. 

•  Clavicle (Collar-bone) Fractures: Clavicle fractures usually occur as a result of breaking falls with the upper limbs. They’re very common encountered in contact and combat sports. Falling from bicycles is also a common way the clavicle is fractured. 

 

Elbow

•  Tennis Elbow: Tennis elbow is a condition where the tendon that is attached to the outside of the elbow becomes either inflamed or torn. Whilst the condition does indeed occur in many tennis players, it can also occur in anyone! It can usually be managed non-operatively via stretches and physiotherapy, but long standing and refractory cases may require surgery.

•  Ligament Tears: There are several ligaments holding the elbow together. Hyper-extension of the elbow can cause tears to one or more of these ligaments. Such injuries are often caused by falling backwards and breaking falls with the outstretched arm, or by arm-bars during combat sports like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or judo. 

 

Knee

•  Meniscus Tears:  The meniscus is a c-shaped cartilage found in the knee joint. It acts as a shock absorber. Twisting injuries to the knee can result in tears of the meniscus. Meniscus tears can then manifest as pain in the knee with activities and sometimes locking of the knee (where the patient is unable to fully straighten the knee). 

•  ACL Tears: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a short and stout ligament in the knee. It resists twisting movements at the knee. Consequently, excessive twisting forces at the knee can cause the ACL to rupture, resulting in knee instability. Many patients who have an ACL tear are still able to walk and run! However, if they attempt to change directions rapidly whilst running, their knee may buckle, resulting in meniscus or cartilage injuries. 

•  Cartilage Ulcers: Sports or overuse of the knees may cause cracks to occur in the smooth cartilage lining the knee joint. These cracks can then deepen and enlarge into ulcers (holes in the cartilage surface). Cartilage ulcers can cause swelling and pain the knee, often aggravated by lower limb activities like running and jumping.

•  Patella Dislocation: The patella (knee-cap) is a shield-shaped bone that sits in a groove, in front of the knee joint. Sports injuries can result in the patella being pushed out of the groove. Patella dislocations are extremely painful and patients will usually not be able to straighten the knee. If, however, the knee can be straightened, the patellar will often snap back in position. There is about a 30-40% chance that the patella will become instable in the future resulting in recurrent dislocations. Recurrent patella dislocations can usually be successfully treated via surgery. 

 

Ankle

•  Ligament Tears:  Inversion injuries to the ankle are extremely common. This may result in a tear of a ligament in the ankle known as the anterior talo-fibular ligament (ATFL). ATFL tears can result in ankle instability, predisposing the patient to recurrent ankle “sprains”. Many ATFL tears can be treated via physiotherapy. But if ankle instability is bad, ATFL tears can be easily fixed via keyhole surgery with a very high rate of success.

•  Ankle Fractures:  Twisting injuries at the ankle can result in fractures of the ankle. If the fracture is not displaced, it can often be treated in a boot. However, if the fracture is displaced, it needs to be fixed via surgery in order to prevent arthritis in the future.

•  Achilles Tendon Rupture:  The Achilles tendon is an extremely important and thick tendon that connects the calf muscle to the foot. A ruptured Achilles tendon will severely reduce the power with which a patient can push off. Whilst ruptured Achilles tendons can be treated non-operatively, success of such treatments heavily depends on whether or not the patient (and treatment facility) is able to undergo a grueling and intensive physiotherapy protocol. As such, most patients will benefit more from surgical repair of the tendon. 

How can Sports Injuries be prevented?

Many sports injuries can be prevented. Some things that patients can do include:

•  Ensuring proper warm-ups before the sport

•  Paying attention to proper form and technique

•  Listening to their bodies and backing off the sport if they feel pain or discomfort in any joint

•  Knowing their limits and not over-doing things

•  Managing risks especially in combat sports. This may include choosing the right sparring partner, having a sense of when there might be a high risk of injury and taking steps to avoid it and not letting your ego get the best of you! 

Ow, too late. I got injured. What should I do now?

Of course, this depends on the severity of the injury. But immediate things to do include:

1. Immediately stop playing the sport. Never attempt to play/ push through the pain. This often only results in aggravating the injury. 

2. Commence R.I.C.E. treatment. That stands for:

  1. R – Rest the injured part.
  2. I – Ice the injured area. A simple guide is to apply an ice pack to the area for half an hour then remove for half an hour. Then repeat as often as possible.
  3. C – Compression. Apply a snug (but not tight) bandage to reduce swelling.
  4. E – Elevation. Keep the injured limb elevated. This helps to reduce swelling.

3. Seek medical help. See your family doctor or orthopaedic doctor to that the nature and severity of the injury can be assessed and treated as soon as possible.

Dr Bryan Tan and his team of medical professionals possess the knowledge and expertise to treat a variety of sports injuries in athletes and active individuals, including those sustained during weekend soccer or basketball games, regular night runs, BJJ or taekwondo classes, and more.

Sports injuries can be a setback for athletes and active individuals, affecting not only your physical well-being but also your mental resilience. Whether it’s a sprain, strain, or fracture, Dr Bryan Tan and his team employ a comprehensive and personalised approach to address a wide range of sports-related injuries and help you regain optimal musculoskeletal health.

Our surgeon conducts thorough assessments using advanced diagnostic techniques to understand the extent and nature of your sports injury. We’ll then tailor individualised treatments plans that may involve both surgical and nonsurgical approaches. From arthroscopic procedures to joint reconstruction, we’ll leverage medical technology and work collaboratively with you to facilitate your seamless return to an active and pain-free lifestyle.