Sports Injuries: Types, Treatments, Prevention, and More (2023)


Sports injuries occur during exercise or while participating in a sport. Children are particularly at risk for these types of injuries, but adults can get them, too.

You’re at risk for sports injuries if you:

  • haven’t been regularly active
  • don’t warm up properly before exercise
  • play contact sports

Read on to learn more about sports injuries, your treatment options, and tips for preventing them in the first place.

Different sports injuries produce different symptoms and complications. The most common types of sports injuries include:

  • Sprains. Overstretching or tearing the ligaments results in a sprain. Ligaments are pieces of tissue that connect two bones to one another in a joint.
  • Strains. Overstretching or tearing muscles or tendons results in a sprain. Tendons are thick, fibrous cords of tissue that connect bone to muscle. Strains are commonly mistaken for sprains. Here’s how tell them apart.
  • Knee injuries. Any injury that interferes with how the knee joint moves could be a sports injury. It could range from an overstretch to a tear in the muscles or tissues in the knee.
  • Swollen muscles. Swelling is a natural reaction to an injury. Swollen muscles may also be painful and weak.
  • Achilles tendon rupture. The Achilles tendon is a thin, powerful tendon at the back of your ankle. During sports, this tendon can break or rupture. When it does, you may experience sudden, severe pain and difficulty walking.
  • Fractures. Bone fractures are also known as broken bones.
  • Dislocations. Sports injuries may dislocate a bone in your body. When that happens, a bone is forced out of its socket. This can be painful and lead to swelling and weakness.
  • Rotator cuff injury. Four pieces of muscle work together to form the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff keeps your shoulder moving in all directions. A tear in any of these muscles can weaken the rotator cuff.

The RICE method is a common treatment regimen for sports injuries. It stands for:

  • rest
  • ice
  • compression
  • elevation

This treatment method is helpful for mild sports injuries. For best results, follow the RICE method within the first 24 to 36 hours after the injury. It can help reduce swelling and prevent additional pain and bruising in the early days after a sports injury. Here’s how to follow RICE, plus a recovery timeline.

Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to treat sports injuries. Most of them provide relief from pain and swelling.

If your sports injury looks or feels severe, make an appointment to see your doctor. Seek emergency care if the injured joint shows signs of:

  • severe swelling and pain
  • visible lumps, bumps, or other deformities
  • popping or crunching sounds when you use the joint
  • weakness or inability to put weight on the joint
  • instability

Also seek emergency attention if you experience any of the following after an injury:

  • difficulty breathing
  • dizziness
  • fever

Serious sports injuries can require surgery and physical therapy. If the injury doesn’t heal within two weeks, contact your doctor for an appointment.

The best way to prevent a sports injury is to warm up properly and stretch. Cold muscles are prone to overstretching and tears. Warm muscles are more flexible. They can absorb quick movements, bends, and jerks, making injury less likely.

Also take these steps to avoid sports injuries:

Use the proper technique

Learn the proper way to move during your sport or activity. Different types of exercise require different stances and postures. For example, in some sports, bending your knees at the right time can help avoid an injury to your spine or hips.

Have the proper equipment

Wear the right shoes. Make sure you have the proper athletic protection. Ill-fitting shoes or gear can increase your risk for injury.

Don’t overdo it

If you do get hurt, make sure you’re healed before you start the activity again. Don’t try to “work through” the pain.

When you return after letting your body recover, you may need to ease yourself back into the exercise or sport rather than jumping back in at the same intensity.

Cool down

Remember to cool down after your activity. Usually, this involves doing the same stretching and exercises involved in a warmup.

Resume activity slowly

Don’t be tempted to nurse your injury for too long. Excessive rest may delay healing. After the initial 48-hour period of RICE, you can start using heat to help relax tight muscles. Take things slowly, and ease back in to exercise or your sport of choice.

Sports injuries are common in younger adults and children. More than 3.5 million children and teens are injured as part of an organized sports or physical activity each year, estimates Stanford Children’s Health. One-third of all injuries in children are related to sports, too.

