Sports Injuries and what to do?

What are sports injuries?

Playing sports is a great way of staying fit and active and is important for socialising with an array of like-minded people from different social and cultural backgrounds. The benefits of playing sport far outweigh the risks, although it is important to remember that sports injuries can happen. A sports injury is exactly what it says on the tin, an injury sustained playing sport. These can be caused in a variety of ways; including bad challenges from opposition players, not warming up properly beforehand or even just by accident. If you have a sports injury, then you may feel immediate pain, have small or large amounts of swelling and bruising, or your movement may be limited or restricted.

What are the most common types? 

Different sports have different common injuries when compared to other sports. Typically rugby players will be most often injured through dead legs and shoulder impacts, footballers will have hamstring tears from sprinting and runners will typically have knee or lower leg injuries from the impact of hard ground. These injuries are just the common ones, and there are always many other injuries that can occur that aren’t just specific to one sport. 

Severity of Injury

Within sports injuries, there is specific categorisation for the severity of injuries. For muscle and ligament injuries there are three grades. Grade 1 refers to a small tear that will typically recover quickly and not cause too many problems. Grade 2 is a larger scale tear that has quite a variation in symptoms, from being quick to heal and not much pain, to large amounts of pain that can take 6+ weeks to heal. Grade 3 refers to a complete tear of the muscle/ligament where the two ends are no longer attached. 

Bone injuries are also classified specifically depending on the nature of the fracture. 

Your medical professional will help to identify these during assessment of your sports injury. 

What to do if you sustain a sports injury?

Many sports injuries will settle in time and you’ll be able to get back to your sports after a period of modified rest. If you have just sustained a sports injury, you should use the POLICE principle. This is: 

Protect: Protect the area from further damage! This would include immediately removing yourself from the game.

Optimum Loading: You shouldn’t completely rest the injured area as this can reduce the outcomes of the healing process. Your medical professional can help you with advise for this. 

Ice: Placing ice on the injured area can help reduce swelling. 10 mins every couple of hours is a good target to aim for and never place ice directly onto the skin. Wrap it in a thin towel or cloth and place over the injured area.

Compression: Tubigrip or wrap can help to manage the amount of swelling at the injured area and may increase blood flow, meaning more nutrients for healing are introduced to the area. 

Elevation: This helps to remove the swelling from the injured area by draining the waste products away from the injury site. 

If you think you may have a severe injury (e.g a dislocation, broken bone or a head injury) then you should go to A&E immediately. You will often be in severe pain and have very limited movement and may not have the ability to place weight through the area. You may also be able to see an obvious deformity at the injury site. 

If you have an injury that you don’t think is too severe but you’re concerned about, you can contact 111 for advice, go to your local NHS walk-in centre/minor injuries unit or contact a physiotherapist for an assessment. 

What do I do after a sports injury?

You should contact an appropriate rehabilitation specialist (physiotherapist, sports therapist, sports rehabilitator) who will take you through a gradual return to sport programme that is individualised to your needs. This can either be through the NHS or through private practitioners. The stages include, but are not limited to:

  1. Management of pain and swelling and restoring function
  2. Improve movement and return to normal day-to-day activities
  3. Improve strength and start low-level sports specific exercises
  4. Return to sports-specific, non-contact exercises
  5. Return to sport participation
  6. Cleared for full return to sport


Bleakley, C. M., Glasgow, P. & MacAuley, D. C. (2012). PRICE needs updating, should we call the POLICE? British Journal of Sports Medicine. 46, pp. 220-1.

Brooks, J. H. M., Fuller, C. W., Kemp, S. P. T. & Reddin, D. B. (2005). Epidemiology of injuries in English professional rugby union: part 1 match injuries. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 39, pp. 757-766.

Ekstrand, J., Hägglund, M. & Waldén, M. (2011). Injury incidence and injury patterns in professional football: the UEFA injury study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 45:553-558.

Fields, K. B. (2011). Running Injuries – Changing Trends and Demographics. Current Sports Medicine reports. 10(5), pp. 299-303. 

NHS. (2017). Sports Injuries. URL: [Last accessed: 02/12/2019]

Rosewater, A. (2009). Learning to Play and Playing to Learn: Organized Sports and Educational Outcome. Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, 75(1), pp. 50-6. 

Images: [Last accessed: 02/12/19]. 



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