Physicians may prescribe sports activities for their patients with long-term conditions tailored to their pathology, ability, and medical risk. Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise has many benefits and is a great way to protect against certain diseases such as hypertension or osteoporosis. Sports obviously improves physical but also mental health and remains an important factor in increasing life expectancy and improving quality of life. It cannot be said enough: sport is good for your health! However, sport is not without its risks, especially if it is not practiced sensibly. The human body is sometimes abused by poor posture or overtraining, which often leads to injuries such as muscle tears, tendonitis, sprains, and even fractures. Gilmore Health in this article will discuss possible physical injuries, precautions to take to avoid them, and solutions to remedy and treat them.
Sports are played everywhere: at school, in the gym, and even at home. But sports like football, soccer, baseball, and basketball can cause many injuries.
A cramp is a painful, sudden but temporary contraction of a muscle that can occur at rest or during exercise. It particularly affects pregnant women, athletes, and the elderly and primarily affects the lower extremities. Cramps that occur during exercise are caused by a lack of oxygen. They stop when the painful muscle is stretched. They are often the result of overexertion, superficial warming, or lack of stretching. Poor hydration can also be a factor. A permanent cramp is also known as a contracture. But when they become chronic, muscle cramps can be a sign of a neurological disease, such as multiple sclerosis.
Muscle soreness is a temporary muscle pain that occurs the day after physical exertion. This pain is caused by an abnormal amount of lactic acid in the affected muscle and usually lasts for a few days. It is the result of intense activity on an unprepared muscle. If it is accompanied by fever and fatigue, it is best to consult a doctor.
A contusion is a direct blow to a muscle in a contracted position. It is the result of the crushing of muscle tissue. It can be caused by a fall or a blow from another athlete. Depending on the severity of the impact, it can cause local pain, swelling in the form of a bruise, or even a hematoma. It can be relieved by the immediate application of a cold compress.
A muscle strain is generally caused by an abnormal lengthening of the muscle. It corresponds to partial tearing of muscle fibers without bleeding and occurs during intense activity and significant muscular exertion in the form of a contraction associated with muscle expansion that leads to intense local pain. This pain occurs during exercise and disappears at rest. The body parts most affected by this type of injury are the thigh and calf.
Partial Muscle Tear
It is an incomplete tearing of the fibers that make up the muscle, with bleeding. It occurs when the warm-up before a sports session is not sufficient. It is a frequent muscle injury, particularly among runners and soccer players, and affects the calves, thighs, and especially the hamstrings.
A muscle tear is somewhere between a muscle strain and a ligament tear. It is very painful and can lead to a complete rupture of a muscle and its tendon with bleeding and hematoma. A poorly treated strain, significant muscle fatigue, or even a previous tear are the main causes of a complete tear. The pain is severe, even at rest.
Repetitive movements associated with intense activity trigger tendonitis. This tendonitis is painful, sometimes unbearable, and can, unfortunately, become chronic. If you suffer from this condition, it is strongly recommended that you stop all sporting activities. The most common are shoulder and wrist tendonitis. The only remedy is complete rest.
A sprain is a violent and sudden stretching of ligaments, usually in the ankle, wrist, and knees. It is characterized by severe pain and swelling and requires medical attention, which is best provided by immobilization and rest. Knee injuries are more complex as they can involve the ligaments and may require surgery. Skiing significantly increases the risk of these types of injuries.
A sprained joint is a partial or complete separation of two bones in the same joint, preventing the joint from moving normally. It is caused by a collision, such as a car accident or a fall, and requires immediate medical attention. Restraint and rehabilitation are mandatory to help the joint heal. Shoulder dislocation is the most common, but can also affect the elbow, hip, or jaw.
A fracture is the breaking of bone tissue after a very hard blow. In the most severe cases, the bone may break into several segments. These types of injuries require immobilization in a cast for several weeks. Depending on the type of bone involved, surgery may be required.
The second type of fracture is called a stress fracture. It is a sign of bone spasm and usually occurs in the leg and tibia. Fatigue fractures are common in athletes and the elderly, as they occur in bones that are worn down by osteoporosis.
How can sports injuries be prevented?
Regular exercise requires a varied, balanced, and adequate diet. This ensures an adequate supply of the nutrients needed for good physical condition and thus limits injuries. However, athletes, especially amateurs, are not immune to nutritional slips.
