Most sports injuries are avoidable and are often the result of:
- not warming up properly
- poor technique
- not using equipment correctly
- not taking the proper safety precautions for your sport
- overestimating your levels of fitness, strength and endurance
Sudden sports injuries, including cuts and sprains, are usually caused by accidents, such as a sudden impact or an awkward movement. These types of spontaneous injury can be difficult to avoid. However, you can minimise the damage that a sudden injury can cause by wearing appropriate safety equipment, such as a helmet while skiing or snowboarding or shin pads while playing football.
Competitive athletes, such as sprinters, long-distance runners and rugby players, have a high risk of overuse injuries due to the intense nature of their training and the overuse of specific muscle groups.
Children are also at risk of overuse injuries because they are still developing physically. For example, the female shape changes significantly during puberty (usually between 10 and 16 years of age). As the hips widen, exercise can put pressure on different areas of the legs and feet, which can sometimes lead to injury.
The repetitive and aggressive movements used in many sports can cause several types of injury to different parts of the body. Below are injuries that are specific to some common sports.
All cricketers are vulnerable to straining their hamstrings. This is because during a match a player often stands still for a long time before suddenly sprinting.
Bowlers are also vulnerable to straining their ankles, and fast bowlers have a particularly high risk of developing tendonitis in their shoulders. Wicketkeepers and fielders can sometimes develop back pain.
Batsmen should wear cricket helmets to reduce the risk of a severe head injury from being hit on the head with a ball.
Common injuries that can affect cyclists include:
Severe head injuries are less common and more serious, and can occur if a person falls or is knocked off their bike and lands on their head.
Most leading medical and safety organisations, such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), recommend that cyclists wear cycling helmets to protect against head injury.
The sudden movement and intense power required by throwers, such as shot putters and discus throwers, can cause upper-body injuries. The upper limbs, usually the shoulders, elbows and wrists, are particularly susceptible to injury.
Jumping events, such as the long jump and triple jump, can cause stress fractures to the lower limbs and spine. Competitive athletes who participate in jumping events are at risk of developing overuse injuries, such as tendonitis and torn ligaments.
People who play football at all levels have an increased risk of minor sports injuries, such as cuts, bruises, minor head injuries and sore shins.
Semi-professional and professional players are more likely to get more severe sports injuries because the physical demands of the game are more intense at advanced levels.
Injuries that are known to affect semi-professional and professional footballers include:
- hamstring injuries – which in the most serious of cases can result in a torn hamstring (older players are most at risk because the hamstring becomes less flexible over time)
- torn anterior cruciate ligaments – which can occur when a player suddenly loses balance and twists their knee into an awkward position
- broken bones – particularly in the feet and legs
A less common but more serious football-related injury is a severe head injury, which can occur when two players jump to head the ball at the same time and their heads clash together.
The most commonly reported injuries among golfers are:
- back pain
- golfer's elbow
- shoulder pain
- carpal tunnel syndrome – a condition that causes pain, numbness and a burning or tingling sensation in the hand and fingers, and is often associated with overusing the wrist
Researchers in Canada found that most children who do gymnastics would be expected to have a mild to moderate painful injury for every six hours that they practice gymnastics. Most of these injuries are caused by falling or landing badly onto the floor, and they only cause short-term pain that rarely last more than a minute.
More serious injuries, such as spinal injuries, are usually only a major risk for elite gymnasts who compete at a high level.
Racquet sports include badminton, tennis and squash. Injuries are often caused by players falling onto hard surfaces and include cuts, bruises and fractures.
Eye injuries are a particular risk during racquet sports such as squash, where the ball travels at high speeds. Many squash players wear protective goggles to reduce the risk of eye damage. There is also a risk of lower- and upper-body muscle strains, particularly in competitive players.
Due to the physical and aggressive nature of rugby (both rugby league and rugby union), injuries are often more common than in other sports, although they are usually only mild to moderate.
The most commonly reported injuries in rugby players are:
- severe bruising, which can cause a collection of blood to pool in the surrounding tissues (a haematoma)
- muscle strains
- joint strains
Less common and more serious injuries include:
Running and jogging
Common injuries that affect people who regularly run or jog include:
- heel pain
- tendonitis – particularly the Achilles tendon, which is the large tendon at the back of the ankle
- stress fractures
- sore shins
- hamstring strains
- knee pain
Swimming has a relatively low risk of causing injury compared with other sports. Shoulder pain is the most commonly reported injury in swimmers. It can be caused by either poor technique or overuse of muscles, joints and bones.