The 6 most common sporting injuries – and when they happen

Written by: Professor Paul Lee
Published: | Updated: 24/01/2019
Edited by: Nicholas Howley

In my practice, I see a wide range of patients with sporting injuries, particularly in the knee and ankle. If you want to avoid a sporting injury it’s very important to understand when they can happen, so here’s a round-up of some of the most common injuries we see:

Muscle injury

By far the most common types of sport injuries is a muscle injury. Bruising and contusion around the muscle are very common in most types of injury, but usually, this will settle down and does not require any intervention. However, there is technology out there that can reduce suffering and treat symptoms as you recover.

ACL rupture

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture is a very common injury in younger patients, and usually happens in a non-contact environment.

For example, when a player is trying to turn and cut on a hard ground, or when they’re wearing studs on their feet causing their foot to get in the ground, their body goes one way and their foot is still stuck. This creates tremendous twisting energy and can cause a rupture of the ACL. With this type of injury, the patient will feel a “pop” inside the knee and the knee will swell immediately.

Luckily, it can be managed without surgery and with time things will settle down. There are different braces that we can use to treat it, and with strong muscle, physiotherapy will help. It is best to seek medical advice and to discuss treatment options.

Ligament injury

Ligament injury, or sprain , occurs on the ankle more often than the knee. Most of the time, a sprain can be treated with conservative management, but it depends on the severity of the sprain. There are different technologies out there that can help to reduce the pain after this type of injury, and functional bracing is very important. Early treatment is key to recovery.

Patellar knee injury

There are many different causes of pain in the front of the knee – including from the tendons, the cartilage or the fat pad itself. It can be caused by repetitive strain injury which commonly comes from running, or sometimes it could be fat pad impingement or plica impingement. Patellar knee injury often occurs when someone has changed the sport they play or changed the way that they walk.

This type of injury often settles on its own. However, if it doesn’t settle, we may need to intervene with injection therapy or surgical intervention.

Meniscus injury

Meniscus injury comes hand in hand with cartilage injury (see below) and occurs when there is significant trauma to the knee, causing a tear in the meniscus.

The meniscus is very different in younger and older patients. When we’re younger the meniscus is more flexible so it can deform and it will spring back to how the shape of the meniscus used to be. However, when we become older the meniscus becomes more brittle and trauma to the knee will cause a tear. Usually, this causes severe sharp pain and stops the player from carrying on with their sport.

This type of injury is extremely common in tennis or in golf, which involves a lot of twisting within the body. Nowadays, with modern bracing or injection therapy, surgery is not always necessary to treat this type of problem, and it may be possible for the meniscus to be repaired instead of simply cut off.

Cartilage injury

Cartilage injury is common and usually caused by trauma.

Recovery depends on the different grades of injury. Most of the time the injury recovers with simple contusion. However, if there is further injury to the cartilage, the cartilage can float around the knee and cause a problem. This defect can lead to early-onset arthritis. Luckily, in recent years new treatment options have become available to repair the cartilage or help the body to stimulate growth of new cartilage.


Professor Paul Lee is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with significant experience in treating injuries of the knee. To book a consultation with Professor Lee, click here.

By Professor Paul Lee
Orthopaedic surgery

Professor Paul Lee is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon based in London and Grantham, Lincolnshire, specialising in hip replacement, knee surgery and knee cartilage replacement alongside revision hip replacement, meniscus surgery and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery. He privately practises at 108 Harley Street medical centre and as the director at MSK Doctors in Ancaster, Lincolnshire. His NHS base is United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust where he is a consultant sports and arthroplasty surgeon and the Director of Research.

Professor Lee is highly qualified, and received his MBBCh in Medicine from Cardiff University in 2005 and went on to receive an MSc in Sports Medicine - Muscle Performance and Recovery, from Cardiff Metropolitan University three years later. He then returned to Cardiff University to complete a PhD entitled 'Treatment of Muscle Injuries' in 2013. 

He regularly treats elite sports people, including treatment of muscle injuries in UK Premier League footballers, significantly reducing their recovery time, allowing them to return to playing sooner. 

Professor Lee, who is held in high esteem by his patients, offers various non-surgical orthopaedic techniques including micro artho-glycan knee, actovegin muscle injury and stem cell injection treatments alongside the Unloader One® knee brace. He also prides himself in his surgical skills in the S.P.A.I.R.E tendon-sparing total hip replacement, FT-MPFL Patella re-alignment and All-Inside ACL reconstruction surgeries. 
He has also combined surgery, technology, engineering to develop the Single Treatment Autologous Chondrocyte implantation (STACi) procedure. 

Further to his qualifications, Professor Lee also has various fellowships from respected institutions including the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (Tr & Orth), the European Board of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (FEBOT) and Orthopaedics Hospital in Oswestry. 

He is also a certified expert in the use of the Exeter hip system, which was developed after training on the Robin Ling Exeter Hip Replacement Fellowship in the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Hospital in Exeter. He also did international fellowships in Germany and Australia. Other higher training saw Professor Lee become a certified member of the Faculty of Sports and Exercise Medicine (MFSEM).

Professor Lee is widely published in various peer-reviewed journals and is an active member of the British Hip Society (BHS), British Orthopaedic Sports Trauma and Arthroscopy Association (BOSTAA) and the British Orthopaedic Association (BOA) alongside the Biological Knee Society (BKS). He is internationally recognised at the ICRS teaching centre of excellence for his teaching in cartilage and joint preservation surgery. 

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