Contact Sports and Your Joints
With over eight million Americans suffering from sports and recreation-related injuries every year, it is important for athletes, parents, and coaches to have a basic understanding of what these types of injuries are, what the symptoms look like, and how to actively prevent them.
Common Joint Injuries
Joints are junctions in the body that link bones together. Whether they are ball-in-socket, pivotal, hinge, or ellipsoidal—they allow for various types of movement. Typically, joint injuries occur in the shoulders, knees, wrists, and ankles as a result of a fall or direct trauma to the area, overuse, or repeated wear and tear on the joint.
The 4 main types of joint injuries include:
- Strain: Strains occur when muscles and tendons are overextended.
- Sprain: The ligaments that hold bones together are overstretched or torn.
- Bone fracture: Fractures are breaks, cracks, and chips in the bone.
- Dislocation: Dislocations are the separation of bones from their typical position in a joint.
The most common symptoms include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of function/mobility of the injured area
- Visible displacement
- Visible bone poking out of your skin
Tips to Prevent Joint Injuries
Constantly repeating movements like running, pivoting, and tackling can lead to wear and tear on the joints and bones. With the most common joint injuries, sprains and stress fractures, it is apparent that injury often occurs from excessive amounts of stress.
The following tips can help you to reduce your risk of sustaining a joint injury:
- Pre-season physical: Getting a pre-season physical can help to flag any pre-existing issues or injuries.
- Wear protective gear: Wearing protective gear like pads, mouth guards, and helmets protect those body parts from direct impact. Also, make sure that your protective equipment is properly fit to your body.
- Stretch and warm-up: Cold muscles are more prone to injury. By increasing your flexibility and warming up your muscles before games and practice, you are less likely to experience tears and strains.
- Cooldown: Finishing your workout with a walk or light stretching can help you to maintain your flexibility.
- Use proper technique: Avoid trying new moves and activities without learning the correct technique and form first. Work with your coach or trainer to help you learn proper form to avoid injury.
- Take some time off: Plan to have at least 1 day off per week during the season as well as one full month off from training during the year to allow the body to rest and recover.
- Don’t play through the pain: When you notice any of the above symptoms, stop playing. Playing through any injury symptoms can lead to a more severe injury. Be sure to see your athletic trainer or doctor to discuss your symptoms.