Sports injuries are common and can occur throughout your body to bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and other structures. You can treat many minor injuries at home with rest, ice, compression, elevation and over-the-counter pain medications. But some injuries require medical treatment, such as immobilization, physical therapy and surgery.
Exercise is important to good health, but people often get hurt when participating in sports or other physical activities. A sports injury involves damage to part of your body due to sports, exercise or athletic activities.
A sports injury can be acute (sudden) or chronic (develop over time).
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Sports injuries can happen to anyone, particularly people who:
Sports injuries can affect any part of your body. They most often affect:
There are many types of sports injuries. Some of the most common are:
Sports injuries have many causes, including:
The signs and symptoms of a sports injury depend on the type of injury. Common symptoms include:
To diagnose a sports injury, your healthcare provider performs a physical exam. They’ll ask questions about what happened and what symptoms you’ve had. They’ll also look at the injured area, possibly testing how it moves.
Depending on the type of injury you have and how severe it is, your healthcare provider also may recommend imaging tests. An X-ray, CT scan or MRI can create pictures of the structures inside your body. The images will help your healthcare provider understand, diagnose and treat your specific injury.
Treatment for sports injuries varies widely, depending on the type and severity. Many sports injuries heal in a few days or weeks with rest and at-home strategies.
But for more serious injuries, treatment may involve:
There are many ways you can help prevent sports injuries.
The outlook after a sports injury varies, depending on the type and severity. Most sports injuries are minor and heal in a few days or weeks with rest and simple recovery strategies. Other injuries, such as broken bones and concussions, need medical intervention and can take several months to heal.
If you get hurt during physical activity, stop playing or exercising immediately. You can cause more harm if you keep going.
Most minor sports injuries get better in a few days with the RICE method:
You also might consider taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
As you start to feel better, go back to sports and other activities slowly. Make sure you can move the area without pain or stiffness. This will help ensure that you don’t injure yourself again or make the injury worse.
Even though many sports injuries can be treated at home, you should seek medical attention for:
Here are some questions you can ask your healthcare provider to better understand your specific injury:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Exercise and sports are important to good health, but they often lead to injuries. Many common, minor sports injuries can be treated at home with rest and other strategies. But seek medical attention if pain, swelling, bruising or inability to use the injured area doesn’t get better in a few hours or days.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/16/2021.
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