Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries

Important: If you are currently suffering from a critical or life-threatening sports injury, please call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.

What is a Sports Injury?

At first glance, the question “what is a sports injury?” seems simple enough to answer however, the term can mean different things to different people making it a little more complicated. This is because the term sports injury is often used as an umbrella term across many different health professions to refer to any type injury that occurs in relation to sport or exercise.

Within the podiatry profession, we tend to use the term sports injury to describe sports-related problems with the feet, ankles, knees and legs. These injuries can usually be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute injuries occur suddenly and tend to be the result of an obvious cause such as accident, fall or awkward twist. When these injuries are quite serious, they may be so painful or severe that people require more specialised care at the hospital. Less severe injuries may be initially assessed by GP or physiotherapist, with follow up care provided by a podiatrist when appropriate.

In contrast, chronic lower limb injuries tend to develop over a longer period of time and may be the result of repeated stress or overuse of certain musculoskeletal structures. This is the type of sports injury that our podiatrists tend to see most at our clinic, especially when they are related to podiatry factors such as foot function, footwear or lower limb biomechanics.

Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries

A podiatrist or ‘foot doctor’ is trained to diagnose and treat many different types of foot and leg problems. As a result, a top 10 list of the most common sports injuries seen by a podiatrist might be very different to those seen by other sports injury professionals such as physiotherapists and sports physicians.

From a podiatry perspective, the common types of sports injury our podiatrists see in clinic are usually chrnoic injuries, especially those with underlying biomechanical or foot-related causes. For example, some of the common podiatry related sports injuries we might encounter in clinic include:

  1. Plantar fasciitis and other causes of foot arch pain or heel pain
  2. Forefoot injuries such as sesamoiditis, metatarsalgia and other causes of forefoot pain
  3. Turf toe & plantar plate injury
  4. Achilles tendinopathy
  5. Shin splints and leg pain
  6. Sinus tarsi syndrome & Peroneal tendinopathy
  7. Recurring ankle sprains
  8. Chronic knee pain (e.g Runner’s Knee, Jumper’s Knee)
  9. Skin injuries such as blisters, corns and callus on the feet
  10. Nail injuries such as ingrown or damaged toenails

As you can see when it comes to sports, podiatrists work with a range of different types of lower limb injuries. Knowing what you are dealing with is one of the first steps to treating or managing these types of conditions.

If you think you might benefit from a podiatry assessment, please feel free to contact us to book an appointment.

First Aid for Common Sports Injuries

First aid is typically used as a precursor to medical or professional treatment and should be started as soon as possible after the injury occurs for best results. It can be quite useful for managing symptoms and preventing further damage until you can receive more specific advice or treatment however, it not designed to replace medical advice or treatment.

If you’ve ever looked into the topic of first aid for common sports injuries, you might have realised that there are a number of tips and suggestions out there. The natural question that often follows is usually something along the lines of “which first aid protocol is best?”.

The answer to this question may depend on factors such as the type and severity of injury (acute vs chronic) and even the type of tissue injured. You may be aware that there are a number of different mnemonics out there that can help you remember the main first aid strategies. For example RICE, POLICE, MEAT, PRICE, and MICE are just a few of the different protocols that offer suggestions for immediate treatment for sports-related injuries.

General Tips for the Immediate Self-Management of Acute Soft Tissue Injuries

Whenever possible, we recommend speaking to a suitably qualified health professional (e.g. your GP) for advice regarding the best first aid approach for your particular situation. If a first aid officer is available, you might also wish to seek help from them in the first instance.  For 24/7 advice from a registered nurse, phone HealthDirect on 1800 022 222.

If this option is not immediately available, there are some general principles that may help you to manage some acute soft tissue sports injuries (e.g. sprains, strains) until you can access these resources. These principles include the following:

  • Protecting/resting the injured area until you can establish that it is safe for you to re-introduce movement. This may require seeing your GP or physiotherapist for advice. Scans and further investigation may also be required depending on the severity of the injury.
  • Applying an icepack for short periods soon after the injury to cool the injured area and short-term management of pain. Make sure to apply ice with caution and never directly to the skin to reduce the risk of cold burns. Prolonged use of ice may delay or impair healing. Therefore, ice should be used intermittently (e.g. 10 minute on, 20 minutes off).
  • Elevating the injured area to minimise swelling. If you need to lower the injured area, do so slowly.
  • Using a compression bandage to support the injured area and minimise swelling. Do not apply the bandage too tightly – you don’t want to cut off the circulation. If you experience increased pain, tingling or numbness after applying the bandage then remove it immediately.

