Playing a sport is a great way to be active and develop a competitive spirit. However, engaging in such activities can make you more prone to certain injuries. Practicing repetitive motions, which often comes with contact sports, poses a high risk for various strains and sprains. Here are some common strains and how to help prevent or diagnose them.
ACL is short for anterior cruciate ligament, and it is crucial to the operation of your knee. It is also a commonly-injured ligament in an active body, especially with contact sports. While in recent years medicine has made recovery from a full tear easier and less damaging, prevention of a full tear is still preferable. Proper stretching and warm-ups, strength training, and good technique are all keys to prevent ACL injuries. However, if you experience severe pain, especially accompanied by a popping noise and swelling, see a medical specialist.
Athletes that are involved in twisting activities can see back injuries—mostly muscle strains. A strain is generally indicated by the back experiencing tightness and pain. Unless severe, ice on any sore spots and resting of the area are generally the best course of action. As with ACL injuries, strength training, proper stretches, warm-ups, and good technique can limit back issues.
Torn Rotator Cuff
The rotator cuff is made up of a group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder joint that keeps the head of the arm bone in place. A torn cuff can allow the head to pop out and dislocate—in addition to being painful. You should determine whether you have a minor or major tear in order to appropriately treat the injury. Surgery may be necessary for major tears. Repetitive overhead motion or extreme stress placed on the joint causes most rotator injuries. Routine shoulder stretching can increase flexibility, and you will want to build up muscle in the chest, shoulder, and back areas surrounding your shoulder joint.
Neck injuries are among the most dangerous injuries and are a risk with grappling-style activity. They can pose significant short-term and long-term health problems. A sore neck can usually be treated with ice and rest. Severe, sharp, or lasting pain with a significant loss of neck rotational ability should be investigated by a health professional. As always, regular stretching and proper warm-ups are important, but also be careful about not pushing your neck to its limits during activities, so that if an unexpected force is applied, there is some slack to take the impact and prevent injury.
For most serious athletes, preparation is important. Building up muscles around joints and in the neck and back help stabilize and resist pressure, while stretching keeps you flexible. While you always want to work hard and push yourself, it is important to pay attention to your body’s warning signals and properly treat any injuries that may pop up.
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