Sports Injuries

Authored by Dr Oliver Starr, 12 Dec 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Adrian Bonsall, 12 Dec 2017

Regular exercise has many benefits for your body. However, exercise does come with risks. Most people only experience minor sports-related injuries such as strained muscles and blisters. A few will experience more serious injuries such as torn cartilages or even broken bones. This leaflet describes some of the more common sports injuries, how to recognise them and how to avoid them.

Physical activity of any sort does carry a risk of injury. Most people who take up regular sporting activity will only experience minor sports-related injuries. Sensible precautions can all help to reduce risks. For example:

  • Warming up before exercise.
  • Exercising within your capabilities.
  • Increasing your exercise levels slowly.

There are only a few reasons why physical activity may be harmful. A common belief is that physical activity may be bad for the heart. On the contrary, physical activity is good for most people with heart disease provided they follow guidelines given by exercise specialists or health professionals. In general, if you gradually build up to do regular moderate-intensity physical activity, the potential benefits to your health will greatly outweigh the small risks involved.

Most sports injuries result from:

  • Doing too much too quickly.
  • Overestimating your fitness and ability.
  • Lack of preparation/poor technique.
  • Pushing your body too hard (over-training).
  • Poor equipment, and accidents.

This leaflet looks at the common sports-related injuries seen both in non-professional and professional athletes, and how to prevent and manage them.

Children can also develop both sudden and overuse injuries. Children may be very competitive at their sports, desperate not to miss a race or a match. They may not be as sensible as adults when it comes to needing to rest an injury.

There are also some sports-related injuries that are particular to children, such as Osgood-Schlatter disease.

To reduce the risk of overuse injury children should be encouraged to play a variety of sports. Those who exercise regularly or compete should have their training monitored by a qualified coach.

Not all sports injuries can be prevented, but you can reduce your risk by:

  • Warming up properly before exercise; this can include stretching or rolling muscles and increasing activity levels slowly.
  • Not pushing your body too hard - stay within your own fitness capability.
  • Use the right equipment, such as shin guards for football, a gumshield for rugby and supportive running shoes for running*.
  • Receiving coaching to learn correct techniques; if you start a new sport or activity, obtain advice and training from a qualified healthcare professional or a sports coach.

*People's choices and needs for running shoes vary. However, before choosing something unusual such as barefoot shoes or corrective shoes, make sure you have some advice. For example, for barefoot running you need to be taught the right technique. Break in new running shoes gradually - many injuries result from a sudden change in running shoes.

Read more information in the separate leaflets called:

Further reading and references

Recovering from a sports injury

I'm a 20 year old musician and my doctor told me I have this. I have been in pain for 6 months now and my mom believes that all I need is rest which I have given plenty of. I need more ideas, my...

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