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Sports Injuries — How You Can Prevent and Treat Them

As humans, exercise and being active should be part of our everyday lives. For a lot of us participating in sports is a great way to have fun while being active.

There is a caution. When we’re active, whether in team sports or individual activities such as running, swimming or bicycling, we can get injuries from:

  • Poor nutrition and hydration
  • Not correctly warming up and stretching
  • Overexertion
  • Accidents
  • Poor training or over training
  • Poor technique
  • Incorrect equipment (such as shoes and safety equipment)

The Most Common Sports Injuries Are:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Knee injuries
  • Swollen muscles
  • Achilles tendon injuries
  • Pain along the shin bone
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Fractures
  • Dislocations

Sports injuries come in two categories:

  • Acute traumatic injuries — These usually happen quickly and include fractures, sprains and strains, concussions and cuts.
  • Overuse injuries — Sometimes called chronic injuries, they happen over time from repetitive actions like running, a tennis swing or a hard throwing motion. This category includes stress fractures and tendonitis. If untreated, they usually get worse.


Prevention is key when it comes to sports injuries. Learning about the correct and safe ways to participate in your activities and having the right gear are important elements in injury prevention.

If you’re in a team sport, qualified coaches can guide you. For an individual activity, ask participants with more experience or find a personal coach.

If you feel pain during your activity, you should stop. Continuing can injure you more. If you have concerns about a sports injury, check with your health care professional.

You can reduce the chances of an injury

  • Warm up your muscles before — Walk or jog to warm you up.
  • Stretch the muscles — Stretch a few minutes without bouncing. The stretch shouldn’t hurt.
  • Cool-down after. 10 minutes of walking or jogging followed by stretching works.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Stay active. Consistency is a key to keeping fit and reducing injury chances.

Treatment of Sports Injuries

Sports medicine is a specialty that focuses on prevention and treatment of sports injuries. The goal of sports medicine is to maximize function and minimize disability and time away from the activity, work or school. Sports medicine covers a range of topics of interest to anyone who is active.

Self-treatment of minor injuries often starts with an approach know by the acronym RICE:

Rest — Stop or reduce using the injured area for at least 48 hours. If you have a leg injury, you may need to stay off it completely.

Ice — Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times per day. Use a cold pack, ice bag or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice that has been wrapped in a towel. The towel protects your skin from freezing.

Compression — Elastic wraps are commonly used to compress an injured ankle, knee or wrist to reduce swelling. Don’t wrap so tight it hurts.

Elevation — Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling. Use a pillow to help elevate an injured limb.

If you have questions about a sports injury, see a health care professional. A number of resources are available online to find and share information about making our fitness and fun activities safe and enjoyable.

Meet the Author

Dan Kristl, DPT, CMT, OCS is a Physical Therapist at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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