Athletes in major sporting events are often prone to injury, sometimes resulting in debilitating conditions that will affect them for the rest of their lives. More on this follows…
Everyone who watches football has at one time or another seen a timeout called in the middle of the game, while a coach or trainer examines a player who is lying on the field after being tackled too hard. Football is one of the roughest sports around, and injuries are common and almost expected. For major league players, the tremendous salaries and notoriety outweigh the risk of injury while they’re young and enjoying the game. But in most cases, sports injuries are due to overusing or abusing the body, and the aftereffects can last a lifetime.
One of the most common sports injury is chondromalacia patellae (CMP), which is also known as patello-femoral pain syndrome or runner’s knee. This type of injury is common among young adults, particularly soccer players, tennis players, horseback riders, cyclists, football players, and runners. The condition results from acute injury to the patella (kneecap) or from chronic friction between the patella and the spot it passes through in the femur when the knee is moved rapidly back and forth.
When runner’s knee begins to develop, it is simply referred to as Pain Syndrome, and the symptoms are often fully reversible using anti-inflammatory painkillers, physiotherapy, and treatment of the underlying cause of the pain. But if treatment is not sought or the cause of the pain is repeated, the injury will become full-blown, where the knee is permanently structurally damaged, often necessitating knee replacement in later years.
Another very common sports injury, lateral epicondylitis, is more commonly known as tennis elbow. Although it most often occurs with tennis players, it is a repetitive stress injury where the outer part of the elbow becomes painful and tender. The condition, which was first described in medical research studies in 1883, often shows up in middle age, typically between the ages of 35 and 60. With treatment and symptomatic pain relief, tennis elbow usually resolves in about a year, and never returns.
Sports injuries can be a result of a sudden trauma, such as a hard contact with something, or an overuse injury, such as repetitive motions that stress joints. These types of injuries account for most injuries in contact sports such as football, rugby, and soccer, because of the frequent collision of players and equipment. Injuries can range from bruises and muscle strains to fractures, torn ligaments and tendons, and head injuries.
No matter what type of injury, the first phase of healing is always an inflammatory stage, where dead and damaged cells release chemicals that cause bleeding within the tissue. Inflammation is characterized by pain, localized swelling, heat, and a loss of function. Too much of an inflammatory response in the early stage of an injury can result in the healing taking longer and a delay in return to activity. So, sports injury treatments are usually designed to minimize the inflammatory stage, so the healing is accelerated and the player can return to competing as quickly as possible.
Most athletic trainers use the RICER regime, simple but effective strategies for treating and managing sports injuries:
R – Rest
I – Ice
C – Compression
E – Elevation
R – Referral to a physician for more concentrated medical treatment
Sports injuries are common in professional sports, and most teams have a staff of athletic trainers and team physicians. Often, a controversy arises among team managers and owners when coaches make decisions that can threaten a player’s health in the long term.
As a result, compression sportswear is becoming very popular with both professional and amateur athletes. These types of padded and specially designed protective garments are thought to both reduce the risk of muscle injury and speed up muscle recovery. It remains to be seen whether or not they are effective; we’ll have to wait another couple of decades to see if the compression-clothed athletes of today are still as nimble as they are today.