On The Sidelines Again?

Sport and injuries often go hand in hand. The very concept of sports involves pushing the human body to perform feats that are spectacular and at times, downright impossible. The trade-off is that sometimes an injury will occur. Statistics show that 3.5 million sports injuries happen yearly at youth level alone. What makes injuries so frustrating is that, sometimes, athletes reinjure the same body part. Repeated sports-related injuries have led to talented athletes calling quits on sports at a young age. Staying on the sidelines again and again can be frustrating. However, with the right diagnosis, treatment, and prevention methods, more athletes will enjoy sports for longer.

Types of recurring sports injuries

Recurrent injuries must not be confused with chronic injuries, but there is some overlap. A recurrent injury happens when the athlete injuries the same location after being cleared to return to sport. Chronic injuries are a specific condition that lingers for months with little relief. Tendon and ligament damage is the most common recurring injuries. Tendons connect muscle to bone and can become inflamed, stretched, or torn due to overuse. Even after repair, these injuries can come back. Muscle strains and tears are also typical, with recurring hamstring or calf strains keeping athletes benched. Specific motions can cause joint injuries like tennis elbow, runner’s knee, rotator cuff injuries, or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Who’s at risk?

Recurring sports injuries can happen to any athlete at any level. At professional levels, however, the rate of injury is much higher for several reasons. High-level athletes are more likely to suffer falls or collisions, particularly in contact sports. These athletes also return to sports quickly, often for financial reasons, increasing the chances of injury. Gender and age also play a role in some types of repeated injuries. For instance, teen girls who play contact sports are more likely to suffer recurrent anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. On the other hand, older persons or retired athletes are likely to aggravate previous injuries. In all cases, the risk increases when there is insufficient warm-up, conditioning, or rest.

Pass the test

A medical team can perform a range of diagnostic tests, particularly for at-risk athletes. If someone has had an injury and is concerned about a recurrence, see a doctor immediately. A physical test can help gauge the strength and range of motion (ROM) in the problem area. Sometimes, a person’s joint feels fine until the doctor performs a physical test, which can reveal pain or discomfort. From there, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or X-ray can provide more details on the ligament, muscle, or bone. Other common forms of diagnostic treatment include CT scans, ultrasound, nerve tests, and compartment pressure testing. Technology in sports medicine has also evolved, with video analysis and artificial intelligence (AI) testing to predict the risk of repetitive injury.

It’s time for treatment

Treatment for repeated injuries depends on the degree of injury. Some patients need rest, medication, and physical therapy. In other cases, the medical team must surgically repair the ligament, tendon, or bone. During the surgical process, the team can devise a plan to strengthen the ligament or tendon to reduce the chance of reinjury. While medical treatment helps, at-risk athletes can get the biggest benefit from preventative measures.

Can you prevent it?

Doctors often link recurring sports injuries to insufficient rest. With the demands of the sport, there is little offseason or downtime. If someone has an injury mid-season, the goal is to recover as quickly as possible to play in the next game or season. Is that enough time to heal? Even without injuries, there is a short window for rest and recovery, which is crucial for muscles and joints to perform well. Avoiding injury often starts with training. Working on proper form and technique reduces the chance of injuries. Conditioning should also be top of mind. By improving cardiovascular health and strength, the chances of injury also fall. Finally, recovery must play a crucial role in athletes of all levels. The modern athlete uses techniques like ice baths and massage guns to soothe sore muscles and joints. With proper prevention strategies, athletes may avoid repeated sports-related injuries.