Overview of Sports Injuries
Sports injuries are common and are going to become commoner as we are all being encouraged to participate more & more in physical activity. Sports-type injuries can occur in active people of any age, but in the sports injury service we try and use the expertise gained by treating elite, high performance and professional athletes to benefit active patients of all ages including children, young adults, weekend warriors and more mature individuals returning to sport after a lay off.
The sorts of injuries which we routinely see are different in different activities and sports. We typically see over-use injuries without any history of trauma in endurance and low impact events such as running, cycling and rowing, whereas the most common injuries we see are in football. This is simply because so many people are involved in playing football in this country. The majority of injuries are twisting rather than from a direct blow whereas contact sports, such as rugby do produce a different spectrum of injuries commonly from the impact itself.
The vast majority of sporting injuries are relatively minor and do get better on their own more or less regardless of treatment and the main stay of our specialist service is going to be the more severe injuries. However, it is always helpful to have a specific diagnosis and have treatment tailored to it, since in the hands of an expert therapist (usually a physiotherapist) patients can return to sport that little bit quicker and hopefully with a lower risk of recurrent trouble.
The other side to treatment of sporting injuries is analysing the cause and the prevention of recurrence. These can certainly be in-born variations such as over suppleness and “double-jointedness”. There may mechanical imbalances, but we are also increasingly looking at equipment and training with now very good evidence that all sorts of injuries, in particular the more severe knee ligament injuries, ankle sprains and hamsting tears can be to some extent prevented with appropriate preventive exercises. A lot of effort is now being put into this. Getting the joints and muscle as good as possible before surgery is also important & known as “prehabilitation”.
The most common injuries which we see and deal with are injuries to the knee, shoulder and ankle, although sports injuries to the groin, back and musculo tendinous units elsewhere in the body are also commonly seen. We do believe that by concentrating on sporting injuries we have, and will continue to develop, a special expertise and we have completely stopped doing any other kinds of surgery, such as joint replacement, to concentrate our expertise in this area.
Diagnosis - Tests & Scans
The best way of coming to a clear diagnosis is from a careful assessment of the history of injury followed by a clinical examination of the injured part. This may be supplemented by special tests including X-rays, MR, CT and bone scans, but as with many branches of medicine the majority of diagnoses are made primarily by listening to our patients description of the problem, secondarily by a careful physical examination and only then looking at what special investigations are going to be helpful. Scans are NEVER the whole story and can often cloud the issue when interpreted in isolation.