What is Sports Medicine?
Sports medicine is the study and practice of medical principles related to the science of sports, particularly in the areas of:
- Sports Injury Diagnosis and Treatment
- Sports Injury Prevention
- Sports Training and Athletic Performance
A sports medicine specialist is an individual with specialized education and
training who focuses on the medical and therapeutic aspects of
sports participation and physical activity. This title of sports medicine
specialist does not necessarily mean the specialist is a physician. The risk of
injury when participating in high energy activities, such as sporting events, is
high. Due to the high impact nature of sports, injuries don't just include
strains and sprains, but sometimes require
surgical treatment for fractures,
dislocations, overuse injuries,
tears, and ruptures.
How Did Sports Medicine Evolve?
Sports medicine evolved out of the need to diagnose and treat the ever increasing sports related injuries suffered by countless fitness oriented people as well as professional athletes worldwide. A number of orthopedic surgeons have achieved legendary status for their ability to rebuild the worn out or damaged knees, shoulders, feet, ankles and elbows of professional athletes. This combination of surgery, rehabilitation and preventive conditioning has allowed athletes to lengthen their careers by years, in some cases performing even better after coming back from seemingly "career ending" injuries.
What is the Purpose of Sports Medicine?
Sports medicine physicians give advice about exercises that improve endurance, strength, and flexibility; perform fitness tests; and offer nutritional advice and other coaching to help athletes improve performance. Preventive medicine and conditioning plays a very large role in sports medicine. In order to prevent and minimize injury, sports medicine physicians are becoming ever more involved in the design of footwear, clothing, protective equipment and other sports gear. For example, the design of football helmets and snow ski bindings have advanced significantly from the input of sports medicine physicians.
The most common sports injuries are strains and sprains
Sprains are injuries to ligaments, the tough bands connecting bones in a joint. Suddenly stretching ligaments past their limits deforms or tears them. Strains are injuries to muscle fibers or tendons, which anchor muscles to bones. Strains are called “pulled muscles” for a reason: Over-stretching or overusing a muscle causes tears in the muscle fibers or tendons.
Preventing the most common sports injuries
Sometimes preventing common sports injuries is beyond our control, but many times sports injuries are preventable. Some injuries are self-induced due to not being properly conditioned for the activity.
1. Every workout should start with a gentle warm-up to
prevent common sports injuries. Getting warmed up increases blood flow to
the muscles, gets you more flexible, and decreases the risk of injuries.
2. Overuse injuries are common and preventable. Do some “pre-participation training” first by lightly working the relevant muscle groups in the weeks before the activity.
3. And learn to recognize when you've already left it all on the field. Stop when you are fatigued. Muscle fatigue takes away all your protective mechanisms and really increases your risk of all injuries.
Treating the most common sports injuries
Usually, common sports injuries are mild or moderate — there's some damage, but everything is still in place. You can treat them at home using the PRICE therapy method described below. But you should expect that some common sports injuries may take months to heal, even with good treatment. If a sprain or strain is severe, however, the entire muscle, tendon, or ligament is torn away, and surgery may be needed.
Here are some specific tips for treating each of the most common sports injuries:
1. Ankle sprain
What it is: Most athletes have experienced a sprained ankle, which typically occurs when the foot turns inward. This turning stretches or tears the ligaments on the outside of the ankle, which are relatively weak.
What you can do: With an ankle sprain, it’s important to exercise to prevent loss of flexibility and strength — and re-injury. You can ask your doctor or physical therapist to help you know what kinds of exercise you should do.
When to see a doctor: It’s important to note where the sprain has occurred. A 'high ankle sprain' is slower to heal and should probably be seen by a doctor to make sure the bones in the lower leg did not separate. One way to recognize a high ankle sprain is that this sprain usually causes tenderness above the ankle.
2. Groin pull
What it is: Pushing off in a side-to-side motion causes strain of the inner thigh muscles, or groin. Hockey, soccer, football, and baseball are common sports for groin injuries.
What you can do: Compression, ice, and rest will heal most groin injuries. Returning to full activity too quickly can aggravate a groin pull or turn it into a long-term problem.
When to see a doctor: Any groin pull that has significant swelling should be seen early by a physician.
3. Hamstring strain
What it is: Three muscles in the back of the thigh form the hamstring. The hamstring can be over-stretched by movements such as hurdling — kicking the leg out sharply when running. Falling forward while waterskiing is another common cause of hamstring strains.
What you can do: Hamstring injuries are slow to heal because of the constant stress applied to the injured tissue from walking. Complete healing can take six to 12 months. Re-injuries are common because it's hard for many athletes to stay inactive for that long.
4. Shin splints
What they are: Pains down the front of the lower legs are commonly called “shin splints.” They are most often brought on by running — especially when starting a more strenuous training program like long runs on paved roads.
