Physical activity is paramount to health, but if a person’s not careful, that activity can also lead to injury.
Sports injuries occur when engaging in exercise, sports or other types of physical activity. These injuries have a variety of causes. If you skip stretching or don’t properly stretch your muscles before exercising, you could get hurt. Overworking your body is also risky. If you engage in very physical sports, you’re more likely to get injured.
While you can typically treat a mild sports injury yourself, sometimes you need professional care. Chicago sports medicine specialists can examine the injury and prescribe the best treatment. Most of the time, medication or physical therapy can ease the pain, but in some cases surgery is required to correct sports injuries.
Thinking of scheduling an appointment with a Chicago foot and ankle specialist? Know these five facts before you go.
1. Sports Medicine Injuries Are Incredibly Common
You’re far from alone if you have a sports injury. Johns Hopkins Medicine shared a report that found annually United States youth suffer more than 3.5 million strains, sprains and more. Nearly 30 million kids were part of the survey. Adults, of course, can also suffer sports injuries. The John Hopkins report cites research from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which found in 2009 that these sports led to the most injuries for young athletes:
- Football (215,000)
- Bicycling (200,000)
- Basketball (170,000)
- Softball/baseball (110,000)
- Soccer (88,000)
- Snowboarding/skiing (25,000)
- Ice hockey (20,000)
2. These Injuries Can Affect the Whole Body
Because sports injuries can be caused by a wide range of activities, almost all parts of the body can be affected. However, Emory Healthcare in Atlanta notes some parts are more likely to be injured than others. That list includes shoulders, knees, the head, wrists, hands, elbows, ankles and feet. Head injuries may be the most serious and the most likely to require care from a sports medicine Chicago specialist.
According to Emory Healthcare, common ankle and foot sports injuries include hammertoes, cartilage damage, bunions and Achilles tendonitis or other tendon tears. An orthotic specialist or podiatric surgeon can diagnose and treat these.
3. There Are Multiple Ways to Diagnose a Sports Injury
From a concussion to a sprain to a pulled muscle or broken bone, sports injuries really are all-encompassing. When you visit with a podiatric specialist, you should expect the doctor to run various diagnostic tests to determine the severity of the injury. More than likely, the doctor will start the appointment by looking at the patient’s medical history. The doctor may ask about a patient’s activity levels, including which activities they engage in and how often.
You may receive a physical exam, too. If the doctor can’t get a clear picture of the injury at that point, or if it seems more serious, they may require additional testing such as an MRI, a bone scan or an X-ray. These tests may sometimes be done right in the doctor’s office, although sometimes they require an appointment at a medical lab.
4. Surgery Is Not Always Required
As mentioned above, you can often treat a mild sports injury at home. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or painkillers can reduce discomfort. Take a few days to rest, applying heat or ice to the area periodically. STOP Sports Injuries recommends learning more about correct form when playing sports and exercising. As mentioned, always stretch before doing any type of physical activity.
If the above treatments haven’t done the trick, it’s time to call a doctor. Your doctor may recommend prescription medication or physical therapy to repair the damaged muscle, cartilage or joint. During your treatment, you will likely have to stop doing the exercise or sport that caused the injury to begin with. You may be able to do other light, doctor-prescribed exercises outside of physical therapy, but always ask a medical professional before engaging in physical activity.
To prevent these minor injuries from happening again in the future, STOP Sports Injuries recommends mastering the 10 percent rule: “In general, you should not increase your training program or activity more than 10 percent per week. This allows your body adequate time for recovery and response. This rule also applies to increasing pace or mileage for walkers and runners as well as to the amount of weight added in strength training programs.”
What if you’re still in pain even after seeing a doctor? You may need surgery. Westchester Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine says, “Once any of the many ligaments and tendons in the area [the foot] are damaged, they become looser and more prone to injury in the future.” Surgery can prevent recurring and painful sports injuries.
5. If Surgery Is Necessary, the Prognosis Is Often Good
Most procedures that treat foot and ankle injuries aren’t necessarily intensive:
- Hammertoe surgery can reverse painful bone deformations.
- A bunionectomy can remove bunions on the feet so a patient can get back to physical activity without foot pain.
- An ankle arthroscopy “uses a fiber-optic viewing camera and small surgical tools to operate in and around the ankle joint through small incisions,” says William C. Shiel Jr. at eMedicineHealth.
With any of the above procedures, you will have to wait some time before you can walk again. You will likely have to use crutches to get around for the first few weeks after their procedure.
Shiel says after an ankle arthroscopy, some patients “may be placed in an immobilizer for as long as six weeks. The type of repair made during the procedure and the surgeon’s preference will determine how your ankle may be immobilized.”