Countdown The
Top Ten Injuries In Sport

Discover the top ten injuries in sport, how to prevent them and famous examples of other injuries.

The most common sports injuries are usually preventable if you know what may cause the injury in the first place.

Of course there are many other injuries that you could suffer, apart from the ones listed here.

Generally less common injuries result from bad luck or a unique circumstance that you have no control over. In that case, dust yourself off and start to make your comeback (yes I know, easier said than done!).

Click Here to Share Your Sports Injury Story

The top ten injuries in sport make up the bulk of sports injuries that occur and re-occur.

If you exercise or play sport regularly, you will have to deal with an injury scare at some point. So it's wise to find out how to have a better chance of preventing common sports injuries.

No.10 Muscle Cramp - Top Ten Injuries In Sport

What is it?
Muscle cramps happen when all or parts of a muscle contract without your control. They can stay contracted for several minutes, or until the muscle is stretched out and massaged.

They're most common in your lower limbs, especially your calf muscles. But they can occur in any muscle. Severe cramps will stop or limit the activity that you were doing.

Why does it happen?
The main theory is that dehydration and fatigue cause muscle cramps. You lose vital minerals in sweat (mainly salts), and muscles start to cramp without them. After intense exercise or a new activity, your muscles may be so fatigued that they "misfire". Several misfires in the same muscle will cause it to cramp.

Specific Prevention?

  • Warm up and cool down thoroughly. Add an extra 5 minutes of stretching to your cool down.
  • If you regularly suffer from cramp in the same muscles, stop your exercise half way through to stretch and gently massage the specific muscle.
  • Sip plenty of water or sports related drinks which include the extra minerals (electrolyte) that you need during your exercise.

    No.9 Shin Splints - Top Ten Injuries In Sport

    What is it?
    Shin splints are the pain that happens along your shin (along the tibia). Commonly pain is very specific to the front of your shin, on the outside edge. The pain won't stop until you stop your activity and rest.

    Why does it happen?
    Usually shin splints occur with impact activities like jogging and walking. Damage occurs to the muscles surrounding your shin, causing them to swell which leads to the pain.

    Long periods of continuous exercise are a major cause of this. But there are also factors like lower limb muscle imbalances and biomechanical problems in your feet and ankles. If you feel pain in your shins after short periods of exercise then see your health professional.

    Specific Prevention?

  • Rotate between jogging/walking on hard and softer surfaces. Continuous exercise on a hard surface may lead to shin splints.
  • Have a mix of long runs followed by shorter runs the next day, and include rest days.
  • Strengthen your lower leg muscles evenly (front and back).
  • Wear the correct footwear for your activity, and replace worn footwear regularly.

    No.8 Plantar Fasciitis (Painful Arches And Heels) - Top Ten Injuries In Sport

    What is it?
    Plantar fascia covers the bottom of your feet and holds your arches up. If it's damaged then pain will occur across the arch of your foot and into your heel.

    Why does it happen?
    Every time your heels strike the ground, your arches absorb the shock which stretches the plantar fascia. Constant heavy stretching of the fascia causes it to tear and leads to pain when beginning each exercise.

    It's more common if you have high arches or other biomechanical problems in your feet. Also, extra stress from sudden weight gain may cause pain in your arches.

    Specific Prevention?

  • Use orthotic supports for your arches, and wear them whenever you're on your feet. Walking without shoes or any support will aggravate the pain.
  • Ease very slowly into your exercises.
  • Wear the correct footwear for your activity, and replace worn footwear regularly.

    No.7 Neck Pain - Top Ten Injuries In Sport

    What is it?
    Surprisingly it's a pain in your neck! Usually only occurs on one side of your neck at any one time (if it's a muscle injury).

    Why does it happen?
    It can be caused by a muscle injury surrounding your neck, or pain that is radiated from damaged nerves along your shoulders or back. Poor technique and posture are also factors. Pain can also come from damage in your upper spine, if it doesn't clear after a few days, see your health professional.

    Specific Prevention?

  • Gentle neck stretches (front, back, side to side).
  • Strengthening upper back and shoulder muscles.
  • Working on maintaining good technique throughout your activity.

