Playing sport and doing regular exercise is good for your health, but can sometimes result in sports injuries.
Pain, swelling and restricted limb movements are fairly common. Affected areas can include:
- ligaments (thick bands of tissue that connect one bone to another)
- tendons (tough, rubbery cords that link muscles to bones)
- joints – the hips, elbows, ankles and knees
- cartilage (tough, flexible tissue that covers the surface of joints and allows bones to slide over one another)
Why sports injuries happen
Sports injuries can be caused by:
- an accident
- not warming up properly before exercising
- using inadequate equipment or poor technique
- pushing yourself too hard (overtraining)
Your doctor may describe a sports injury as:
- a sudden injury – which is the result of a sudden impact or an awkward movement
- an overuse injury – which develops over time as a result of overusing certain parts of the body or poor technique
Overuse injuries are common in professional athletes because of the intense nature of their training.
Children can also develop overuse injuries. To reduce the risk they should be encouraged to play a variety of sports, and have any training monitored by a qualified coach.
What to do if you have an injury
Stop exercising if you feel pain, regardless of whether your sports injury happened suddenly or you’ve had the pain for a while. Continuing to exercise while you’re injured may cause further damage and slow your recovery time.
Visit a doctor if you need advice for persistent symptoms.
If the injury is severe, such as a broken bone, or dislocation, see a doctor immediately.
Treating sports injuries
Serious sports injuries, such as a broken bone, torn ligament or damaged cartilage, will require specialist advice and treatment.
Preventing sports injuries
Not all sports injuries can be prevented, but you can reduce your risk of getting injured by:
- warming up properly before you exercise
- not pushing your body beyond your current fitness level
- using recommended safety equipment for specific sports, such as shin guards for football or a gum shield for rugby
- receiving coaching to learn correct techniques