HEALTH WATCH: Dealing with sports injuries

HEALTH WATCH: Dealing with sports injuries

Whether due to overuse or age, sports injuries are common ailments in young athletes and ’weekend warriors’

Whether exercising or playing sports leisurely or competitively, participating in sports contributes to a physically active lifestyle and offers health benefits. However, it also increases risk of injury.

Chad M Fortun, MD, is a fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon at Wilmington Health who provides comprehensive orthopaedic care from non-operative orthopaedic injuries to cutting edge joint replacement and minimally invasive surgery. Also trained in sports medicine, Fortun enjoys taking care of athletes of all levels and ages. Fortun said sometimes people experience sports injuries due to not understanding gradual progression, not listening to their bodies, doing too much too soon, or trying to push through things despite needing a little bit of rest.

Some of the most common sports injuries don’t require surgery. "The most common injuries that people suffer are overuse injuries, such as the tendinitis, bursitis, and irritation to muscles like your common joint sprains or muscle strains," Fortun said.

Fortun said these types of injuries make up the largest number of injuries seen among high school athletes or young athletes. Overuse injuries, he said, are caused by repetitive use and "doing the same thing day in and day out and not really allowing your body time to catch up and recover."

Other common injuries include more severe sprains and ligament tears in the knee such as a meniscus tear in knee or tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), tissue that connects the thighbone to the shinbone, at the knee, shoulder injuries, and a concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.

2) Early sports specialization and poor mechanics can contribute to overuse injuries

Fortun said one of the biggest things associated overuse injuries is early sport specialization.

"The one that is probably most talked about in literature these days are baseball players, and how even early on in Little League kids are specialized in one sport and playing that one sport. In this case it’s baseball, year-round. So, they (can) get dead arm syndrome," he said. "They get a lot of upper extremity injuries because of the fact they continue to play the same sport … throwing a ball fast and hard isn’t necessarily natural for the body. So, if you’re not playing another sport, and you’re not giving it time to recover, you end up with these overuse problems."

3) Age is a risk factor for some sports injuries, particularly for ’weekend warriors’

People over 35 sometimes experience sports injuries such as tendon ruptures.

"Achilles ruptures are very common in the weekend warriors, who may go out and play basketball for the first time in a few months or few years," Fortun said.

"The ’weekend warrior’ tends to be the aging athlete who due to life changes no longer has the time to train or prepare for their sport," Fortun said. "Instead they get into a competition situation without the training necessary to limit injury. The higher chance of injury is due to lack of training and preparation combined with body changes that occur with the normal aging process."

"They don’t have as much resistance to injury as they did when you were younger and as much elasticity," he said. "They become a little more brittle and then more at risk for rupture. It’s a good idea to be on a regular stretching program and a core strengthening program, so that if you do go out and do those things your body will be able to take some of that beating … "

"If it is a high school, college or professional athlete, an athletic trainer may be the first medical professional they see," Fortun said. "The athletic trainer will take them through a physical exam to determine an accurate diagnosis, and if it’s something that would benefit from rehab, like an overuse injury, they may prescribe a rehab program at the school. If it’s something that requires a higher level of care, they will send them to an orthopaedic sports medicine surgeon, such as myself."

Individuals without athletic trainers can call an orthopedic office directly for care.

5) Treatment options range from rest and rehab to injections and surgery

Fortun said the first thing anyone can do for common sprains, strains and overuse injuries such as tendonitis and bursitis is RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.

"From high school athletes to even a weekend warrior, you have to listen to your body," Fortun said. "If you are having pain that doesn’t go away after 24-48 hours of rest and that pain is still there when you try your activity again, it may be time to talk to an expert about it. If you are having a significant joint injury and having significant swelling, instability, or mechanical symptoms like catching or locking involved in a joint it’s time to see an expert about it."

Some nonsurgical treatment options include braces, anti-inflammatory medications, rehab with physical therapy, and various forms of injection therapy.

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