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Sporting injuries: symptoms, prevention and recovery

At Benenden Hospital, we know sporting injuries can cause pain, discomfort, and affect your everyday life. Read our guide to sports injuries to understand the symptoms, prevention, recovery, and how fast access to our treatments and services can help.

According to research by Podium Analytics, 40% of people questioned said they’ve sustained a sporting injury at some point in their life. Worryingly, a third of people who’ve suffered from an injury as a result of playing sport say they’re still affected by symptoms today.What are the symptoms of a sporting injury?

Whether you’ve had a fall, suffered impact, pushed yourself too hard, not warmed up, or used equipment incorrectly, the symptoms of your injury will depend on the sport you play and where you’ve been injured.

Your muscles, bones, joints, tendons and ligaments can all be affected, but your ankles and knees are particularly prone to injury. Read our guide to the six most common ankle injuries in football.

Symptoms of an acute (sudden) injury include:

  • Extreme swelling or bruising
  • Weakness of the injured limb
  • Limited mobility of the joint
  • Not being able to put weight on the affected limb/joint
  • Sudden, severe, stabbing pain
  • Bone or joint appears out of place

Symptoms of a chronic (ongoing) injury include:

  • When you rest, you have swelling or a dull ache
  • Pain when you play sport or do any exercise

How can you prevent sporting injuries?

Having a sports injury can result in the development of arthritis as a response, so it’s important to Be kind to your joints to prevent further discomfort or pain. The benefits of playing sport and exercising at any age far outweigh the negatives, but it’s important to take care of your body to prevent your risk of injury. For example:

  • Warm up before exercise for around 10 minutes
  • Recognise your limitations and don’t overdo it
  • Learn the correct techniques and postures, especially if using equipment at the gym or lifting weights
  • Use the right equipment: running shoes that fit, mouth guards, shin pads etc
  • Stretching after playing sports/exercising will help to loosen your muscles and prevent tightness

How can I take care of my injury at home?

If you suspect you’ve had a minor sporting injury and your symptoms feel manageable, it may be safe for you to treat your injury at home. However, if any of your symptoms do not improve or worsen, you should seek help from a healthcare professional. Use the R.I.C.E method to kickstart your recovery:

Rest: Limit activity and try to avoid using your injured limb

Ice: Apply a cold pack or ice bag wrapped in a tea towel to the injury for 20-minutes, four to eight times a day. It’s important not to apply heat straight after an injury. It should only be applied later in recovery to relieve muscle tension

Compression: Putting pressure on the injury can help to reduce any swelling. Using an elastic bandage can work effectively, as long as it’s not wrapped too tightly

Elevation: Keep your injured ankle, knee, elbow or wrist above the level of your heart, to help decrease swelling

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help to treat pain and swelling too.

If you’ve had a serious musculoskeletal sports injury, a medical professional or paramedic will treat you with immediate immobilisation. By putting your injured limb in a sling, splint, brace or cast, blood can flow directly to your injury and pain, swelling and muscle spasms will be reduced too.

What are the treatment options for sporting injuries?

At Benenden Hospital, we can help you throughout your sporting injury recovery journey. If you’re suffering from ongoing symptoms of a sporting injury, you can book an appointment with one of our private GPs or, if joint-related, our expert Orthopaedic or Podiatric Consultants to discuss treatment options and potential surgery.

You may be referred for a scan at our modern on-site diagnostic imaging suite. There, you may have an X-ray, CT, Ultrasound or MRI scan of the affected area. Your results will then be thoroughly examined and your treatment options will be explained.

You may also benefit or be recommended to receive Physiotherapy sessions. Our team of Senior Physiotherapists are highly skilled professionals who can develop an exercise programme to help strengthen the affected body part and reduce the risk of the injury recurring.

What is the recovery time?

Depending on the type of sports injury you have, it can take a few weeks to a few months or more to make a full recovery. This is why it’s important to do gentle movement to improve your mobility and have patience with the process.

You should not return to your previous level of activity until you've fully recovered, but you should aim to gently start moving the injured body part as soon as possible. Slowly increasing your amount and intensity of exercise will help to prevent any recurring injury.

Access our private Physiotherapy

If you're recovering from sporting injury and need private Physiotherapy treatment, our experienced and compassionate team can help with your recovery, supporting you in maintaining your independence.

During your initial Consultation, our Senior Physiotherapist will take the time to talk to you about your condition, carry out a thorough physical examination and discuss your goals for recovery.

They’ll put together a physiotherapy treatment program, tailored to your needs, ranging from gentle mobilisations and strengthening to therapeutic pain relief and soft tissue techniques. These techniques are combined with exercises and education, to help you manage your recovery for the longer term and aim to help you to try and prevent your injury reoccurring.

To book your first private physiotherapy session at Benenden Hospital, please book online or contact our Private Patient Team via Livechat or on 01580 363 158.

Published on 27 February 2023