Nutrition and hydration
Muscle energy expenditure is important during physical activity. Carbohydrates and lipids are sources of energy for muscles. Carbohydrates fall into 2 categories: slow or fast carbohydrates. Slow carbohydrates, called complex carbohydrates, are foods that are gradually assimilated by the body. Therefore, it is important to consume them before training and competitions, as well as during the recovery phase, as they help to fight fatigue. These include pasta and whole grains, bread, pulses, and potatoes. Fast carbohydrates are found in sugar, muesli bars, and dried fruit.
Exercise leads to water and mineral loss through the natural sweating mechanism. It is therefore important to drink adequate amounts of water with a high mineral content to enhance performance and recovery. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables also provides the necessary minerals for the body.
Footwear alone is a key element in improving an athlete’s performance. Footwear is designed to protect and cushion from impact, reducing accidental injury and wear and tear. They allow shockwaves to be reduced for any given impulse. They should be comfortable and lightweight. The type of activity to be practiced, the frequency, and the level of training are important criteria to be taken into account.
As far as clothing is concerned, compression clothing ensures better blood supply, especially in the lower limbs. Compression sleeves keep muscles in ideal conditions during exercise and significantly increase oxygen supply, thus reducing muscle fatigue. Some socks are worn during exercise and enhance joint protection, others are ideal for optimizing the recovery phase. There are also micro-ventilated garments that allow sweat to be quickly wicked away during training and regulate body heat.
Warm-up, stretching, and recovery
All sports training should start with a regular warm-up phase of about 10 minutes. This gets the body going and prepares the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and muscular systems for the effort ahead. The warm-up should be done gradually so as not to overload the muscles.
The stretching phase is essential to maintain flexibility and relax the muscles. This should be done gently. Wait at least 15 minutes after the session to allow blood circulation to return to normal. This phase allows tension to be relieved and provides a degree of mental relaxation.
The muscle recovery phase is just as important as exercise, as it allows the recovery of micro-tears and ensures the renewal of energy. Generally speaking, small muscles need 48 hours of rest, while larger muscles need 72 hours. To speed up recovery, it is advisable to consume more omega-3 and to take cold water showers to promote circulation. This removes excess lactic acid which can cause cramps and muscle pain. Wearing recovery socks is highly recommended at least 2 hours after exercise as they reduce fatigue through compression.
Solutions to relieve and treat sports injuries
Despite valuable preventive advice, both amateur and professional athletes can fall victim to injury. The most common cause is improper training. Fortunately, different solutions are possible depending on the severity of the injury.
Physiotherapy is a therapy that improves physical condition without the use of drugs. It is mainly used by physiotherapists and rheumatologists and involves different procedures:
- Essential oil massage softens muscle tissue, promotes blood circulation, and relieves tension.
- Hydrotherapy is particularly recommended for back and waist pain because it relieves arthritis and reduces joint inflammation in heated water.
- Thermotherapy is a technique that uses heat or cold to relieve pain. This method has a strong analgesic effect and is characterized by the use of various devices (cold compresses, ice cubes, heating pads, heating patches).
- Electrotherapy stimulates the nerve fibers around the muscle by emitting electrical impulses to relieve muscle and joint pain.
Immobilizing bandages are used to immobilize and stabilize a painful joint to promote healing, but also to reduce edema and/or hematoma. Knee braces come in fixed and articulated versions. The fixed version puts the joint in full extension and is prescribed for severe sprains or ligament injuries. The articulated model is more suitable for the rehabilitation phase.
Support splints or elastic restraints protect, prevent injury, and limit potential recurrences. They are recommended when resuming athletic activity and are available for all body parts: Elbow, knee, wrist, ankle, thigh.
Kinesiology Therapeutic (KT) tape originates from Japanese medicine. They are elastic, adhesive tapes in different colors that are used directly by a physical therapist or osteopath to relieve pain. The color represents a different tension. For example, the color red represents muscular injuries, while the color blue represents inflammatory injuries. The colors black and blue represent ligament injuries. This method reduces edema and promotes lymphatic drainage and muscle contraction.
Strapping is a flexible support method in which a bandage is precisely crossed to restrict movement. When applied by a professional, the injured area is not compressed.
There are many good reasons to exercise, such as relaxing, being part of a team, and even meeting new people. However, there are risks involved even when the goal is to improve your health. Fortunately, there are medical and orthopedic solutions that make it possible to maintain or gradually return to sports.