Sports injuries: prevention and treatment

Practising sports promotes health and well-being, but these activities can sometimes involve inconveniences, such as sports injuries.

Sports injuries—a necessary evil?

Many people return to sports without too much thought about what it involves. One fine day, they go back to running or cycling in the hopes of improving their health or physical condition. It is a well-intentioned objective nurtured by many—ready to suffer a little in the hopes of obtaining meaningful gains—after all; no pain, no gain! However, is it necessary to suffer from sports injuries when you return to physical activity? The answer is "no".

Sport has a paradoxical side—it is undeniably good for health, but at the same time, it is the source of physical ailments which are responsible for a great number of medical visits in Canada. Yet, many of these consultations could be avoided by implementing certain preventive measures or having timely access to medical resources.

What are the most common sports injuries?

Here are some common injuries experienced by sports enthusiasts:

BLISTERS

Lesions on the skin that are similar to a burn that is usually caused by repeated or excessive friction. Blisters are often located on the feet and hands.

MUSCLE ACHES

Non-specific muscle pain that is usually not serious sometimes associated to significant physical effort, especially when returning to training.

MUSCLE CRAMPS

Painful, involuntary, and usually transient contractions to one or several muscles at rest or during effort.

PULLED MUSCLE OR MUSCLE STRAIN

Overstretched muscle (e.g., thigh or calf). A pulled muscle often occurs due to excessive stress during full extension of the muscle. In severe cases, it can lead to a partial muscle tear. The term "strain" usually refers to a more serious pulled muscle with several lesions to the muscle fiber.

SPRAIN

Joint injury usually caused by severely stretched ligaments most often to the ankle or knee.

FRACTURES

Violent break of the bone or hard cartilage following a blow and which requires medical attention as soon as possible.

LOW BACK PAIN

Low back pain is common in sports enthusiasts.

LUXATION

Abnormal displacement of an articular surface in relation to another, most often affecting the shoulder, elbow or knee.

TENDINITIS

Inflammation of a tendon caused by a repetitive movement.

How can sports injuries be prevented?

Sports injuries can occur in various contexts—ball sports, running, hiking, etc. Most often, there are several factors involved (e.g., lack of attention or concentration, muscular tension, environmental constraints, excess).

Here is some advice on how to prevent sports injuries:

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after physical effort.
  • Do warm-up exercises before any physical activity. If needed, speak to a specialist (kinesiologist, personal trainer, etc.).
  • Learn to pace yourself. Gently ease into any new physical activity and gradually increase the duration and intensity of workouts.
  • Be performance-oriented—but respect your limits. Stay in tune with your body.
  • Make sure you know the technical aspects of a sport, so you can practise it safely.
  • Use material that is suitable to the sport you practise (for instance, proper shoes for jogging).

How can sports injuries be treated?

There is more than one way to treat sports injuries. Each type of injury has its own characteristics for which case management modalities and treatment must be adapted. Note that some healthcare professionals specialize in sports medicine—doctors (orthopedists or generalists, for instance), physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, etc.

Many people refrain from seeing a healthcare professional when they have a sports injury. Yet, the outcome of a sports injury depends, among other things, on how quickly it is diagnosed and treated. Therefore, it is best to seek medical attention as soon possible from a healthcare professional who is able to diagnose and take charge of the injury.

Note that not all sports injuries require a medical visit. Minor ones (e.g., blister or mild muscle pain) can sometimes heal on their own and/or be cared for at home. Your pharmacist can provide advice on what to do for a minor sports injury.

A multitude of over-the-counter medications (analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, etc.) and complementary products with beneficial effects for a sports injury can be found at the pharmacy. For example:

  • bandages and dressings
  • blister cushions or dressings
  • splints or orthotic devices
  • joint supports or stabilizers
  • support bands or belts
  • compresses or “hot/cold” packs
  • mobility aids (canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs)
  • first-aid kits

Ask your pharmacist for advice first, regardless of the methods you are considering to treat or relieve a sports injury.

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Sports injuries: prevention and treatment

Sports and physical activity promote health, well-being, quality of life, and self-esteem. However, the practice of these activities can involve some inconveniences, including sports injuries. How can they be avoided, or if necessary, be treated?
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