    No.6 Stress Fracture - Top Ten Injuries In Sport

    What is it?
    Stress fractures happen when continuous force is put on the same part of your body (usually lower limbs). Very small crack lines start to appear in your bone, significantly weakening it.

    Why does it happen?
    The surrounding muscles can't cope with the constant force put on them. When they become fatigued and aren't allowed to recover, your bone starts to take the force of impact (i.e. when running). You should rest and see your health professional if you suspect a stress fracture.

    Specific Prevention?

  • Keep your bones strong for high impact activities by keeping a healthy balanced diet.
  • Ask your health professional about advice for calcium supplements if you have a history of weak bones.
  • Control your exercise with small increases each week, rather than big jumps at the end of the month.
  • Wear the correct footwear for your activity, and replace worn footwear regularly.

    No.5 Frozen Shoulder - Top Ten Injuries In Sport

    What is it?
    A frozen shoulder is when the capsule around the shoulder joint thickens and becomes inflamed, causing pain and stiffness in the shoulder region. Symptoms become worse at night.

    Why does it happen?
    An injury to the shoulder which is then immobilized for some time, can lead to frozen shoulder. This is the most common way to get it if you are an active person. Although people with diabetes, cardiac disease or post-operation are more likely to suffer from frozen shoulder.

    Specific Prevention?

  • Stretch your shoulder region in all it's ranges everyday.
  • Strengthen your upper back muscles to improve your posture and spine position.
  • Keep a healthy balanced diet with your recommended amount of vitamin D.

    No.4 Tennis Elbow - Top Ten Injuries In Sport

    What is it?
    Tennis elbow is a form of tendinitis in your elbow. It's when the outer tendons of your elbow become inflamed and cause pain. Tennis and other racket sports are where it's most common.

    Why does it happen?
    Long periods of the same action can cause tennis elbow. It also occurs if you have poor technique or a lack of strength in your forearm. An impact may also inflame the tendon. Rest immediately if you start to feel pain. See your health professional if the pain persists after a few days.

    Specific Prevention?

  • Strengthen the forearm muscles surrounding your wrist and elbow joints.
  • If you have chronic tennis elbow get your technique checked by an instructor for your sport.

    No.3 Tendinitis (Achilles) - Top Ten Injuries In Sport

    What is it?
    Tendinitis is when a tendon becomes inflamed and causes great amounts of pain. Your achilles tendon is the biggest you have and deals with huge forces everyday, making it vulnerable to injury.

    Why does it happen?
    Excessive exercise and use without proper rest inflame the achilles tendon. It can also be inflamed by an impact, or worse ruptured (you'll hear a snap). There are some biomechanical problems that can cause it too, see your health professional for this.

    Specific Prevention?

  • Include sufficient amount of rest days in your exercise schedule.
  • Don't ignore pain. The first sign of achilles pain means it needs rest from impact.
  • Strengthen your lower leg muscles, especially your calf.
  • Always complete a thorough warm up and cool down.

    No.2 Knee Pain And Injuries - Top Ten Injuries In Sport

    What is it?
    There are so many different types and causes of knee pain, so I've put them in at number 2 in the top ten injuries in sport. Your knees are unique joints, they have to combine stability and strength with flexibility. These contrasting roles of the knee make it vulnerable to injury. The most common are:

  • Runner's knee.. pain and swelling on the side or below the kneecap. Caused by a wrongly positioned kneecap which rubs against cartilage. Strengthen your quads which will keep the kneecap in the correct position.

  • Cruciate ligament injuries.. these help to stabilise your knee. Caused by impact or twisting whilst your foot is planted, either spraining or tearing the ligament. You should immediately seek medical attention even if you feel no pain. Recovery depends on the severity of your injury.

  • Torn meniscus.. cartilage that cushions the inside (medial) and outside (lateral) edges of your knee. Impact and sudden twisting can tear the cartilage. You should immediately seek medical attention. Recovery depends on the severity of your injury.