The most common sports injuries in children are sprains and strains. Contact sports, like football and basketball, account for more injuries than noncontact sports, like swimming and running.

A 2016 study found that 8.6 million people, ages 5 to 24, have a sports injury every year in the United States. Researchers note males ages 5 to 24 make up more than half of all sports injury episodes.

The lower body is most likely to be injured (42 percent). The upper extremities make up 30.3 percent of injuries. Head and neck injuries combine for 16.4 percent of sports injuries.

Deaths from sports injuries are rare. When they do happen, they’re most likely the result of head injury.

Anyone may find themselves coping with a sports injury, regardless of the last time they suited up for the baseball diamond or squared off with a linebacker on the gridiron. But some factors put you or a loved one at an increased risk for injury.


Because of their active nature, children are especially at risk for sports injuries. Children often don’t know their physical limits. That means they may push themselves to injury more easily than adults or teenagers.


The older you grow, the more likely you are to experience an injury. Age also increases the odds that you have sports injuries that linger. New injuries may aggravate these previous injuries.

Lack of care

Sometimes, serious injuries start off as small ones. Many injuries that result from overuse, such as tendonitis and stress fractures, can be recognized early by a doctor. If they’re left untreated or ignored, they can develop into a serious injury.

Being overweight

Carrying around extra weight can put unnecessary stress on your joints, including your hips, knees, and ankles. The pressure is magnified with exercise or sports. This increases your risk for sports injury.

Children or adults who plan to begin participating in sports can benefit by having a physical examination by a doctor first.

Many sports injuries cause immediate pain or discomfort. Others, like overuse injuries, might be noticed only after long-term damage. These injuries are often diagnosed during routine physical examinations or checkups.

If you think you have a sports injury, your doctor will likely use the following steps to get a diagnosis. These include:

  • Physical examination. Your doctor may attempt to move the injured joint or body part. This helps them see how the area is moving, or how it’s not moving if that’s the case.
  • Medical history. This involves asking you questions about how you were injured, what you were doing, what you’ve done since the injury, and more. If this is your first time visiting this doctor, they may also ask for a more thorough medical history.
  • Imaging tests. X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds can all help your doctor and healthcare providers see inside your body. This helps them confirm a sports injury diagnosis.

If your doctor suspects you have a sprain or strain, they may recommend you follow the RICE method.

Follow these recommendations and keep an eye on your symptoms. If they get worse, that can mean you have a more serious sports injury.

Call your doctor if there are signs of swelling or if it hurts to place weight on the affected area. If the problem is in the location of a previous injury, seek medical attention right away.

Contact a healthcare provider if you don’t see any improvement after 24 to 36 hours of RICE.

Because a child’s skeleton isn’t fully developed, the bones are weaker than an adult’s. Take extra precautions with a child’s sports injuries. What looks like a tissue injury may in fact be a more serious fracture.

Don’t ignore your symptoms. Remember, the earlier you get a diagnosis and treatment, the sooner you’ll recover and get back in the game.


What are the 4 types of sports injuries? ›

Types of sports injuries
  • Ankle sprain – symptoms include pain, swelling and stiffness.
  • Bruises – a blow can cause small bleeds into the skin.
  • Concussion – mild reversible brain injury from a blow to the head, which may be associated with loss of consciousness. ...
  • Cuts and abrasions – are usually caused by falls.

What are the 7 common types of sports injuries? ›

  • Bone fracture. A fracture is a break in a bone that occurs from either a quick, one-time injury, known as an acute fracture, or from repeated stress, known as a stress fracture. ...
  • Dislocation. ...
  • Sprain. ...
  • Strain. ...
  • Tendinitis. ...
  • Bursitis.
Sep 1, 2021

What are the 10 sports injuries you can prevent? ›

Read this to avoid common sports injuries and learn how to treat them so you can enjoy the summer pain free.
  • Runner's Knee. Knee injuries are one of the most common sporting injuries treated by orthopedic surgeons. ...
  • Shoulder Injury. ...
  • Achilles Tendinitis. ...
  • Concussion. ...
  • Ankle Sprain. ...
  • Tennis Elbow. ...
  • Pulled Muscle. ...
  • Groin Strain.
Jun 8, 2018

