A sport injury is the worst nightmare of an athlete or sports enthusiast. It can signal the painful and depressing end of a career or hobby. At its worst, a debilitating injury can result in irreversible physical deterioration and even death.
Basketball player Rolando Manuel Jr. tore a knee ligament while doing a lay-up during a UAAP game, the result of neglecting minor knee injuries he had in the past. He explains, “I ignored [the injuries] because I was in great shape that year. I learned that this is not right, and that athletes may not be able to feel extreme pain right away because of physical conditioning. But it’s there, and could develop into a more serious injury.”
Wear and tear
The general definition of a serious sports injury is any damage that becomes a medical event. “If you want to qualify the severity of the injury, you can add a ‘time-loss’ component. This means that if you suffer from anything medical-related that affects your sports participation, then it is an injury. [The time lost] denotes whether an injury is minor or major, benign or serious,” says Randolph Molo, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon from St. Luke’s Medical Center who specializes in sports medicine and arthroscopy.
Serious sports injuries can be classified further:
• Acute injuries are sudden events characterized by sharp pain and immediate inflammation. Other signs include the loss of movement, limb weakness and bleeding cuts and wounds. Examples include sprains (an injury to the muscle tendon unit), strains (an injury to a joint and the ligaments), fractures, dislocations, wounds, and head injuries like concussions.
• Chronic injuries are subtler and develop over time. These are usually caused by overtraining and repetitive micro-trauma to the tendons, bones, muscles, joints and ligaments. Warning signs include pain during movement and possible swelling. A dull ache is also felt in the injured limb at rest.
Frisbee enthusiast Bruce Derrick Lim, 22, suffered a mishap during a game in 2007. As he pivoted to catch the disk, his foot got caught in a hole in the ground. He twisted his left knee and fell. Later, he was diagnosed with tears in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and meniscus, ligaments and cartilaginous structures that are crucial in knee stability and movement.
Most cases of serious sports injuries spring from several factors: the athlete himself, the playing environment and the equipment used. In Lim’s case, the injury was caused by the unstable ground and the presence of holes in the field they were playing in.
The risk of injury, though, should not discourage people from engaging in sports. The benefits of exercise still outweigh the risks, and it is possible to prevent serious injury. “It is easy to stereotype extreme sports as prone to injuries, but based on statistics there are some sports high on the list which you do not commonly think of as the number one cause of sports injuries, such as equestrian sports,” says Dr. Molo. He adds that before engaging in sports, people should inform themselves sufficiently about it and then build on familiarity, consistency and preparation. Familiarity consists of attuning your body with a particular activity to make it less unpredictable and risky. Consistency helps in fine-tuning the body to situations in a specific sport.
Rodrigo Angelo Ong, M.D., a sports medicine expert from the Sante Medical Clinic in Quezon City, also stresses the importance of preparation, “If you are not prepared, do not train regularly, and do not know the basics of any sport, you will be injured even in non-contact sports.” Dr. Ong says to avoid injury, it is best to prepare by using the proper clothing, gear and equipment for the sport, and checking the playing environment for hazards. Learning the basics and abiding by the rules of the sport are necessary to avoid unwanted accidents. He also adds that proper hydration, warming up and cooling down for at least 20 minutes each, and choosing the right sport based on your capabilities can help in preventing serious sports injuries.