Soft tissue injuries include bumps and bruises (contusions) and small tears of muscles (minor strains) or of ligaments and tendons near joints (minor sprains).
Contusions, mild strains, and mild sprains produce mild to moderate pain and swelling. The swelling can become discolored, turning purple after a day and becoming yellow or brown days later. The person usually can continue using the body part. People with more severe symptoms, such as deformity, an inability to walk or use an injured part, or severe pain, may have a mild strain or sprain.
However, they may also have a complete separation of bones that were attached within a joint (dislocation), partial separation of bones that were attached within a joint (subluxation), fracture , severe sprain or strain, or other severe injury. People with severe symptoms usually need medical care to determine the nature of the injury.
What are soft-tissue injuries?
Many activities can lead to soft-tissue damage of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The result can be pain, swelling, bruising, and damage.
Soft-tissue injuries are classified as the following:
- contusions (bruises)
What is a contusion?
A contusion (bruise) is an injury to the soft tissue often produced by a blunt force such as a kick, fall, or blow. The result will be pain, swelling, and discoloration. Treatment for contusions includes Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (R.I.C.E.). More serious contusions may need to be examined by a physician.
What is a sprain?
A sprain is an injury to a ligament and is often caused by a wrench or twist. Sprains often affect the ankles, knees, or wrists. The treatment for a sprain includes Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (R.I.C.E.). If the ligament is torn, surgical repair may be necessary.
What is a strain?
A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, and is often caused by overuse, force, or stretching. The treatment for a strain is Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (R.I.C.E). If a tear in the muscle occurs, surgical repair may be necessary.
To diagnose a sports injury, doctors ask when and how the injury happened, what recreational and occupational activities the person has recently or routinely been engaged in, and whether there has been a change in the intensity of the activity. Doctors also examine the injured area. People may be referred to a specialist for further testing. Diagnostic tests may include x-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasonography, bone scanning, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA scanning
General measures that help increase safety during exercise are discussed elsewhere. Exercise itself helps prevent injuries because tissues become more resilient to the stresses of vigorous activities.
Use of proper equipment can help prevent injuries. For example, wearing helmets and mouth guards can help prevent injuries while playing football. For running athletes, good running shoes are essential. Running shoes should have a rigid heel counter (the back part of the shoe that surrounds the heel) to control movement of the back of the foot, a support across the instep (saddle) to prevent excessive pronation, and a padded opening (collar) to support the ankle.
Shoe inserts (orthotics) can sometimes help correct problems such as excessive pronation. The inserts, which may be flexible, semirigid, or rigid and may vary in length, should be fitted into appropriate running shoes. The shoes must have adequate space for the inserts, which replace the inserts found in the shoes at the time of purchase.
Stopping exercise at the first sign of pain, which precedes most overuse injuries, limits the degree of injury to muscles and tendons.
After sustaining a sports injury, athletes often want to know how quickly they can resume activity. Recovery time depends on the severity of the injury. Initially, exercise of previously injured areas should be of low intensity to strengthen weak muscles, tendons, and ligaments and prevent re-injury. Often, athletes need to adjust their technique to avoid re-injury. For example, a racquet sports player who has tennis elbow may need to alter technique for use of the racquet.
Treatment of sports injuries is similar to treatment of non-sports injuries :
Initial Treatment: Immediate treatment for almost all injuries consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). The injured part is rested immediately to minimize internal bleeding and swelling and to prevent further injury.
The injured part swells because fluid leaks from blood vessels. By causing the blood vessels to constrict, ice reduces their tendency to leak, thus limiting swelling. Ice also helps to reduce pain and muscle spasms and limit tissue damage.
Ice and cold packs should not be applied directly to the skin, because doing so could irritate or damage the skin. They should be enclosed (for example, in plastic) and placed over a towel or facecloth. An elastic bandage can be wrapped around the ice pack to keep it in place while the injured part is elevated. The ice is removed after 20 minutes, left off for 20 minutes or longer, and then reapplied for 20 minutes. This process can be repeated several times during the first 24 hours.
Whether or not ice is in place, wrapping the injured part with an elastic bandage compresses the injured tissue and limits internal bleeding and swelling. The wrap is thus kept on until the injury heals.
The injured area should be elevated above heart level so that gravity can help drain the accumulated fluid that causes swelling and pain. If possible, fluid should drain on an entirely downhill path from the injured area to the heart. For example, for a hand injury, the elbow, as well as the hand, should be elevated.
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