Sports-Related Injuries

Sports-related injuries include bruises, sprains, strains, fractures and dislocations, which often occur because of misuse or overuse of certain areas of the body especially around joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones.

Compassionate Healing Starts Here

At UC Health, our Foot & Ankle subspecialists bring years of training and experience to treat even the most complex conditions and injuries so that you can return to daily activities as normal. We know that foot and ankle problems are often linked to medical conditions, so we partner closely with other specialists to deliver you world-class, comprehensive care in one place.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Foot & Ankle team at 513-475-8690.

As the referral center for Greater Cincinnati and the region, the Sports Medicine program provides top-quality care for even the most complex musculoskeletal conditions. We customize treatment plans that use the most innovative, effective surgical and nonsurgical techniques to restore function, relieve pain for professional athletes, high school sports teams and anyone who leads an active lifestyle.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Sports Medicine & Concussion team at 513-475-8690.


Understanding Sports-Related Injuries

Sports-related injuries

Most sports injuries are due to either injury or overuse of muscles or joints. Most are caused by minor injury involving muscles, ligaments, tendons or bones, including:

  • Bruises.

  • Sprains.

  • Strains.

  • Fractures.

  • Dislocations.

What is a bruise?

A bruise is an injury to the soft tissue. It is often caused by a blunt force such as a kick, fall or blow. It results in pain, swelling and discoloration.

What is a sprain?

A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament. Ligaments are flexible bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones to bones, and bones to cartilage. They also hold together the bones in your joints. Sprains often affect the ankles, knees or wrists.

What is a strain?

A strain is twist, pull or tear of a muscle or tendon and is often caused by overuse, excessive force or stretching. A tendon is a tough cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones.

Some examples of strains are:

  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). Lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, is characterized by pain in the back side of the elbow and forearm, along the thumb side when the arm is alongside the body with the thumb turned away. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm. 

  • Golfer's or baseball elbow (medial epicondylitis). Medial epicondylitis, also known as golfer's elbow, is characterized by pain from the elbow to the wrist on the palm side of the forearm. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm. 

  • Lumbar strain. A lumbar strain is an injury to the lower back, which results in damaged tendons and muscles that spasm and feel sore. Trauma of great force can injure the tendons and muscles in the lower back. Pushing and pulling sports, such as weight lifting or football, can lead to a lumbar strain. In addition, sports that need sudden twisting of the lower back, such as basketball, baseball and golf can lead to this injury.

  • Jumper's knee. Jumper's knee, also known as patellar tendonitis, is a condition characterized by inflammation of the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to shin bone (tibia). The condition may be caused by overuse of the knee joint, such as frequent jumping on hard surfaces.

  • Runner's knee. Runner's knee, also known as patellofemoral stress syndrome, is when the patella, or kneecap, does not move well in the groove of the femur (thigh bone). Runner's knee may be caused by a structural defect or a certain way of walking or running.

What is a fracture?

Fractures are breaks in the bone that are often caused by a blow or a fall. A fracture can range from a simple hairline fracture (a thin fracture that may not run through the entire bone) to a compound fracture, in which the broken bone protrudes through the skin. Most fractures occur in the arms and legs.

Stress fractures are weak spots or small cracks in the bone caused by continuous overuse. Stress fractures often happen in the foot or leg after training for gymnastics, running and other sports. The bones in the midfoot (metatarsals) in runners are especially vulnerable to stress fractures.

What is a dislocation?

A dislocation occurs when extreme force is put on a joint, allowing the ends of two connected bones to separate. Stress on joint ligaments can lead to dislocation of the joint. 

Rehabilitation for sports injuries

A rehabilitation program for sports injuries is designed to meet your specific needs, depending on the type and severity of the injury. Active involvement of you and your family is vital to the success of the program.

The goal of rehab after a sports injury is to help you return to the highest level of function possible, while improving your overall quality of life—physically, emotionally and socially.

To help reach these goals, sports injury rehab programs may include the following:

  • Activity restrictions.

  • Physical or occupational therapy.

  • Exercise programs to stretch and strengthen the area.

  • Conditioning exercises to help prevent further injury.

  • Heat or cold applications and whirlpool treatments.

  • Applications of braces, splints or casts to immobilize the area.

  • Use of crutches or wheelchairs.

  • Pain management techniques.

  • Patient and family education.

Preventing sports injuries

Exercise is good for the body, and with the proper precautions, sports injuries can often be prevented. The quality of protective equipment—padding, helmets, shoes, mouth guards—have helped to improve the safety in sports. However, you can still be susceptible to injury. Always contact your healthcare provider before starting any type of physical activity, especially vigorous types of exercises or sports.

Causes of sport injuries may include:

  • Improper or poor training practices.

  • Wearing improper sporting gear.

  • Being in poor health condition.

  • Improper warm-up or stretching practices before a sporting event or exercise.

Common sports injuries include:

  • Sprains and strains.

  • Joint injuries (knee, shoulder, ankle).

  • Muscle injuries.

  • Dislocations.

  • Fractures.

  • Achilles tendon injuries.

  • Pain along the shin bone.

How can I prevent a sports injury?

The following are some basic steps to prevent a sports injury:

  • Develop a fitness plan that includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility. This will help decrease your chance of injury.

  • Alternate exercising different muscle groups and exercise every other day.

  • Cool down properly after exercise or sports. It should take twice as long as your warm-ups.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink water to prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

  • Stretching exercises can improve the ability of muscles to contract and perform, reducing the risk for injury. Each stretch should start slowly until you reach a point of muscle tension. Stretching should not be painful. Aim to hold each stretch for up to 20 seconds.

  • Use the right equipment or gear and wear shoes that provide support and that may correct certain foot problems that can lead to injury.

  • Learn the right techniques to play your sport.

  • Rest when tired. Avoid exercise when you are tired or in pain.

  • Always take your time during strength training and go through the full range of motion with each repetition.

  • If you do sustain a sports injury, make sure you participate in adequate rehabilitation before resuming strenuous activity.

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