What are the 5 most common sports injuries?

Written by: Mr Gordon Shepard
Published: | Updated: 20/08/2019
Edited by: Bronwen Griffiths

Mr Gordon Shepard is a leading orthopaedic surgeon specialising in sports injuries. Many of us play sports and exercise, and one of the frustrating things to deal with is injury. So, what are the most common sports injuries that Mr Shepard deals with?

This is a difficult question to answer due to the wide range of sporting pursuits and the differing demands on the body that they make.

In my practice, that is predominantly lower limb injuries. The five conditions that I see the most are:

1. Overuse injuries

Overuse injuries can present in many ways but the most common is pain and aching in the soft tissues. They generally occur when someone steps up their training too rapidly, often in an attempt to get fit or when training for an endurance event, such as a marathon or triathlon. People often underestimate how long it will take to train for such events and they push their bones, ligaments and tendons beyond their limits. With a slow, steady increase in activity, these structures will strengthen and overuse injuries will be less likely. Thankfully, the treatment for most overuse injuries is reducing activity to allow it to settle, and treatments such as physiotherapy. Overuse injuries include shin splints and stress fractures, amongst other things.

2. Simple sprains and strains

A sprain is an injury to a ligament, the structures that hold joints together, whereas a strain is an injury to a muscle or its tendon. Both occur when the structure is overloaded, normally by stretching it too far in the case of sprains, or by over-contraction / resisted contraction of the muscle-tendon unit in strains. Most strains and sprains resolve with simple RICE treatment (rest, ice, compression, elevation), but significant (grade 3) injuries may require intervention by a surgeon. The common symptoms for both of these conditions are pain and swelling in the affected area.

3. Jogger’s knee

Jogger’s knee, also known as runner’s knee or chondromalacia, is a painful condition that affects the outer side of a runner’s knees. The more correct name is iliotibial band (IBT) friction syndrome, and the pain is caused by the ITB rubbing over the outer side of the thigh bone at the knee. The ITB is the band of tissue you can feel on the outer side of your thigh between the hip and the knee, and it helps you to lock your knee so that you can stand comfortably. ITBFS is usually caused by a tight ITB and stretching exercises at the pelvis level and core stability exercises will often resolve it, however, occasionally injections , shockwave therapy and surgery are occasionally required.

4. Knee cartilage tears

The knee has two shock absorbing C-shaped pieces of tissue within them called the meniscal cartilages or menisci. They help shock absorbency and load sharing between the curved end of the thigh bone and the flat top of the shin bone. If the knee is twisted whilst your weight is being taken through it then the cartilage can tear. Most people with a cartilage tear will get pain, swelling and clicking but if there is a large tear it can cause locking (an inability to straighten the knee). Cartilage tears as a result of sports injuries can sometimes be repaired, but are often removed via keyhole surgery.

5. ACL injuries

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four main ligaments in your knee and controls front-back stability when rotating. It is normally injured in a cutting (sudden change of direction) injury and classically athletes with an ACL injury will hear a crack or pop, have severe pain, be unable to continue playing and swelling will rapidly progress within seconds to minutes of the injury. Urgent expert opinion should be sought for this injury as, although not all ACL ruptures require reconstruction, they are commonly associated with other injuries that may require urgent treatment.

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By Mr Gordon Shepard
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr Gordon Shepard is an outstanding consultant orthopaedic surgeon based in the Greater Manchester area, who holds a special interest in sports and degenerative knee surgery.
He regularly performs arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery of the knee, knee ligament reconstruction, meniscal and articular cartilage regeneration procedures and joint replacement surgery, both total and partial.

Mr Shepard gained his training in the UK, USA and Australia before settling back in the north west of England. He has always held an interest in regenerative and reconstructive techniques and has many years’ experience in what is now known as biological surgery. Mr Shepard provides a high-quality, individualised and responsive service to all of his patients, from elite athletes to the elderly.

He was appointed as one of the sports orthopaedics consultants to the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, but a call-up to serve as a surgeon in the army prevented him from doing so. Mr Shepard has also provided his orthopaedic services to professional football clubs.

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