No Pain No Gain?

The cultural promotion of sports and participation in athletics has been steadily increasing over the last three decades in America. It should come has no surprise that injuries related to sports have also increased significantly over this time. As an athlete, it’s important to know your body, and part of that entails knowing what you may be at risk for when you go out and participate in the sport that you choose. This article will detail some rates of injury with common sports in the United States, sports specific injuries, debunking injury myths, how to help prevent musculoskeletal injuries, and where to go if you do become injured or are looking to prevent injury.

Rates of Injury and Sports Specific Injury:

In a large study, rates of injury in the U.S. for basketball, football, and soccer were recorded over 4 years for players 15 years or older who experienced an injury treated in an emergency department. It was found that injury rates annually were highest in basketball and football and lowest in soccer. When looking at the injury rate over the number of hours played, it was found that the rate of injury was twice as high in football compared to basketball and soccer [1].

In another study that looked at high school softball and baseball players in South Carolina, it was found that there were more injuries in softball than baseball, there were an equal number of injuries that occurred during practice as in games, most injuries involved the upper extremity, and pitchers were more than twice as likely to sustain an injury compared to all other positions [2].

Debunking Injury Myths:

Myth 1: High top basketball shoes decrease your chances of rolling your ankle.

According to a study by Barret et. al with 622 college intramural basketball players, what you wear does not affect whether you sprain your ankle or not. The rates are actually the same. This included high top shoes with inflatable air chambers that were supposed to support the ankle even more than standard high top shoes [3]. However, working on balance training has been proven to reduce incidence of ankle sprains.

Myth 2: Ankle braces decrease your chances of rolling your ankle again.

Wrong again. Studies looking at volleyball players have shown that those who wear ankle braces are just as likely to roll their ankle whether they have a brace on or not if they have rolled their ankle before. However, it was also reported that the degree to which you sprain you ankle is affected by what brace you wear. Those wearing a rigid brace had less incidence of injury compared to those who wore a flexible brace [4].

Myth 3: Playing football with a knee brace will reduce knee injuries.

We’ve all seen the college and NFL linemen wearing knee cages as they play. Many teams make those braces mandatory to wear. But are they that effective at reducing knee injuries? The jury is out on this answer. Researchers have attempted to pool all studies involving football players with knee braces to determine if the relative risk of injury is significantly less when compared to not wearing any bracing.  They found that some studies determined that knee braces reduced the risk of knee injuries between 10% and 58% while others reported an increased risk of injury between 17% and 114%. The findings are so conflicting that the final conclusion has been that there is not enough to say one way or another if braces help prevent injuries or increase your risk. So make sure that you brace yourself with caution [5].