Strains, Sprains and More: The Most Common Sports Injuries

5 Most Common Sports Injuries

There's no denying that physical activity and exercise are good for your overall health. But it is possible to go overboard when it comes to being physically active. Pushing yourself too far, not properly warming up or using the wrong gear when you play a sport or exercise can all contribute to injury. Get to know the most common sports injuries and what you can do to prevent them.


When you sprain a joint, the ligaments that connect the bones to the joint tear or stretch. Ankle and wrist sprains are some of the most common types of sports-related injuries.

Usually, a sprain occurs when there's a sudden force on a particular bone or joint. For example, you are running down the field during a soccer game and you slip, twisting your ankle. The force on the ankle joint can tear the ligaments or stretch them beyond what is comfortable. You can sprain your wrists if you fall forward during a game or exercise and try to catch yourself with your hands.

The symptoms of a sprain typically include bruising, swelling and pain2. The joint is likely to be stiff and hard to move. A doctor can diagnose a sprain by examining the injured area and asking a patient for more details about what happened. In some cases, they might order imaging to confirm that a person didn't break a bone.

Using the proper equipment, such as wearing cleats during sports, can help to reduce the chance of a sprain occur. Stretching and warming up before exercise or sports can also help to prevent sprains.


Strains are similar to sprains. The two are often confused with each other. While a sprain is an injury to the ligaments, a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, which connects the muscle to bone. A strained muscle or tendon becomes stretched or tears.

When a person has a strained muscle, they are likely to see swelling in the affected muscle. The muscle might feel cramped or spasm. Pain is a common symptom, too.

Common locations for a strain include the lower back and hamstrings. Someone can strain a muscle suddenly, such as if they try to pick up something too heavy or over the course of days, such as if they push themselves too hard on the field.

There are several things you can do to make strains less likely to occur. Using the right gear when you play sports and replacing worn-out gear can reduce the likelihood of a strain.

Knee Injuries

While sprains and strains are the most common types of sports injuries, the knee is the area of the body most commonly injured during sports. The knee joint is very complex, which makes it more susceptible to a range of injuries3.

Examples of knee injuries include:

● Tears to the anterior cruciate ligament

● Tears to the posterior cruciate ligament

● Meniscal tears

● Fractures

● Dislocation

Signs of a knee injury include pain in the knee, an inability to move the knee and swelling. Some people hear a "popping" sound when their knee becomes injured. The knee might also give out at the time of injury.

A physician can diagnose a knee injury after examining the joint and asking questions about what happened at the time of injury. They might also take images of the knee to get a better look at what is going on.


A fracture occurs when a bone breaks, usually as a result of a significant amount of force. For example, an athlete can break a bone after falling from a bicycle or if they trip and fall when running down a field.

When someone fractures a bone, it can be immediately obvious. The area around the broken bone might look misshapen. In some cases, the bone can push through the skin. A physician can order X-rays to get a picture of the breakage and to help them set the bone.

One way to try and prevent fractures is to avoid playing sports or exercising in wet or slippery conditions. Wearing the right gear and being alert and aware of your surroundings can help you avoid the circumstances that can contribute to a broken bone.

Overuse Injuries

Repetitive stress on a joint or muscle can lead to an overuse injury. Common examples of overuse injuries include tennis elbow, shin splints and swimmer's shoulder. Stress, such as swinging a tennis racket over and over or running on hard surfaces, often contributes to these types of injuries.

You can prevent overuse injuries by doing a few things. Learning the proper form for your sport will help to cut down on the risk of injury. Mixing up your workout and training routine can also help you avoid an overuse injury.

Taking steps to prevent injuries allows you to enjoy playing your favorite sport or participating in your favorite physical activities for as long as possible. If you think you have an injury or are concerned about pain or swelling in a particular joint, an orthopedic surgeon can help diagnose and treat the injury.

Sponsored by 


1. Sprains and Strains, Medline Plus,

2. Sprain vs. Strain, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease

3. Common Knee Injuries, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons,

4. Treat and Prevent 5 Most Common Sports Injuries, Virtua Health,

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