What you can do: Rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medicine are the mainstays of treatment.
When to see a doctor: The pain of shin splints is rarely an actual stress fracture — a small break in the shin bone. But you should see your doctor if the pain persists, even with rest. Stress fractures require prolonged rest, commonly a month or more to heal.
5. Knee injury: ACL tear
What it is: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) holds the leg bone to the knee. Sudden “cuts” or stops or getting hit from the side can strain or tear the ACL. A complete tear can make the dreaded “pop” sound.
When to see a doctor: Always, if you suspect an ACL injury. ACL tears are potentially the most severe of the common sports injuries. A completely torn ACL will usually require surgery in individuals who wish to remain physically active.
6: Knee injury: Patellofemoral syndrome
What it is: Patellofemoral syndrome can result from the repetitive movement of your kneecap (patella) against your thigh bone (femur), which can damage the tissue under the kneecap. Running, volleyball, and basketball commonly set it off. One knee or both can be affected.
What you can do: Patience is key. Patellofemoral pain can take up to six weeks to clear up. It's important to continue low-impact exercise during this time. Working out the quadriceps can also relieve pain.
7. Tennis elbow (epicondylitis)
What it is: Repetitive use of the elbow — for example, during golf or tennis swings — can irritate or make tiny tears in the elbow's tendons. Epicondylitis is most common in 30- to 60-year-olds and usually involves the outside of the elbow.
What you can do: Epicondylitis can usually be cleared up by staying off the tennis court or golf course until the pain improves.
The PRICE principle for treating common sports injuries
The PRICE method to treat any common sports injury will help get you back in the game sooner.
First, it’s important to know that swelling is a normal response to these injuries. Excessive swelling, though, can reduce range of motion and interfere with healing. You can limit swelling and start healing faster after common sports injuries by using the PRICE principle:
P — protect from further injury
For more severe injuries, protect the injured area with a splint, pad, or crutch.
R — restrict activity
Restricting activity will prevent worsening of the injury.
I — apply ice
Apply ice immediately after a common sports injury. Use ice for 20 minutes every one to two hours for the first 48 hours after the injury. Don't use heat during this time — it encourages swelling and inflammation.
C — apply compression
Compression with an elastic bandage will help reduce swelling.
E — elevate the injured area
Elevating the injured area above the heart will also reduce swelling.
Over-the-counter pain relievers usually relieve the pain of common sports injuries to a tolerable level. If they don't, it's probably time to see a doctor.
When to get medical attention for common sports injuries
If your injury will likely require surgery, and your insurance allows self-referral, you may choose to see an orthopedic surgeon first. However, most sports injuries occur in a setting where you will get a general diagnosis by a sports medicine specialist, and then contact an orthopedic specialist for further evaluation. If you have any of the following, please consult a specialist immediately:
- Deformities in the joint or bone — it looks “crooked,” or moves abnormally
- You cannot bear weight or can't use the limb without it “giving way”
- Excessive swelling
- Changes in skin color beyond mild bruising
- It's not getting any better after a few days of PRICE therapy
Where Would We be Without Sports Medicine?
Some of the finest examples of innovation in Sports Medicine come from the baseball diamond. Baseball pitchers put extraordinary demands on their elbows every time they throw a baseball. Those demands can exceed the physical strength of the elbow's supporting structures, causing breakdown and tears of tissues around the elbow. A tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow was once considered devastating and career-threatening until a pioneer in Sports Medicine designed a way to reconstruct the ligament. The first ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction done on Los Angeles Dodger pitcher, Tommy John, was a clear success. Tommy John went on to win 164 games after the surgical reconstruction of his elbow. The revolutionary procedure, now called the "Tommy John Procedure" has revived hundreds of baseball careers.
Much like a ruptured ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow, a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee was once a career threatening injury. The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is crucial for people who need to twist or change directions with their legs. Sports Medicine specialists have refined the treatment of tears of the ACL, allowing elite athletes like Tiger Woods to return to competition after successful ACL reconstruction. Woods underwent knee surgery to reconstruct a torn anterior cruciate ligament in June, 2008. In less than a year, he returned to golf and resumed winning tournaments.
Former Saint Louis Blues Defenseman, Erik Johnson returned to the ice a year after he underwent reconstruction of a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. Over 100,000 ACL reconstructions are performed each year in the United States. Many of these procedures are done in casual athletes and injured workers in order to keep them safely participating in both recreational and occupational activities.
These are just a few examples of how innovations in Sports Medicine have had a profound impact on the health care team's ability to successfully return people from all walks of life to the top of their game.
If you are suffering from a sports injury or joint pain, please contact our office immediately to schedule an evaluation.
Dallas Orthopedics Institute
9330 Poppy Drive
Dallas , TX 75218
Orthopedic surgerySurgical and non-surgical methods of treating injuries and degenerative diseases..