by Pekka Mooar
We all know that regular exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise makes you look good and feel good – promoting greater muscle strength, endurance and flexibility, weight control and cardiovascular fitness.
Too much of a good thing, however, can lead to an injury that can sideline you from the activities you enjoy. You don’t have to be a competitive athlete to get a sports injury, which is simply an injury that commonly occurs during sports or exercise. A sports injury can happen to anyone at any age, although they are more common as we grow older, and more often occur among women, due to differences in body structure.
Sports injuries can involve any part of the body, but generally refer to an injury that involves the muscles, bones or a connective tissue, like cartilage. These types of injuries usually come about from improper training or conditioning, insufficient warm-up and stretching before an activity, using the wrong equipment, or doing too much, too fast.
Sports injuries fall into two primary categories: acute and chronic. An acute injury involves an active event that causes trauma, such as a fall or a collision. A chronic injury happens gradually, through repetitive motions and cumulative strain on the musculoskeletal system.
Prompt treatment of both acute and chronic injuries is important in avoiding further injury. Chronic injuries left untreated or not allowed to fully heal can lead to repeat injuries, or develop into more serious long-term problems, such as osteoarthritis.
It’s important to distinguish muscle soreness from injury in deciding whether to seek medical help. The traditional credo of rest, ice, compression and elevation is effective for home care. If you’ve tried these steps immediately after injury and regularly for 48 hours, and pain and swelling do not improve, contact your doctor. Signs that your injury needs medical attention include severe pain, swelling or numbness; inability to put weight on the area; or new pain in the site of an old injury, accompanied by increased swelling, or an abnormal appearance.
If you suspect you’ve sustained a sports injury, a good place to start is with your primary care provider. He or she may consult with a sports medicine specialist, such as the orthopedists at Temple Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Chestnut Hill Hospital to help with diagnosis and treatment. Depending on your injury, you may receive care from an orthopedist or a rehabilitative therapist.
An orthopedic doctor specializes in diagnosis and treatment of the musculoskeletal system; a physical therapist works in partnership with your sports medicine doctor to rehabilitate your injury – designing a specialized treatment plan to make the injured area stronger, more flexible and less susceptible to future injuries.
Treating a sports injury is gradual. Getting the area moving again is the first step to help speed healing. Rehabilitation is based on a progression of activities to help build flexibility, endurance and strength; as well as proper balance and body mechanics. In addition to exercise, your therapy may include electrostimulation (mild electrical current to reduce pain and swelling and increase muscle strength), cryotherapy (ice packs to limit blood flow to injured tissues), heat, ultrasound and massage.
Arthroscopic surgery, an operation that employs small incisions to diagnose and fix joint problems, has greatly enhanced orthopedists’ ability to repair athletic injuries without invasive surgery, with less trauma and downtime for the patient. Other new advances being studied include tissue engineering, in which a patient’s own healthy cartilage or cells are transplanted to an injured area to speed healing.
Benefits of rehabilitative therapy include restoration of function; less pain; improved range of motion; a quicker return to sports and recreation; better health, strength, movement and safety; muscle strengthening and coordination.
For tips on preventing or treating a sports injury, contact Temple Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Chestnut Hill Hospital, 215-248-8947, or join sports medicine specialist Pekka Mooar, M.D., and his team at the Pastorius Park Concert at 7 p.m Wednesday, June 25, and ask your questions in person.
Pekka Mooar, M.D., is a member of Temple Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Chestnut Hill Hospital.