Athletic training is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., and thanks to the new M.S. in Athletic Training program, Monmouth students will be equipped to assess and treat student-athletes, military and police personnel, and others.
But if you ask program director Christina Merckx, Ph.D., you don’t need to play sports to get a sports injury. Anyone who goes to the gym, plays with their children, or works at a physical job has likely suffered a common strain or sprain. Here are five of the most common sports injuries, and Merckx’s tips on how to quickly—and safely—get back on your feet.
Pain at the joint is sign of a sprain. “Sprains happen when two bones are forcefully separated and the connective tissues holding the joint together tear,” says Merckx. “Twisting the ankle, falling, or overstretching at a joint can all lead to sprains.”
How to recover: Ice in the first 48 hours, and get some easy movement in.*
Caused by overstretching a muscle, strains feel like a pulling sensation or warm burn, sometimes discoloring to a bruise. Common in people who don’t warm up enough (think hopping off the bench at a weekend softball game without stretching).
How to recover: Ice in the first 48 hours, and stretch with slow, purposeful movement.*
Pain in the heel after sitting or first thing in the morning is the hallmark of plantar fasciitis, caused by inflexibility in the arch of the foot.
How to recover: Fill a bottle of water, freeze it, and roll under the feet for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep the injury at bay with stretching, like rolling a golf ball under the foot each day.
Characterized by pain in the front part of the shin, shin splints are caused by muscle overuse, inflexibility, and lack of muscular endurance. “If you’re not wearing proper shoes, or if you’re running on hard or slanted surfaces, you may get them,” says Merckx.
How to recover: Ice after running. Stretch the calves and warm up with a five-minute walk before jogging. See a doctor if the pain becomes localized or there is a loss of feeling or function.
Pain on the outside of the elbow and weakness when rotating the hand are signs of tennis elbow. “Holding objects steady, and moving from side to side, causes this,” says Merckx. “It gets its name from tennis, but it’s also common in industrial settings where you’re moving a lever, for example.”
How to recover: Take a hot shower and massage the area, but end the day with ice. See a doctor if it doesn’t resolve in two weeks, or if there’s numbness or discoloration in the fingers.
The 10-Second Bonus Question
ICE OR HEAT?
In the first 48 hours, it’s all about ice, which reduces swelling and pain, says Merckx. Keep it on for 20 minutes, and then wait an hour before icing again. After two days, heat can be helpful for minimizing soreness.
*Caution! See a doctor if you lose feeling or function in the joints below the sprain or strain, lose blood flow (if a body part gets tingly or very pale), or have excessive swelling.