What are the treatments of sports injuries? ›

How is a sports injury treated?
  • Immobilization with a cast, splint, sling, walking boot or other medical device.
  • Injections to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Prescription anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Surgery to correct fractures or repair ligament, tendon or cartilage tears.
Nov 16, 2021

What are the 5 classifications of injuries? ›

The main types are primary, secondary, direct, indirect and chronic injury.

What are the 10 types of injury? ›

Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries
  • Strains. Strains are the most common sports injury. ...
  • Groin pull. As mentioned above, the groin is a common place to strain. ...
  • Sprains. ...
  • Knee injuries. ...
  • Fractures. ...
  • Dislocations. ...
  • Tennis elbow. ...
  • Shin splints.
Mar 4, 2021

What are the 3 most common injuries in sports? ›

The most common sports injuries are: Sprains and strains. Knee injuries. Swollen muscles.

What are the 8 common injuries in sports? ›

8 Most Common Sports Injuries
  • Strains. Strains are by far the most common of all sports-related injuries simply because we use so many muscles and tendons when we exercise or play. ...
  • Sprains. ...
  • Knee injuries. ...
  • Fractures. ...
  • Tennis elbow. ...
  • Plantar fasciitis/shin splints. ...
  • Back injuries/back pain. ...
  • Concussion.

How many categories are there of sports injury? ›

8 Common Types of Sports Injuries.

What are 5 ways to prevent sports injuries? ›

5 Ways to Avoid Sports Injuries
  • Wear protective gear, such as helmets, protective pads, and other gear.
  • Warm up and cool down.
  • Know the rules of the game.
  • Watch out for others.
  • Don't play when you're injured.

What are the 6 ways to avoid sports injuries? ›

Six Ways to Avoid Sport Injuries
  • Stay conditioned. Keeping your body is shape over the summer is one of the best ways to avoid injury. ...
  • Don't forget to hydrate. ...
  • Make time for rest. ...
  • Warm up and stretch. ...
  • Use recommended safety equipment. ...
  • Play safe.
Oct 25, 2016

What are the 6 causes of sports injuries? ›

A sports injury can be caused by an accident, impact, poor training practices, improper equipment, lack of conditioning, or insufficient warm-up and stretching. Muscle sprains and strains, tears of the ligaments and tendons, dislocated joints, fractured bones, and head injuries are common.

What are 7 ways to avoid sports injuries? ›

Prevent Sports Injuries with These Seven Tips
  • Take breaks. Yes, it's ok to take five. ...
  • Wear the right shoes and appropriate gear. ...
  • Stretch and condition. ...
  • Follow proper techniques. ...
  • Stay hydrated. ...
  • Warm up and cool down. ...
  • Don't push it.

What are examples of treatment injury? ›

Treatment injuries include infections that are passed directly to some other person (for example, a partner or child). You won't be covered if your injury was caused by an underlying health condition, or by you unreasonably withholding or delaying your consent to treatment.

What are the 5 causes of sports injuries? ›

Top Five Most Common Reasons For Sports Injuries
  • OVERUSE. Chronic wear and tear of muscles, tendons, and joints can produce fatigue and overtraining muscle strains and cramps. ...
Oct 6, 2020

What are the 9 kinds of injuries? ›

Common Types of Injuries and How They Affect Your Body
  • Bruises. A bruise or muscle contusion can result when you fall or hit a hard surface or piece of equipment. ...
  • Sprains. ...
  • Strains. ...
  • Burns. ...
  • Fractures. ...
  • Animal Bites. ...
  • Urgent Care for Sports Injuries in Rochester, NY.
Nov 26, 2021

What is Type 6 injury? ›

Type VI epiphyseal plate injury – injury to the periphery of the epiphyseal plate with resultant bridging of the bone and early closure of the epiphyseal plate causing an angulation. Type VII epiphyseal injury – localized to epiphyseal plate.

