What are sports injuries?

The term “sports injury” refers to the kinds of injuries that most commonly happen during sports or exercise, such as sprains, strains, and stress fractures This health topic focuses on types of sports injuries that affect muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones.

There are several different types of sport injuries. The symptoms you have and your treatment depends on the type of injury. Most people recover and return to normal activities.

Who gets sports injuries?

Anyone can suffer a sports injury. The risk factors for sports injuries include:

  • Not using the correct exercise techniques.
  • Training too often, too frequently, or for too long.
  • Changing the intensity of physical activity too quickly.
  • Playing the same sport year-round.
  • Running or jumping on hard surfaces.
  • Wearing shoes that do not have enough support.
  • Not wearing the proper equipment.
  • Having had a prior injury.
  • Having poor flexibility.
  • Taking certain medications.

The type of injury you are most at risk for depends on the type of activity you participate in, your age, and your sex.

What are the types of sports injuries?

Sports injuries can be:

  • Acute injuries, which happen suddenly.
  • Chronic injuries, which are usually related to overuse and develop gradually over time.

Sports injuries can occur in many parts of the body, including:

  • Shoulder.
  • Elbow.
  • Wrist.
  • Knee.
  • Ankle.

Common sports injuries include fractures, dislocations, sprains, strains, tendinitis, or bursitis. These terms are defined below.

  • Bone fracture. A fracture is a break in a bone that occurs from either a quick, one-time injury, known as an acute fracture, or from repeated stress, known as a stress fracture. Most acute fractures are emergencies. Growth plate fractures can happen in children, who are still growing.;
  • Dislocation. When the two bones that come together to form a joint become separated, the joint is described as dislocated. A dislocation is a painful injury and is most common in shoulders, elbows, fingers, kneecap, and knee.
  • Sprain. Sprains are stretches or tears of ligaments, the bands of connective tissue that join the end of one bone with another. Sprains are most common in ankles, knees, and wrists.
  • Strain. A strain is a twist, pull, or tear of a muscle or tendon, a cord of tissue connecting muscle to bone. Strains can happen during contact sports, but they can also happen from repeating the same motion again and again, as in tennis or golf.
  • Tendinitis. Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon, a flexible band of fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones. A sudden injury can cause tendinitis, but it usually happens after you do the same motion over and over. People such as carpenters, gardeners, musicians, golfers, and tennis players, have a higher risk of tendinitis. It often affects the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, or ankle.
  • Bursitis. Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa, a small, fluid-filled sac that cushions a bone and other moving parts, such as muscles, tendons, or skin. Bursitis can be caused by a blow or fall, but it can also result from repeating the same motion many times, like throwing a ball, or from kneeling on a hard surface or leaning on the elbows often for a long period of time. It usually affects the shoulders, elbows, hips, or knees.

To read more about common sports injuries, visit the In-Depth version of this Health Topic.

What are the symptoms of sports injuries?

Symptoms of an acute injury include:

  • Sudden, severe pain.
  • Extreme swelling or bruising.
  • Not being able to put weight on a leg, knee, ankle, or foot.
  • Not being able to move a joint normally.
  • Extreme weakness of an injured limb.
  • A bone or joint that looks out of place.

Symptoms of a chronic injury due to overuse include:

  • Pain when you play or exercise.
  • Swelling and a dull ache when you rest.

What causes sports injuries?

The cause of an acute sports injury is a force of impact that is greater than the body part can withstand, while a chronic injury typically happens after repeating the same motion over and over again.