Most Common Injuries Seen by Physical Therapists and Sports Medicine Professionals
Sports and recreational activities have wide-reaching health benefits, but they also come with the risk of injury. From wrestling to skiing to team sports, injuries can lead to a loss of ability in participating in daily activities and job tasks. Physical therapy is often necessary to help reduce pain and symptoms associated with sports injuries while returning patients to full function.
We’ve outlined the top 10 sports or recreational activities with the most common injuries and treatment recommendations.
The Top 10 Common Sports or Recreation Injuries & Treatment Options
Soccer - The most common sports injury for a soccer player is an ACL tear. If the injury to the ACL is bad enough, it can require a reconstruction procedure which requires additional rehabilitation in order to return to function.
- Ultrasound Therapy: Low-intensity pulsed ultrasound using a smaller soundhead applicator (1cm or 5 cm) is beneficial in reducing pain, but also promoting tendon/bone healing in patients who have undergone ACL reconstruction.
- Continuous Passive Motion Machines: After an ACL injury or reconstruction, it’s important to gently move the joint in order to regain full range of motion. A study published in the Journal of Knee Surgery found that the use of Knee Continuous Passive Motion machines after ACL reconstruction was beneficial in increasing active and passive knee flexion. (source)
Baseball - The most common baseball injury is mostly experienced by pitchers and is a tear to the ulnar collateral ligament, which is located in the elbow and is considered a repetitive use injury.
- Electrical stimulation - An overview of rehabilitation for elbow injuries published in Sports Health found that electrical stimulation in the form of transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) has been found to be beneficial in reducing pain associated with ulnar collateral ligament tears.
- Range of motion exercises: When treating ulnar injuries, it’s important to incorporate active-assisted and passive ROM exercises that involve the humeroulnar joint in order to restore flexion/extension.
Tennis - The most common injury in tennis is Tennis Elbow or Lateral epicondylitis, which can have acute pain at the elbow which can radiate down into the wrist and/or hand.
- Ultrasound therapy: A study conducted at Oxford University found that low-intensity, pulsed ultrasound reduced the pain associated with chronic tennis elbow. When using therapeutic ultrasound to the elbow, it’s best to use a smaller soundhead applicator (1cm or 5 cm).
- Mobilizations - With tennis elbow, a practitioner will do gentle joint and range of motion mobilizations in order to enable the joints and muscles to move more freely with less pain.
While concussions remain a huge concern in football, low back pain is a common injury and is mostly caused by overuse and muscular tightness and tension in surrounding musculature.
- Therapeutic Ultrasound and Electrical Stimulation: A study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders found that using continuous therapeutic ultrasound and electrical stimulation simultaneously, with a combination therapy device, could greatly reduce low back pain. (source)
- Therapeutic Stretching: Low back pain can be caused by tight muscles pulling on the low back and pelvis. A physical therapist will use therapeutic stretching techniques in order to release the muscles of the back.
Golf injuries - The most common injury for people that play golf is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is characterized by nerve impingement and can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness and pain.
- Ultrasound Therapy: A study published in the British Medical Journal concludes that pulsed ultrasound therapy at 1 MHz dramatically reduces carpal tunnel pain. (source)
- Therapeutic Exercise: When treating carpal tunnel, a practitioner will use therapeutic exercises designed to increase the strength of the muscles in the hand, fingers, and forearm.
Swimming - One of the most common swimming injuries is a rotator cuff impingement which can lead to both radiating and acute pain, weakness and loss of range of motion.
- Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS) - Electrical stimulation in the form of TENS can efficiently decrease acute and radiating pain, while at the same time increasing range of motion in patients with impinged rotator cuffs.
- Cold-Compression Therapy: Cold-Compression Therapy provides immediate analgesic pain-relieving benefits while also decreasing any inflammation that is causing impingement of the nerve.
Skiing - Knee injuries are also common in skiing with the most common being the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Tear. A MCL tear can lead to pain, swelling, stiffness and associated weakness in the knee or lower leg.
- Ultrasound Therapy: As with the ACL, ultrasound therapy can help reduce pain and improve ligament repair in MCL injuries according to a study published in Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology. (source)
- Balance Training: A patient’s sense of balance can be skewed after a MCL injury. Therefore, practitioners may use a balance pad, balance platform or balance ball with specific exercises designed to improve balance skills.
Basketball - Foot and ankle injuries including sprains and strains are the most common injuries suffered when playing basketball. Sprains and strains can cause pain, swelling and lead to a loss of strength.
- Ultrasound therapy: Low-intensity, pulsed ultrasound using a smaller soundhead applicator (1 cm or 5 cm) is beneficial in reducing pain, swelling and improving range of motion for patients who have suffered an ankle sprain.
- Cold Compression Therapy: Cold compression therapy is beneficial immediately after suffering a sprain or strain because it provides an immediate relief in pain while reducing swelling and edema.
Wrestling - One of the most common wrestling injury is Achilles tendinitis or tendon rupture which can lead to acute heel pain, inflammation and loss of range of motion.
- Ultrasound Therapy: Ultrasound therapy is beneficial in improving tendon repair while also reducing pain and inflammation associated with Achilles tendinitis or Achilles rupture.
- Therapeutic Exercise & Mobilization: Therapeutic stretching and manual therapy techniques (massage and mobilizations) applied to the ankle, foot and leg and hip helps restore range of motion in the foot, ankle, knee and hip.
Martial Arts - Sprains and strains of knees, ankles, elbow and shoulder are the most common injuries found in people who practice martial arts.
- Therapeutic Ultrasound and Electrical Stimulation: Used alone or simultaneously with a therapeutic ultrasound/electrical stimulation combination device, these modalities can help reduce pain and swelling for the most common areas of sprains and strains. What’s more, portable TENS units provide patients with alternative pain relief to use at home.
- Heat therapy: Once the initial inflammation phase has resolved with a sprain or strain, heat therapy in the form of hot packs or even warm-water whirlpool therapy can be used to decrease pain caused by strains or sprains.
Related Infographic - Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries