What is an injury?

An injury can be referred to as any damage to the body that causes a physical by-product. The term is also normally used to describe damage caused by hits, falls, impact, weapons or accidents. Injuries range in their severity, from minor cuts/bruises to debilitating knocks or collisions.

Wounds are usually a sub-set of injuries and are normally referred to as soft tissue injuries as they include cuts, grazes or scratches. These can usually be treated with minimal problems or risk of infection. Other types of injuries include:

  • Bites
  • Fractures
  • Strains or sprains
  • Dislocations
  • Burns


What are sports injuries?

These are injuries particularly related to damage received whilst participating in a sporting activity, whether amateur or professional. Depending on the type of sport it is, the severity or location of the injury can differ. As the majority of sports involve either the use of the legs and feet, arms and hands, or even both, these are usually the main points of contact for injuries sustained.


What causes sports injuries?

Sports injuries can be caused by a variety of different factors, some of which are accidental and others due to improper playing technique or over exertion. It is always advised to warm-up adequately before participating in any intensive activity. The muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments can all suffer injury depending on the type of injury.

Impact injuries are the most common causes of sports injuries and can occur as a result of internal or external force.

Internal force – involves sudden dynamic movement, which may tear or strain the tendons, ligaments or muscles.

External force – sudden impact either with another person (tackle, collision, kick etc) or a thing (fall). These can lead to fractures, concussions, breaks, bruises.


Types of sports injuries

There is various classification of sports injuries, these include:

Soft tissue injuries

  • Sprains/Strains – overstretched or torn ligaments/joint, e.g. ankle sprain.
  • Bruises – burst blood vessel below the skin due to impact e.g. dead leg.


  • Closed – broken bone that stays beneath the skin
  • Open – broken bone that is visible above the skin

Joint injuries

  • Dislocation– when a bone(s) is displaced from its joint
  • Cartilage tears– can occur gradually and cause grinding or ‘locks’ within the joint.

Skin damage

  • Cuts– impact with a sharp or abrasive object.
  • Grazes and blisters– can be caused by friction or excessive rubbing

Other injury types include overuse injuries which are caused by excessive use of the same body part without adequate rest or recovery, examples of this type of injury include tennis elbow and golf elbow. It is sometimes often linked with chronic injuries, which are recurrent injuries wherein the injured area has not healed properly before being used again.

Concussions can also occur in many sports and is usually taken seriously especially in contact sports such as rugby and American football. It is usually caused by blunt or explosive impact to the head, resulting in dizziness or even unconsciousness.


Symptoms of sport injuries

There are various symptoms that can occur, dependent on the type of injury that has occurred, these include but are not limited to:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Shock
  • Deformity
  • Displacement
  • Bone breakage


Treating a sports injury

Sports injuries can be treated, the level of this is dependent on the type of injury sustained. There may be an immediate pain, swelling, tenderness, or bruising. Certain injuries may be more severe and restrict movement or cause stiffness. Identifying the injury symptoms and acting accordingly is essential to effectively treating the injury properly.

Exercise or the sporting activity should be stopped immediately after experiencing pain as continuing may further aggravate the injury and make it worse, slowing down recovery.

Methods of treating common injuries including strains, bruises and sprains are often known as the RICE technique:

R – Rest: stop activity and rest the affected area

I – Ice: Apply pressure with an ice pack to the affected area to reduce pain and swelling.

C – Compression: Compress the area firmly to reduce internal bleeding and swelling.

E – Elevation: Raise the injured area to reduce the flow of blood and possible swelling.


Sometimes if the pain is more than usual, the need of NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen and paracetamol can aid in relieving pain. These types of injuries can see recovery from within 2 days to a few weeks.

More serious injuries such as muscle/ligament tears or bone breaks, on the other hand, may require more extensive treatment and possibly surgical operations to repair or fix broken bones and tendons. These type of injuries have a much longer recovery timeline including the time needed for rehabilitation. Depending on the type of injury it is, recovery can take a few weeks to even a year.


Recovery Position

In the occasion where someone suffers shock, faints or collapses after an injury, it is important to act immediately before calling the emergency services. The image below describes the recovery position in which an unconscious person must be placed in. This is to aid their breathing till professional medical health is available.

recovery position


After checking that the individual is breathing, it is important that:

  • the person’s head is tilted backwards to clear their airways
  • their head and neck are aligned
  • their hip and knee is bent at a 90-degree angle to retain stability of the bod
  • the person’s hand is used to support their head


Preventing sports injuries

No one plans to be injured when participating in sports, therefore the majority of sports injuries are accidental no matter the degree. The risk of injury can be lessened by implementing the necessary preventative measures. A person can greatly reduce their risk of sporting injuries by:

  • Warming up and stretching properly before exercise and cooling down effectively afterwards
  • Not over-exerting the body past its current fitness level/capacity.
  • Utilising the correct equipment  e.g. wearing the correct running shoes, wearing shin pads in a football match, following coaching advice on correct techniques

Sports injuries can be further prevented by governing authorities ensuring that the competition is fair, balanced and risk averse. By setting rules to reduce dangerous behaviour and promoting the use of protective equipment, these conditions can aid in preventing injuries.


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[1] NHS Choices (2017) Sports injuries, Available at:

[2] BBC Bitesize (2015) Signs, symptoms and treatment of sports injuries, Available at: [/trx_infobox]