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A Simple Guide to the Most Common Sports Injuries

May 17, 2011

In 2000, the Sporting News magazine named St. Louis the best sports town in America. No surprise, really, when you consider the players who were on the rosters of our professional teams: Jim Edmonds, Kurt Warner and Chris Pronger.

Unfortunately, the success didn’t last, mostly due to injury.

Warner broke his finger in the 2002 season and was largely ineffective until he was traded. Edmonds remained a valuable player, but at the age of 40, due to Achilles tendonitis that didn’t respond to treatment, he retired in 2010. Pronger missed 31 games due to injuries during the 2002 season.

Are Sports Injuries Inevitable?

Yes, sports and injuries go hand in hand. With the brutal beating that the body takes from countless training reps and the rigors of hard-core performance on the field, injuries will happen. And there are certain parts of the body that remain the most prone to injury.

Keep reading and you’ll discover which sports injuries are the most common but in the next post I’ll share the best ways to prevent these injuries. (Yes, they can be prevented!)

Groin Strain

A groan strain occurs when the adductor muscles in your upper thighs—responsible for holding your legs together—tear. This tear usually occurs from a quick change in direction. That means football, soccer, volleyball, basketball and tennis players are most prone to this injury.  Symptoms of a groin strain include sharp pain, swelling and sometimes bruising.

Runner’s Knee

This condition accounts for about 55% of sports injuries and isn’t isolated to runners. Just about anyone who runs or jumps frequently—cycling, football, soccer, hurdles, basketball, step aerobics or volleyball are common activities—can get runner’s knee. This is one of the reasons that this sports injury amounts to 25% of all orthopedic surgeries and is an ideal injury to treat with platelet rich plasma therapy. Symptoms include aches and pains in the knee, torn ligaments and cartilage and even arthritis.

Achilles Tendinitis

This is the injury that forced Jim Edmond’s into treatment. (Actually, it’s not the injury itself—it’s the fact that his condition wasn’t responding to treatment. That might have to do with his age.) Pain and inflammation attack the tendon at the back of your ankle from repeated stress and overuse, making those who participate in sports where running and jumping likely to suffer this condition at some point in their sports career. If not treated, Achilles Tendinitis can become chronic.

Shin Splints

Shin splints—an inflammation and pain on the inner side of the shin—occur in people who are new to exercising, wear worn out shoes when running, increase their workout too fast or run or jump on hard ground.

Shoulder Injury

Dislocation, sprains and strains are common injuries to a player’s shoulder and usually appear in sports where there is lots of overhead use of the hands and arms. That overuse loosens the rotator cuff (the group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder), leading to pain, stiffness, weakness and slippage in the shoulder. This condition accounts for 20% of sports injuries.


Inflammation and pain in a tendon is most common around your shoulders, elbows, wrists and heels and when it affects certain athletes, it takes on different names: golfer’s knee, tennis elbow, pitcher’s shoulder, swimmer’s shoulder and jumper’s knee. The elbow version accounts for about 7% of sports injuries.

Ankle Sprains

Hockey, soccer, basketball, football and volleyball players—really, anyone who runs and turns quickly and twists the ankle—are most susceptible to sprains in the ankle. The sprain (as opposed to a strain) is a tear in a tendon or ligament. Symptoms include pain, swelling, redness and warmth at the injury site.

The Key to Preventing Sports Injuries

While I’ll give you very specific prevention methods in the next blog post on the injuries we covered, let me end with general advice on how to avoid these sports injuries.

Warm up and stretching are critical when it comes to preventing injuries, so before you play any sport, take anywhere from ten to twenty minutes to stretch adequately before and after a workout. In addition, ease yourself into any new sport. Never raise the intensity too quickly.

See you next time.

Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.


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