    No.1 Muscle Pulls/Sprains (Ankle, Hamstrings, Lower Back, Wrist) - Top Ten Injuries In Sport

    What is it?
    Muscle pulls and joint sprains are the most common sports injuries. They fully deserve to be number 1 in the top ten injuries in sport. Here are the most common of these:

  • Ankle Sprain.. ligaments around your ankle joint are torn when you apply force on the ankle and it buckles either left or right. Your ankle will swell followed by pain. Follow R.I.C.E. and see your health professional if pain gets worse. Work to strengthen your ankle joint in your recovery.

  • Hamstrings Pull.. they consist of 3 muscles at the back of your thigh, usually injured whilst running (especially sprinting). You'll feel sharp pain and won't be able to continue exercising. Follow R.I.C.E. and see your health professional if pain gets worse. Remember to always warm up and cool down.

  • Lower Back Pain.. the scourge of mankind! Well almost. If you have never experienced lower back pain then you've been lucky. Usually caused by over-exerting your back muscles by lifting, bending or twisting with poor technique. But there are many other factors involved and you should see your health professional if you are worried. Work to strengthen your core muscles.

  • Wrist Sprain.. your wrists take all the weight when you fall. It's a natural reaction to protect your head, your arms and hands come forward to cushion the fall. If it's a heavy fall or your wrist joint is weak, the surrounding ligaments can be sprained. There'll be swelling followed by pain. Follow R.I.C.E. and see your health professional if pain gets worse.

    Preventing The Top Ten Injuries In Sport

    Most of the injuries here are classified as "overuse injuries". These tend to have chronic symptoms of pain which build up over periods of time. Here are some tips to give you a better chance of avoiding overuse injuries:

  • Instead of cutting down on your exercise, create a plan which includes rest days between each specific workout. Rest days don't have to be complete rest from exercise or sport. For example, a rest day from jogging can be spent swimming or cycling. Although I do recommend including at least 2 days of complete rest in each week.

    This "cross-training" aspect will work all areas of your body in the long term, and allow each specific part (e.g. knees or shoulders etc.) enough time to recover. That will keep any repetitive stress on any one muscle or joint to a minimum.

  • Specific stretching in your cool down is crucial. Research about stretching is never ending, and rightly so when it comes to injury. You should never stretch cold muscles, this may actually cause injury. General stretching should be included at the end of your warm up. But the biggest factor in preventing injury is specific stretching after your workout, in your cool down. Specific stretching means focussing thoroughly on the muscles used in your workout.
    Click here to read more about your warm up and cool down.

  • Include specific strength training exercises in your workout plan. No matter what your main exercise or sport is, you need to keep the most used muscles strong. This specific strength will reduce the affects of repetitive stress on your bones, muscles and joints. Ease into new activities to allow your specific strength to build up.
    Click here to read more about strength training exercises.

  • If you have an injury, no matter how great or small, you need to recover properly. Don't view it as something that will go away in a couple weeks. That attitude will invite more injury. An injury needs time only to heal. But healing isn't recovery. You need to take more time to re-build specific strength and flexibility. Then you can start to ease back into your exercise or sport.

  • Have the correct footwear or equipment for your activity. Think about the size, comfort and fit.

    Final Word

    It's said that 80% of active people are at risk from the top ten injuries in sport listed above. I don't know how accurate that figure is, but don't let it put you off. As we've seen, taking the best measures to prevent those injuries from occurring or re-occurring, means you can keep enjoy doing what you love.

    If you're down about an injury, don't despair. As always there's someone worse off, and you should count yourself lucky. You'll be back when you're ready. For now, here are some (cringe) examples of those worse off:

  • Eduardo - Broken leg in 3 places and dislocated ankle. Horrific injury, if you didn't see the pictures, his foot was hanging off and leg bone poking through his sock (similar injuries include David Busst, Henrik Larsson and Djibril Cisse).

  • Joe Theismann - Broken leg. The worst thing is that 10 other players must have piled over him after the break, not knowing he was injured. His leg was truly crushed to bits.

  • Clint Malarchuk - An ice skate flicks up and slits his throat. Images of the blood stained ice have stuck in my mind.

    Ouch! The top ten injuries in sport pale in comparison!

    Click Here to Share Your Sports Injury Story

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