All you need to know about Sports Medicine

Sports Medicine – An Overview

Sports medicine is the extensive field of medical science that involves detecting and diagnosing, prevention and treatment as well as rehabilitative care of any sports-related injury or complications arising due to it.

Sports medicine is a rapidly advancing field of medicine and is progressing with leaps and bounds towards searching for innovative and more effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care methods for sports injuries.

This is a list of some common sports injuries, their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment in sports medicine:

Sports Concussions

Sports concussions are most common forms of injuries in high-contact sports such as rugby, football, etc and are a cause of great concern due to their unpredictable character.

Cause – Concussion literally means ‘being shaken violently’. It is caused when a forceful blow to the head causes the brain to jiggle (rapidly move back and forth) inside the skull for a few moments.

Symptoms – As the long-term effects of sports concussions are dangerous, it is important for athletes and the authorities to recognize the common signs of a concussion. Although the symptoms are not always visible there are certain signs that may indicate towards a concussion, such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Memory loss
  • Unconsciousness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Communication/Speech difficulty
  • Balance difficulty
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Sleep pattern alterations
  • Nausea/vomiting

Diagnosis – The diagnosis of sports concussion usually entails:

  • Imaging Tests – MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) tests are most commonly performed to diagnose the development of a concussion. Computerized tomography (CT) scan is also used for the same purpose as both these tests provide a clear image of the skull and the brain.
  • Neuropsychological Assessment – This test helps to measure the effects of the concussion on the patient’s mental abilities.
  • Balance Assessment – This test is also an efficient way to determine the damage caused due to a concussion.

Treatment – The main aim of the initial treatment method for concussion is complete rest. Total rest involves avoiding TV, computer and video games that might cause mental strain. It usually takes around 7-10 days for the symptoms to disappear completely.

Sprains, Strains, and Soft Tissue Injuries

The muscles, tendons, and ligaments are most commonly injured in sports. Strains, sprains, and contusions (including tendonitis and bursitis) are the most common soft tissue sport injuries today and require a longer time to heal.

Cause – Sports injuries on soft tissues are categorized into two states depending on the type of injury:

  • Acute Injuries – These are caused by sudden trauma (fall or twist) and includes strains, contusions, and sprains.
  • Overuse Injuries – These are the types of injuries that gradually develop with time and are not sudden in nature. These may include bursitis and tendonitis.

Sprains are caused due to undue stretching (or tearing) of the ligament which connects the bone ends together. These are useful in stabilizing the body and supporting the weight-bearing joints in the body.

Strains are injuries that are caused to the muscles or the tendons. Tendons are fibrous bands of tissue that connect the bone to the muscles and can suffer damage (or tear).

Contusions are bruises that appear on the skin surface after a direct blow to the underlying muscle fibers.

Tendinitis results in irritation or inflammation of a tendon (or tendon covering/sheath) and is caused due to series of small stresses that aggravate the condition gradually.

Bursitis occurs in the bursa, which is a sac filled with a soft fluid. These bursa sacs are located all over the body, especially at the joints (elbow, shoulder, hip, heel, and knee) and act as cushions between the bones and the other soft tissues around the joint. Bursitis causes the bursa to become inflamed and causes a restriction in the range of motion of the joint as well as pain.

Sprained Thumb

A sprained thumb is a type of ligament injury that affects the main ligament in the thumb. A sprained thumb is a result of a torn ulnar collateral ligament (main ligament of the thumb) which affects your ability to pinch or grasp objects.

Cause – A fall, or impact, to the thumb region is the most common cause for a sprained thumb.

Symptoms – The most common sign of a sprained thumb is the inability to grasp smaller objects using the thumb. There is most likely to be a pain in the injured thumb. Other common symptoms include immediate swelling and tenderness accompanied by bruising.

Diagnosis – The most common diagnostic test for determining a sprained thumb is an x-ray test to check if the bone is broken (fractured).

Treatment – In case the ligament is partially torn the doctor will likely suggest non-surgical treatment method initially, such as immobilizing the thumb using a splint, cast or a bandage. The doctor will also advise to applying an ice pack to the injury until it heals naturally.

In case the ligament is completely torn then the doctor will advise a surgical treatment method to restore normal movement in the injured thumb.

Stress Fractures

This is one of the most common types of overuse injuries seen in sports medicine. It occurs when the muscles become tired and are unable to absorb shock anymore. This causes the shock to be directly transferred to the underlying bone and causing a fracture (break) in it.

Causes – Stress fractures are mainly caused as a result of performing a singular activity repetitively with significant speed. It can also be caused as a result of impact on uneven surface, unsafe sports equipment and increase physical stress.

Symptoms – The most common sign of a stress fracture is pain during activity, as it is seen subsiding during the resting periods.

Diagnosis – X-ray tests are the most common diagnostic methods for determining the occurrence of a stress fracture. At times, an MRI or CT scan might also be required for detailed analysis of the fracture.

Treatment – Treatment initially will include several non-surgical methods such as resting, applying ice packs, etc. In case the pain is persistent even after the non-surgical treatment (or if the fracture is severe in nature) then the doctor might choose to perform a surgery to fix the broken bone and let it heal naturally.

There are several common diagnostic and treatment methods and techniques that are seen mostly in sports medicine, such as:

Arthroscopy

This is a fairly modern and advanced minimally invasive surgical procedure most useful in treating orthopedic disorders, injuries, and complications. An arthroscope is a device consisting of a system of a number of small, thin and flexible tubes. One of these tubes is attached to a cold light source and a magnifying lens, which allows the surgeon to view the surgical area with more detail and clarity. The other similar tubes are attached with special miniaturized instruments ideal for surgery.

This arthroscope is most useful in confirming the diagnosis for most orthopedic joint injuries as well as treatment of a number of orthopedic disorders and conditions using a minimally invasive surgical method which is more advantageous than the conventional ‘open-type’ surgical method.

X-Rays, CT scan, and MRI Test

The most commonly used diagnostic techniques in sports medicine are x-rays, CT scan, and MRI test as they provide the best image of the underlying skeletal structure along with the soft tissue structure surrounding it.

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