How to Treat and Prevent The 3 Most Common Sports Injuries

Football players colliding on the field.
Sports are a wonderful way to stay active, no matter what your age. But whether you’re a high school athlete or a senior sports enthusiast, getting injured is always a risk. Taking steps to prevent sports injuries is the first line of defense. Knowing how to treat an injury when one does occur – and when to seek medical care – are especially important.

Which sport has the most injuries?

According to a recent National Health Statistic Report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are an average of 8.6 million sports- and recreation-related injuries each year. The sport that causes the most injuries is basketball, followed by football, bicycling and soccer.

What are the most common types of sports-related injuries, and how should they be treated?

The most common types of sports-related injuries according to the CDC report are (in order of most common to less common):

Sprains and strains

Sprains and strains account for roughly 40% of all sports-related injuries – which explains why we treat so many sprains and strains at PhysicianOne Urgent care. A sprain occurs when a ligament (fibrous bands that connect two bones together in a joint) is stretched or torn. Common locations for a sprain include the ankle and elbow (often called “tennis elbow”). A strain is when a muscle or tendon (a fibrous band that attaches a muscle to a bone) is stretched or torn. Strains often occur in the back, hamstring, groin and hip flexor.
Mild sprains and strains can be treated at home with the “RICE” method: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Rest the affected area. Apply an ice pack on and off for 10 minutes at a time. Compress the affected area by wrapping it in an ACE bandage. Finally, keep the affected area elevated whenever possible.
These measures will help to reduce swelling, pain and bruising. However, if your pain is severe or the injury doesn’t improve in one to two days, it is important to seek medical care at a PhysicianOne Urgent Care center for evaluation and treatment.

Fractures (broken bones)

There are more than 2 million fractures suffered in the U.S. each year. Although many people believe a fracture is a less severe form of a broken bone, that is not the case. Any degree of crack or break in a bone is called a fracture, so the terms “fracture” and “broken bone” can be used interchangeably.
If you suspect a fracture, you should seek medical care right away. Most fractures can be treated at an urgent care center, but if the broken bone is protruding out of the body, you should go directly to the emergency room. An X-ray is required to confirm if there is a break and to determine how severe it is. (PhysicianOne Urgent Care centers offer on-site X-ray services daily, with no appointment needed.) In some cases, additional imaging tests such as an MRI are required as well. Treatment depends on the severity of the fracture. Most often, a cast or splint is required for four to six weeks. Rehabilitation with physical therapy may be required as well.

Wounds and contusions (cuts, scrapes and bruises)

It’s no surprise that cuts, scrapes and bruises are common sports-related injuries. When they are minor, these can be treated at home. Simply wash wounds with soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment and bandage, and apply ice to ease pain if you wish. But if the wound is large, deep, or jagged, or the area feels numb or won’t stop bleeding, you’ll need to go to PhysicianOne Urgent Care center for treatment. If the bleeding is severe, go to the nearest emergency room.

How to Prevent Injuries In Sports

There’s no way to completely eliminate any risk of injury while playing sports, but you can reduce your risk by following some common sense guidelines.

  • Be sure you have the proper equipment and understand the proper technique before actively engaging in any sport – and use the proper equipment and technique at all times.
  • Take breaks when you need to. You’re not performing at your best when you’re overtired, which makes an injury more likely to occur.
  • Train for your sport by strengthening and stretching your entire body. The stronger and more flexible you are, the more resilient your body will be to potential injuries.
  • Never “play through the pain.” Pain is a signal to stop, rest and recover. Doing so could prevent a minor injury from becoming much worse.

Related Resources
Common Bike Injuries and How to Treat Them  
Concussions: Signs, Symptoms & Treatments 
Is It Dislocated? 
What Is Diagnosed by X-Ray at PhysicianOne Urgent Care? 
Signs Your Cut Is Infected

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