What are the 6 acute injuries? ›

Acute injuries include:
  • Broken bones.
  • Concussion.
  • Dislocated shoulder.
  • Fractures.
  • Knee injuries, such as ACL and meniscus tears.
  • Muscle sprains and strains.
  • Rotator cuff tears.
Mar 13, 2019

How do you prevent injuries? ›

The Best Ways to Prevent Injury
  1. Use proper mechanics—practicing the proper mechanics can prevent muscle strains and pulls.
  2. Stay alert—be aware of your surroundings because many injuries are due to contact with other players.
  3. Cool down—slowly decrease the intensity of your activity and then stretch again.
Jan 2, 2020

What are the 5 most common sports injuries? ›

Here's a look at the top five most common sports injuries, how to treat them and what you can do to prevent future injuries.
  • Sprains. ...
  • Strains. ...
  • Fractures. ...
  • Concussions. ...
  • Overuse injuries. ...
  • Preventing sports injuries.

What are the top 5 worst sports injuries? ›

FIVE OF THE WORST SPORTS INJURIES. Some of the worst injuries include a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), concussion, hamstring injury, fracture and patellar tendon tear. ACL injuries are prevalent in all sports; however, basketball, soccer and football are the leading sports that can expose you to ACL injuries.

What are 3 types of major injuries? ›

Examples include:
  • Amputation.
  • Blindness.
  • Deafness.
  • Paralysis.
  • Crushing, fractures and dislocations: head, back, chest and abdomen, neck, hip and pelvis.
  • Exposure to electric current.
  • Asphyxia or drowning.
  • Burns with more than 20 days medical leave.

What are the six common sports related injuries? ›

The 6 Most Common Sports Injuries
  • Ankle Sprain & Other Sprains. Sprains are a risk during any type of sport. ...
  • Knee Injuries. ...
  • Muscle Strains. ...
  • Shoulder Injuries. ...
  • Shin Splints. ...
  • Fractures.

What are the classification of sports injuries? ›

Mechanism of Injury
InjuryType of Contact
Non-contactNo evidence of disruption of a player's movement patterns
Contact IndirectThrough another athlete
Contact IndirectThrough an object
Contact DirectWith another athlete
1 more row

What sport has the most injuries top 10? ›

Sports with the most injuries

Basketball has the most injuries overall, but the number of injuries varies with each age group.

How many types of injuries are there? ›

Common types of injury include abrasions, lacerations, hematomas, broken bones, joint dislocations, sprains, strains, and burns. Injuries can be minor or severe.

What is the most injury free sport? ›

Swimming is the safest sport to take part in. Its easy on the joints and can be an aid in recovery after an injury so making it the safest sport in America. A study by researchers at The University of Colorado Denver lead by PhD.

What sport is high injury risk? ›

Bicycling – 126.5 per 100,000 individuals. Basketball – 61.2 per 100,000 individuals. Baseball and softball – 41.3 per 100,000 individuals.

What are the rarest injuries in sports? ›

Injuries and conditions such as eye injuries, dental injuries, neck and cervical injuries, and dehydration and heat illnesses are relatively rare among high school athletes; however, they have the potential for high morbidity and a significant burden on health care.

What is a Type 4 injury? ›

Salter-Harris type IV fractures are relatively uncommon injuries that occur in children. They are intra-articular injuries in which the fracture extends through the epiphysis, across the physis and through the metaphysis. Salter-Harris fractures are a group childhood injuries where a fracture involves the physis.

What is a Class 3 injury? ›

Class Three - A Minor Injury or Illness

Required first aid and or a minor incident.

How many sports injuries are there? ›

For example, with regard to exercise and exercise equipment injuries, the number of injuries increased slightly in 2021 (409,224 injuries in 2021 compared to 377,939 in 2020), the age group with the highest injury rate is 15- to 24-year-olds, nearly twice as many males are injured as females (4,148,404 males vs.


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