This is Dr. James Porco, Physical Therapist, Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and Athletic Performance Specialist here at Back in Motion Sport & Spine Physical Therapy in Fort Meyers, Florida.
I’m coming to you today to discuss some of the most common sports injuries that we tend to see in clinical practice. Why and how they occur. What populations they normally occur in, if these common injuries can be possibly prevented, and what you might expect to see in a treatment plan revealing exactly what separates Back in Motion and how we can get you back on the field or back to your recreational or competitive sports as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
#1 Ankle Sprain
All right, so, the first common sports injury that we tend to see in our practice is the ankle sprain. So, a lot of people have heard of ankle sprains and a lot of people have had ankle sprains themselves.
What an ankle sprain actually is is a ligament injury, so it’s not usually a muscle. The muscle can be injured in this, however, most of the time, with an ankle sprain, your actual primary injury is located on the ligament that holds the bones and the joints together, allowing them to not separate and keeping them stable.
There are different types of ankle sprains. There’s either a high or a low ankle sprain, and all that means is just depending on the ligament that you did sprain, they do have different timelines, but they’re relatively similar mechanisms, but not exactly the same.
Traditionally, it’s a rolling of the ankle. For example, like a change of direction style sport, a sport where you have to cut, or change direction really fast.
Oftentimes, you’ll also see it in non-athletes, when people either step in a ditch or step down a hill that they didn’t see or they step with like a funky foot position, and they might roll their ankle.
So, the interesting big point to take away from ankle sprains is, usually after having one or two of these ankle sprains, you can end up leading to chronic instability and the recurring ankle sprains increase with each additional ankle sprain that you have.
So, this is one of those injuries that you want to make sure you treat and you get appropriate treatment for because you don’t want this to become chronic and ongoing, like a cyclical kind of thing.
Usually, again, as I said, they happen in a lot of change of direction sports when you’re trying to plant the foot and change direction to cut, but they can also happen from stepping improperly or stepping in a ditch of something like that.
Prevention & Treatment
In terms of prevention, what you want to definitely do is make sure you have enough ankle strength, and proprioception, which means understanding where your body and your feet are in space while you’re doing athletic activities.
The reason you want to have enough ankle strength is that since this is a ligament injury, the supporting muscles can actually help reduce the amount of force placed on the ligaments and if the muscles take on some of that extra force, the ligament has more opportunity to do its job without getting overstretched or potentially torn.
Ankle strengthening exercises are a primary mode of prevention and a longer-term treatment plan. You also want to make sure you have appropriate ankle mobility in the right direction.
Poor ankle mobility forces you to step in funky positions and, if you have to step in a weird position, you might be more prone to rolling your ankle.
We at Back in Motion look up and down the chain to make sure the knees and the hips are moving well, as well, which may also help you prevent or reduce the risk of an ankle sprain.
#2 Groin or Hip Flexor Strain
The second common sports injury that we see is either a groin or a hip flexor strain. I lump these together because people tend to have pain in a very similar spot, whether it’s the groin or the hip flexor.
It’s a pain in the groin either to what they call the adductor muscles, which are the groin muscles or the hip flexor muscle.
These muscles tend to get overworked or overloaded with repetitive use like running and sprinting. You can also injure your groin in a change of direction sport, commonly in sports where there’s like an over stride or a wide base of support, so like in hockey.
Commonly, we see these injuries, again, either overuse repetitive motion or muscle length imbalances to the groin or the hip flexor.
These muscles tend to be a little bit tighter on most individuals and not quite strong enough to handle what they’re being asked to do.
Prevention & Treatment
In terms of prevention, some of the things that we can do to help prevent these injuries are to make sure you do a proper dynamic warmup.
People tend to not get enough blood flow and mobility to these areas prior to participating in their activities or sports, so a good hip flexor and groin warmup can help prevent some of these injuries.
Treating these injuries in the longterm, you want to make sure you put enough strength and length on both the hip flexor and adductor muscle groups.
We tend to do a lot of strengthening, especially eccentric strengthening, which kind of allows the muscle to handle being stretched with the extra load.
Groin and hip flexor strains are something that, depending on the severity, can get better in six to eight weeks of correct treatment.
#3 Hamstring Strains
Hamstring strains are our third common injury and very similar to the like groin and the hip flexor strain, however, in a different location.
Commonly seen in a sprinting injury, hamstring strains can happen either distally, proximally, or at the muscle belly. What that means is where they either attach, down towards the knee or where they start, up towards the buttocks region or somewhere in the middle, which we call the muscle belly.
They commonly happen in sprinting with people who overstride or they don’t have the appropriate muscle length to the hamstring, or a tight hamstring.
Prevention & Treatment
The best prevention strategies for this are making sure that you’re getting enough length and strength to your hamstring muscles by doing an adequate warmup that allows increased blood circulation to the area, increased tissue mobility, and increased elasticity of the hamstring muscle to allow for you to perform your sport.
Treatment for this is to begin mobilization as early as possible, get that hamstring moving, and then as the week’s progress and the hamstring starts to get back to general normal strength, increasing the length of the muscle while also making it stronger, again with that eccentric strengthening to allow for appropriate muscle strength while you’re sprinting.