Preventing Sports Injuries: Orthopaedic Tips for Athletes

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Engaging in an active lifestyle can bring a lot of joy through sports, but it also presents the risk of getting injured. This article will delve into some of the most common sports injuries, their symptoms, and the important measures individuals can take to prepare their bodies before engaging in physical activity. We will also discuss how to strengthen oneself through exercises and adopting efficient rest and recovery strategies to maintain a healthy and injury-resistant lifestyle.

Common Sports Injuries

Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprains happen when the ligaments that support the ankle stretch or tear, often due to a sudden twist, turn, or awkward movement of the foot. Factors that increase the risk of ankle sprains include:

  • Previous ankle injuries
  • Poor athletic conditioning
  • Muscle and ligament fatigue
  • Inadequate warm-up
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Carrying excess weight
  • Inappropriate footwear

Recognising ankle sprains promptly is crucial to prevent further damage and facilitate proper treatment to prevent chronic instability in the future. Common symptoms of ankle sprains include:

  • Pain, bruising, and swelling at the ankle
  • Restricted ankle movement
  • Hearing or feeling a ‘pop’ when the sprain occurs

Hamstring Sprain

Hamstring strains result from overstretching or tearing of the muscles at the back of the thigh. This often happens during activities that involve sprinting, jumping, or sudden stops and starts. Factors that increase the risk of hamstring sprains include:

  • Poor conditioning
  • Muscle imbalance or tightness
  • Inadequate warm-up
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Activities like football, basketball, dancing or running

Timely identification of hamstring strains is essential to initiate appropriate rehabilitation, preventing prolonged recovery and recurrence. Common Symptoms of hamstring sprains include:

  • Sharp, sudden pain in the back of the thigh
  • Swelling and bruising or discolouration around the calf
  • Difficulty in straightening the leg
  • Tenderness and warmth in the injured area
  • A snapping or popping sensation

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries in sports can involve fractures, dislocations, sprains, or tears in various structures, including ligaments (e.g., ACL, MCL), menisci, or the patellar tendon. Injuries often result from sudden changes in direction, direct impact, or overuse. Factors that may increase the susceptibility to knee injuries include:

  • Improper body movements (biomechanics)
  • Improper body movements (biomechanics)
  • Previous knee injuries

Recognising knee injuries promptly is crucial for preventing additional damage and for planning appropriate rehabilitation. Common symptoms of knee injuries include:

  • Pain, swelling, and tenderness around the knee joint
  • Popping or snapping sound during the injury
  • Instability or giving way of the knee
  • Limited range of motion

Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries in sports can involve the rotator cuff, labrum, or other structures in the form of instability, impingement, tears, dislocations, strains, and frozen shoulder. Overhead activities, repetitive motions, and trauma are common causes. Factors that increase the risk of shoulder injuries include:

  • Poor shoulder flexibility
  • Muscle imbalances
  • Inadequate warm-up
  • Overuse

Early identification of shoulder injuries is important to prevent the worsening of the condition. Common symptoms of shoulder injuries include:

  • Pain, ranging from dull to sharp and severe
  • Stiffness, weakness, or instability in the shoulder
  • Limited range of motion
  • Clicking or popping sensation
  • Deformity (fractures and dislocations)

Pre-Activity Preparation To Prevent Sports Injury

It is essential to engage in proper pre-activity preparation to minimise the risk of sports injuries. The two key components of this preparation include warm-up routines with dynamic stretching, and using appropriate footwear and equipment.

Warm-Up Routines and Dynamic Stretching

Why It Matters:

  • Increased Blood Flow
  • Improved Flexibility
  • Enhanced Coordination

A thorough warm-up routine aims to boost your core temperature and enhance blood flow to your muscles. Start with cardiovascular exercises like light jogging or dynamic jumping jacks to raise your heart rate and body temperature.

Follow this with dynamic stretching—active movements that mirror your upcoming activity. Engage in exercises like leg swings, arm circles, and hip rotations to prepare your muscles and joints.

