The Most Common Sports Injuries and How to Avoid Them
This article originally appeared in Be Well, a health
information newsletter published for members of the Greater Marlborough
Autumn in New England is a time to look forward to leaves turning and a
return to the fields and courts for many athletes - young and old. And often,
the return to play or competition is accompanied by aches, pains and sometimes
As an athlete and orthopedist, Marlborough Hospital's Chief of Surgery,
Markian Stecyk, MD, of Orthopedic Associates of Marlborough, knows all about
athletic injuries. "I think I speak for everyone in our practice in that we have
a soft spot for athletes, being athletes ourselves. We can relate because we are
out there, see and sometime, experience the injuries firsthand," said Dr.
When asked what the most common injuries are, Dr. Stecyk stated, "Ankles and
knees are the most frequent because we use our legs for every sport. After that,
injuries of the shoulder and elbow, and simple fractures are quite common."
Most ankle sprains happen when the foot is twisted, rolls to the outside and
sprains the support ligaments on the outside of the ankle. The ankle immediately
begins swelling up and throbs with pain. It may turn black and blue around the
swollen injury. Sprained ankles can be mild to severe, depending on whether the
ligaments are stretched or torn and, if so, how badly.
"Almost all of us have sprained an ankle at some point," explained Harvey
Taylor, MD, an orthopedist with Orthopedic Associates of Marlborough who is on
staff at Marlborough Hospital. Dr. Taylor was a college wrestler and weighed in
the wrestlers at Marlborough and Hudson High Schools for over 25 years. He is
also an avid runner and completed 14 marathons. "A number of factors can lead to
ankle sprains, including poor technique and uneven terrain. The right footwear
is essential to preventing a sprain, but it isn't the only thing you can do. If
you have a history of ankle injuries, a brace can provide extra stability to
prevent re-injury. Most athletes know the treatment for an ankle sprain is rest,
ice, compression and elevation - RICE."
"Knee injuries are often caused by twisting, changing of
direction, lack of conditioning and poor flexibility," said Dr. Taylor.
"Biomechanics can also come into play. If you have flat feet or high arches,
pronate or supinate, you may have more knee pain. Knee stretching and
strengthening exercises can be important in preventing injuries."
Other common sports injuries are shoulder tendonitis,
rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder and a separated shoulder. "Any athlete
who is involved in throwing sports with repetitive overhead motion can suffer.
Baseball, basketball, volleyball players and football quarterbacks are all prone
to shoulder injury," stated Dr. Stecyk. As a baseball player himself, Dr. Stecyk
played the past five years for the Marlborough Indians in the MetroWest Amateur
"Easing into an activity and then staying in shape are the best ways to
prevent problems. Conditioning is essential," he continued.
Tri-athlete Donald Hangen, MD, a Harvard-trained orthopedist who works with
Drs. Stecyk and Taylor could not agree more. "As the team doctor for the Hudson
High School football team, I work with the trainer to make sure the athletes
have a strong core. The schools do a good job of helping the kids get in shape,
they pay a lot of attention to correct mechanics, warming up, and stretching and
the proper equipment," said Dr. Hangen.
Dr. Hangen personally knows the importance of proper training techniques and
of maintaining flexibility and muscle strength. An advanced cross country ski
racer, he has competed in Nordic Ski Marathons and the World Masters Champions.
He ran the Boston Marathon in 2007 and is training to compete in the 2008
Still injuries occur. Steven Sewall, MD, another Orthopaedic Associates of
Marlborough and Marlborough Hospital physician, spoke about what a parent should
do if their young athlete is injured. "Parents know their children. If they seem
to be experiencing a higher level of pain than you've seen them handle before -
a trip to the emergency room may be the right choice. Or, if it is during the
day, call your primary care physician to see if they think you need to come in
or will give you an immediate referral to a specialist. I think it is fair to
say most orthopedists are sensitive to sports injuries, and do their best to see
an injured athlete right away," said Dr. Sewall, himself an avid swimmer and
bicyclist who has been on a dozen international bike tours, including to Italy,
Cambodia, Vietnam and Mexico.
"Participating in sports is a great microcosm of society. You learn about
winning, losing, working as part of a group. I think each of us needs to keep
in perspective that life is a marathon not a sprint, so make sure your body is
ready for the run," encouraged Dr. Stecyk.