Common Sports Injuries

Rose Green-Flores
High-risk sports for ACL injuries include basketball, football and soccer.

Whether you are a seasoned athlete or a weekend warrior, it’s smart to learn more about common sports injuries and steps to prevent them.

“Learning about proper positioning and movement for exercise is one of the best ways to prevent sports injuries,” said Lake Regional Orthopedic Surgeon Ryan Morris, D.O. “When you do experience an injury, rest is vital. You also need to know when to seek help.”

Here Dr. Morris and Lake Regional Foot and Ankle Specialist Cody Fox, DPM, FACFAS, discuss a few of the sports injuries they commonly treat.

Cody Fox

ACL Injury

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four major ligaments in the knee, and its job is to help stabilize the knee and prevent the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur. Jumping, sudden stopping or sudden changes in direction can put excessive force on the ACL, causing it to tear. High-risk sports for ACL injuries include basketball, football and soccer. Symptoms include a loss of range of motion, rapid swelling and a popping sensation in the knee. Treatment can range from rehabilitation to surgery.

“Even with surgical options, only 83% of elite athletes and 60% of non-elite athletes return to pre-injury activity levels,” Dr. Morris said. “The best approach is to prevent ACL injuries before they occur through developing strong muscles that support knee movement. Try exercises that strengthen the core, as well as the hip and leg muscles. Specific conditioning drills in jumping and landing also can be helpful.”

Ryan Morris

Turf Toe

Turf toe is a painful injury to the base of the big toe. This is the injury that nearly sidelined KC Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes before Super Bowl LV. It gets its name from the fact that it typically occurs in athletes who play sports on turf, such as football, baseball or soccer. It results when an athlete jams their toe into the ground or bends their toe too far backward. The injury is immediately painful, and throughout time, the stretched and torn ligaments can cause the joint to become stiff and at increased risk for arthritis.

“You should always seek medical attention for turf toe,” Dr. Fox said. “For less severe injuries, carbon fiber shoe inserts and spica splints can be used to help immobilize the toe. More severe injuries may require surgical intervention. To help prevent this injury, focus on stretches and strength-training exercises that build toe strength, and work on analyzing your gait to see if that might be a factor in possible foot injuries.”  

While there are a lot of things you can do to avoid an injury, when one happens rehabilitation therapy may be needed to return to normal.

UCL Injury

The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is located on the inner side of the elbow and plays an important role in various motions, including throwing. Although the UCL can be damaged through a sudden trauma, the culprit is usually stress from repetitive movement. That’s why it’s a common problem for baseball pitchers. Pain when throwing is a common sign of a UCL injury. Other symptoms include pain on the inside of the elbow and tingling or numbness in the pinky and ring fingers. Treatment ranges from physical therapy to reconstructive surgery.

“Rehabilitation for a UCL injury can take months and even longer if surgery is needed,” Dr. Morris said. “Poor mechanics can be a factor in UCL injury, so work with your coach on improving your throwing technique. Add exercises that stretch and strengthen your wrists and forearms to your workout routine. And give your elbow a break when you start to notice any pain.”

Lake Regional Sports Medicine serves area athletes with comprehensive care of sports injuries and athletic trainer services. The providers include a board-certified orthopedic and sports medicine specialist and a foot and ankle specialist, as well as orthopedic surgeons. For more information, visit  lakeregional.com/SportsMedicine.

STUDENT SPORTS

From sprains to concussions, injuries are a part of school sports. To help students compete with fewer injuries — and to ensure proper care for injuries that do occur — athletic trainers from Lake Regional Sports Medicine care for student athletes at Camdenton R-III, Lebanon R-III, Morgan County R-II and School of the Osage, at no cost to the schools.

Rose Green-Flores is the Public Relations specialist for Lake Regional Health System