Playing sport requires a high-level performance from our body which places a significant physical demand on the body and the musculoskeletal system in particular. As a result, injuries can occur in this system, such as muscle strains and joint sprains.
Physiotherapists play an important role in the management of these sport related injuries. This role ranges from acute injury management, rehabilitation to help you return to sport, as well as education and other preventative measures to prevent further, or new injuries.
According to statistics taken from Sports Medicine Australia “one million sports injuries occur each year, which suggests one in 17 Australians, suffer an injury” at an annual cost estimated at “$1.65 billion”. An amazing statistic from SMA is that “up to 50% of sports injuries are preventable” which follows on the old saying of ‘prevention is better than a cure’. As such Physiotherapists play a prominent role in reducing injury occurrence and severity by creating and implementing a specific injury prevention program for an athlete or team. These programs are typically not time intensive and will usually improve sporting performance as well.
Sports injuries are usually divided into 2 main categories:
Sudden or Acute Injuries
These types of injuries are often felt immediately during sporting activity and are the result of a direct impact/trauma to an area of the body or the application of a force that is greater than the body part can structurally withstand. They tend to be more common in contact and change-of-direction sports such as Soccer, Football, Netball and Rugby but can occur in any sport.
It usually includes injuries such as:
- Ligament Sprains – e.g. Ankle, Knee, Wrist
- Meniscus/Cartilage Injury – e.g. Knee, Hip, Shoulder
- Joint Dislocations – e.g. Shoulder, Finger
- Fractures – e.g. Ankle, Forearm, Foot
- Muscle Tears – e.g. Hamstring, Calf, Quadriceps
Overuse or Repetitive Injuries
Overuse injuries normally have a more gradual onset and are the result of a cumulative overload (overloading the system over a period of time). You will normally experience some symptoms that signal that the body is struggling to manage the load sport is placing on it. You might experience an ache and or stiffness when you initially start playing, or perhaps after you finish playing sport. Overtime these aches and pains can get worse and potentially result in a significant injury.
Overuse injuries are more common in, but not exclusive to, sports like running, tennis, swimming and include injuries such as:
- Achilles Tendinopathy, Tennis Elbow and other Tendon injuries
- Back Pain
- “Runners Knee” and ITB complaints
- Stress Fractures
- Shin Splints
Often these injuries occur when there has been a sudden increase in the load, e.g. during the preseason, or when ramping up the training load in preparation to an event.
Physiotherapy plays an integral role in assisting you to minimise the risk of these injuries, as well as managing these injuries throughout the season. Risk assessment, advice on load management, specific strengthening, flexibility and conditioning exercises, as well as injury management strategies are some of the ‘tools’ we use to help you achieve the desired outcome.