When playing sports or exercise it is possible to sustain injuries. Commonly injuries occur either as accidents or due to poor training practices such as not warming up or using improper gear. When applying forces greater than a body part can structurally endure at one time or over a longer period injury will often occur. Sports injuries involve mostly soft tissue structures like ligaments, cartilage, muscles, and tendons.

Let’s classify these injuries by type:

  1. Overuse Injuries – These are the most common sports injuries. Inflammation and pain are set up by stressing a tissue too much, too often or both.
  2. Contusions – Caused by direct blows onto tissues, or muscle masses like the thigh. This causes bruising and damage to the local tissue and muscle cells, which swell and become painful.
  3. Strains – Caused by overexertion or over-stretching, these are tears in muscles or tendons.
  4. Sprains – caused by overstretching the ligaments around the joint which causes tearing, swelling, and pain. When mild, this can be self-managed, but severe sprains such as ligament rupture require medical advice
  5. Dislocation – When one part of a joint becomes detached from the other, due to a very severe sprain a dislocation can occur which will require medical advice
  6. Fractures – Broken bones
  7. Head Injury – When the head is hit by something or is hit against something. Head injuries, even minor ones with few or no symptoms, are always serious and require medical advice
  8. Spinal Cord Injury – This occurs when the spine is damaged significantly and leads to injury to the spinal cord within. These are medical emergencies.
  9. Wounds – These can vary from blisters to large cuts in the body due to impact against a sharp object

Injuries can be either acute or chronic, with differing approaches and treatments. Acute injuries are happen suddenly during sporting activity and are recent.

Severe pain, swelling, limited joint movement, weakness, and inability to bear weight on the limb. Are signs of an acute injury. Severe cases would be fractures and dislocations. Most acute injuries are treated commonly with ice, rest, compression, elevation and gentle movement. Fractures and dislocations require immediate medical care.

Longstanding injuries, due to repeated acute events which have not be settled fully in the athlete, are defined as chronic injuries. They may swell, are painful on activity and often ache at rest but do not have much inflammation. Treatment would be rubbing, stretches, muscle strengthening, orthotics and altering the mechanics of the athletic action concerned.

The Seven Most Common Sports Injuries are:

  • Knee ligament tears
  • Tennis elbow
  • Kneecap pain
  • Sprained ankles
  • Groin strains
  • Hamstring pulls
  • Shin splints

Sports Injuries Can Be Prevented

Sports injuries are often caused by accidents whilst doing sport,  such as collisions, ankle sprains or falls. These are difficult or impossible to prevent.

Many injuries could be prevented with some simple precautions:

  • Make sure you are trained for the sport or activity.
  • Warm-up and cool-down before and after exercising or playing a sport
  • Use the right equipment
  • Train according to your level of fitness
  • Try not to return to sport or exercise too soon after an injury
  • Wear good shoes with suitable stability and cushioning and change these when the tread is worn
  • Try to avoid running on very hard surfaces
  • Try not to push through an injury or any pain
  • Avoid being the “weekend warrior” syndrome by packing all your sporting activity into two days

Overuse Injuries in Sports

People routinely overdo training and performance, making overuse the most common sports injuries. Overuse injuries are caused by repeated trauma, examples being stress fractures and tendonitis.

The 2 major areas of error which can lead to an overuse injury:

Errors of Training

  • Too much exercise done too quickly (overtraining)
  • Doing too high a level too soon
  • Performing actions too fast.

Errors of Technique

  • Poor technique can lead to straining your joints as you perform an activity incorrectly.
  • A repeated poor technique can then lead to an overuse injury.
  • Returning to training or if we have increased our training recently especially as we get older.

How to Avoid Overuse Sports Injuries

Tips to avoid overuse injuries:

  • Warm up before exercise and cool down after
  • Add variety to your exercise regimen to avoid any one set of muscles being continually stressed over a long period of time
  • Pace your increase in activity to avoid over-stressing your muscles, joints and tendons
  • Learn proper technique and use proper sports gear
  • Take lessons to have te correct form and technique
  • Use appropriate footwear that matches with your sports activity
  • Take a rest from your activity from time to time to let your tissues settle

If you do have an injury, try to identify the cause of your problem so you can make changes to your activity and prevent it recurring. Visit an medical professional to get an opinion early to ensure the quickest recovery.

Once the injury has healed you should avoid returning to the same activity too soon. You need a full range of motion, muscle strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance or you risk a repeat of your problem.







Meet Dr Peter Smith, a leading Orthopaedic Surgeon operating from the Mediclinic Milnerton in Cape Town, Western Cape. His practice is situated in the heart of this seaside town.  Dr Peter Smith not only offers patients the full spectrum of professional orthopaedic treatments, but specialises in total knee replacement, total hip replacement, sports injuries and the latest arthroscopic surgery techniques and computer guided surgery. He gained extensive experience in the latest arthroplasty techniques during his stay of 6 years in Australia where he performed more than a hundred primary and revision hip and knee replacements cases in a year.

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