What if you keep playing when you have a sports injury? What are the effects?
When it comes to sports injuries, the old days of "just suck it up" or "play through the pain" are over. Doctors, trainers, and most coaches now know that playing through a sports injury can cause damage that keeps you on the bench longer. Playing through an injury may even end your sports career entirely.
Continuing to play if you have an injury can make that injury worse. A small stress fracture that might have healed quickly can grow into a more serious, more painful fracture that will take longer to heal. Returning to play too soon after a concussion increases your risk of serious brain injury.
But, in addition to worsening an existing injury, playing when you're already injured means you also can get hurt someplace else. That's because you may be playing in a way that's not natural for your body — it protects the injured area but puts other areas at risk.
So what should athletes do?
First, stop playing as soon as you notice an injury and talk to your coach or doctor. Then keep resting until you are fully healed and your doctor gives the go ahead (even if you feel sort of OK and there's a big game coming up, don't play unless your doctor says you can).
Second, condition your body. Sports medicine experts recommend training and conditioning as a way to prevent injuries from happening in the first place. For an evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses, talk to your coach or trainer, or visit a sports medicine center. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and some of them are things you might not be aware of or expect.
A good athletic trainer or coach can evaluate you and then give you workouts and conditioning exercises that are targeted to your individual needs. These help you build up the weaker areas of your body so there's less risk of overall injury.
Sports medicine centers in children's hospitals are a good bet. Trainers and therapists who work with young athletes know more about developing bodies and the kinds of injuries teens can get than trainers who work with adults. If you already have an injury, these experts can give you conditioning exercises targeted to your body so that it both heals and grows stronger.
Reviewed by: Sarah R. Gibson, MD
Date reviewed: June 2014
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
|American College of Sports Medicine This site has tips on staying safe while playing sports and exercising.|
|National Athletic Trainers' Association This site contains information on certified athletic trainers and tips on preventing and healing sports injuries.|
|American Sports Medicine Institute The mission of ASMI is to improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries through research and education.|
|Connecting With Your Coach Get the most out of your chosen sport by building a strong relationship with your coach.|
|Concussions: What to Do In a concussion, the brain shifts inside the skull. This can cause a sudden - but usually temporary - disruption in a person's ability to function properly and feel well. Here's what to do if you suspect a concussion.|
|Dealing With Sports Injuries You practiced hard and made sure you wore protective gear, but you still got hurt. Read this article to find out how to take care of sports injuries - and how to avoid getting them.|
|Quadriceps Contusion Quadriceps contusions are common in sports that have a lot of direct contact or a chance of collisions or wipeouts. Find out what to do if you get one - and how to avoid them.|
|Sports Physicals Just as professional sports stars need medical care to keep them playing their best, so do teenage athletes. You can give yourself the same edge as the pros by making sure you have your sports physical.|
|Sports and Exercise Safety Playing hard doesn't have to mean getting hurt. The best way to ensure a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from the start. Find out how.|
|Stress Fractures It's not always easy to tell if you have a stress fracture, and stress fractures can get worse quickly. This article explains how to prevent and treat them.|
|Burner (Stinger) Burners - also called stingers - usually happen in the neck or shoulder. They take their name from the burning or stinging sensation they cause. Find out how to treat burners - and prevent them.|
|Strains and Sprains Sprains and strains are common injuries, especially for people who play hard or are into sports. Find out what they are and how to recuperate from one.|
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