Please note: some first aid techniques may not be suitable in all cases. For example, the application of ice may be harmful if you have an underlying medical condition that impairs your circulation or puts you at greater risk of cold burns. Please see advice if you are unsure.

Tips for Preventing Further Damage Following an Injury  – Do ‘No HARM’

To prevent further damage during the acute phase (i.e. the first 24-72 hours) some also suggest following the No H.A.R.M principle, which stands for:

  • (No) Heat – avoid hot baths, showers, saunas, heat packs and heat rubs as heat may increase the bleeding at the injured site.
  • (No) Alcohol – alcohol may increase the loss of muscle strength and mask pain, increasing the risk of re-injury.
  • (No) Running/Re-injury – avoid running or any other activity in the initial stages until you know that it is safe to re-introduce movement and/or weight-bearing activities
  • (No) Massage – avoid massage in the early stages of an injury as it can promote blood flow and swelling.

Prolonged periods of immobilisation/rest and the use of ice can be counterproductive for some injuries but may be essential for others. Unfortunately, without a diagnosis from a health professional experienced in acute sports injury assessment (e.g. sports physician, physiotherapist) it can be difficult to tell whether moving the area will do more harm than good. Therefore, we recommended seeking professional advice as early as possible for tailored advice for your specific injury.

When to Seek Medical Care

IMPORTANT: If your sports injury is critical or life threatening, please dial Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.

Although some people refer to podiatrists as ‘foot doctors’, podiatrists are not medical practitioners. This means that podiatrists are not generally equipped to deal with urgent medical cases (e.g. broken bones, dislocations, lacerations, concussions etc).

Serious sports injuries may require prompt medical intervention. The following signs and symptoms may indicate a serious sports injury and/or medical emergency:

  • A joint or bone that looks broken, deformed, or dislocated
  • Wounds or lacerations, excessive bleeding
  • Inability to put weight or pressure on the injured area
  • Extreme pain, especially if it is getting worse
  • Paralysis, tingling or numbness
  • Unsteady breathing or pulse, noticeable paleness
  • Disorientation, confusion or loss of consciousness

For non-urgent medical advice please see your General Practitioner or call HealthDirect on 1800 022 222.

How to Prevent Sports Injuries

Sports injuries that occur due to an accident or unexpected event can be difficult to prevent. However, there are many other potential causes of sports injuries that if addressed, may reduce your risk of injury.  For example, some of the ways to prevent sports injuries may include:

  1. Keeping active to preserve strength and flexibility
  2. Wearing the right type of shoes for your particular sporting activity
  3. Making sure to use correct technique and form
  4. Carefully managing your training load, especially if you have an existing injury
  5. Making sure that you warm up and cool down sufficiently
  6. Addressing any foot-related biomechanical causes with the help of a podiatrist

If you are interested in learning more about sports injury prevention, there are a number of people out there that may be able to assist with you. Podiatrists, physiotherapists, sports coaches, GPs and sports physicians are just a few that come to mind. Each of these professionals will have their own perspective and area of expertise when it comes to managing and preventing sports injuries.

If you would like a podiatrist’s perspective on how you might be able to prevent certain lower limb injuries, please give us a call to book a consultation with one of our podiatrists.

Disclaimer – For Your Safety 

Remember, a person’s health and circumstances are unique. This information is general in nature and is provided in good faith for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace individual professional advice or the opinion of your medical practitioner or other suitably trained health professional. We endeavour to keep only up to date information on this site however, its accuracy is not guaranteed and should not be relied on. Any suggestions or recommendations discussed in this article are included so that you may ask your GP, podiatrist or physiotherapist about their suitability for your individual circumstances. You should seek the advice of a qualified health professional before making any decisions about your health.

Please also note: 

  • Some first aid techniques may not be suitable for some people
  • Ice should not be applied directly to the skin or for extended periods
  • Other first aid protocols may be more suited to your particular injury
  • First aid is not intended to replace medical advice and treatment
  • For 24/7 advice from a registered nurse, phone HealthDirect on 1800 022 222

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