Tailor your warm-up to your sport with specific movements. For example, golfers can simulate swings, and runners can vary jogging speeds in place. This cohesive approach ensures you are mentally and physically ready for your main activity.

Proper Footwear and Equipment

Why It Matters:

  • Stability
  • Support
  • Shock Absorption

Footwear is a critical aspect of sports safety, and prioritising the right fit is paramount. Choose shoes that offer sufficient toe space and adequate arch support. Opting for activity-specific footwear, tailored to the unique demands of your sport, provides additional protection. Regularly replacing worn-out shoes is crucial to preserve their supportive features.

In addition, using sport-specific equipment is essential for safety. Helmets, particularly in contact sports, should fit properly and meet established safety standards. Incorporating protective gear like pads, guards, and braces adds an extra layer of safety, ensuring comprehensive protection during physical activities.

Building Resilience Through Strength and Conditioning

A well-rounded strength and conditioning (S&C) aims to develop a robust and injury-resistant body. Through a combination of strength training, aerobic conditioning, speed and agility training, and sport-specific training, individuals can expect improvements in the following areas:

  • Muscle strength and endurance
  • Connective tissue function
  • Heart, bone, and lung health
  • Motor skills
  • Mobility and flexibility
  • Reduced risk of injury

Through careful integration of principles such as individuality, specificity, overload, progression, and reversibility, individuals can personalise their routines to suit their unique characteristics and requirements.

Rest and Recovery

Rest and recovery are crucial for injury prevention and overall well-being. Adequate rest allows your muscles to repair and strengthen, enhancing the body's natural healing process and reducing the risk of future injuries.

The Importance of Sleep

Embracing restful sleep is a key factor in supporting the body's natural muscle repair process following physical exertion. For individuals aged 18 and above, aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep is generally beneficial. However, tailoring sleep recommendations to the needs of each athlete is likely more conducive to promoting both optimal health and peak performance.

Active Recovery

Lactic acid, a post-exercise by-product, can lead to fatigue and stiffness. Active recovery, like cycling and stretching, aids in faster elimination of muscle lactate than passive recovery, enhancing overall recuperation. This minimises post-exercise soreness, enabling athletes to sustain training more effectively.

Post-Injury Management and Recovery

Even as we exercise caution while participating in physical activities, injuries can still happen. Watch out for these early signs of a sports injury:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Numbness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Weakness
  • Instability
  • Joint pain

If you recognise any of the above warning signs, it is advisable to apply the RICE treatment method to help as a first aid measure:

  • REST: Avoid activities that could worsen the injury or put weight on the affected area.
  • ICE: Apply a cold pack to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time to reduce pain and swelling.
  • COMPRESSION: Use a compression bandage to help minimise swelling, being careful not to wrap it too tightly to avoid impeding blood flow.
  • ELEVATION: Elevate the affected area above heart level, if possible, to reduce bleeding and swelling.

If you find yourself uncertain about the severity of your injury or if it persists, seek medical advice promptly for an accurate diagnosis but also a personalised treatment and rehabilitation plan.

When contemplating a gradual return to sports post-injury, the medical professional can offer valuable guidance on a structured and safe reintroduction, minimising the risk of re-injury.


When it comes to sports and physical activity, maintaining optimal health requires resilience and a comprehensive approach to well-being. Understanding sports injuries and taking proactive measures can significantly reduce risks. Prioritising rest, active recovery, and post-injury management is crucial for sustained physical health. Adopting a balanced approach, recognising injuries early, and collaborating with medical professionals can lead to long-term injury prevention and ensure an active lifestyle in the long run.


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Dr Yung Shing Wai, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon: With his decades of specialist experience, Dr Yung is committed to providing not only high-quality, personalized and modern orthopaedic treatments; he also shares his knowledge by reviewing and contributing informative articles to provide patients with trustworthy and up-to-date orthopaedic insights.

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