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Common Sports Injuries

While there are many types of sports injuries, several of the most commonly seen are covered below.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament

ACL injuries are a common knee injury that requires Physical Therapy. The ACL is positioned in the middle of the knee and it attaches to the tibia (shinbone) and extends to the femur (thigh bone). The ACL prevents your shinbone from moving forward past your thighbone. It also limits rotation that can occur at the knee. The ACL can be injured when the ligament is stretched too far in the direction it is meant to resist. This can occur if the shinbone moves too far forward on the thigh bone and it is most vulnerable with rotation. This may happen when you are planting your foot while pivoting your body or trying to change directions too quickly. ACL injuries may or may not be caused by contact, and 70% of these injuries happen without any contact. Additionally, females have higher chances of injuring their ACLs than males. Sports with high ACL injuries include basketball, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, and skiing.

Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is a tendon that forms from the calf muscles, crosses the back of the ankle, and attaches into the heel bone. It is a very strong tendon that helps raise your heel off the ground to put pressure on your toes. This is called Achilles tendonitis means that the tendon has developed micro tears, which can cause inflammation, pain, weakness, and limited range of motion at the ankle. Symptoms can include burning, soreness, or aching near the back of the ankle. These symptoms are usually made worse with activity. Activities that cause high force on your calf muscles (such as jumping, running, and kicking) have a higher risk for developing Achilles tendonitis. Running, for example, places a heavy load on the Achilles tendon. This load can be exaggerated with training changes, weak or tight calves, or other conditions that place extra force on the Achilles tendon. It is important to see a physical therapist if you suspect you have an Achilles tendon injury because if left untreated, recovery may take up to several months.

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints)

Shin splints are described as pain on the front and insides of the shins. It occurs most often in athletes that increase stress to their lower legs too quickly. Shin splints can occur in sports that require a lot of running. They often happen to athletes who increase their distance too quickly, are running after a long break, or are beginners in their sport. Symptoms can present as a dull ache or very intense soreness that is made worse with activity. Swelling can occur in the painful area when exposed to repetitive or intense stress. Shin splints can limit an athlete’s ability to progress. If left untreated, they can lead to chronic symptoms, tendonitis, or stress fractures in the lower leg.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

PFPS is more commonly known as runner’s knee. It is characterized by pain in the front of the knee or underneath the kneecap. PFPS occurs with increased forces that cause compression at the knee, such as walking down stairs, deep squats, running, biking, or sitting for long periods of time. Pain can be chronic, occur only with activities, or happen when sitting. Runner’s Knee is a frequent injury for many athletes over multiple sports. PFPS is a very commonly seen by physical Therapists and may be associated with other conditions. These conditions include chronic low back issues, hip or core weakness, chronic foot or ankle injuries, and previous knee injuries. While you are being evaluated for Runner’s Knee, your Physical Therapist will commonly assess for these other conditions. The rehabilitation time for PFPS may vary depending on the chronicity of the injury, your body’s biomechanics, and any other conditions that may be present.

Medial Epicondylitis

Also known as golfer’s elbow, this condition affects the tendons that attach to the bones on the inside of your elbow. Similar to other tendon injuries, Golfer’s Elbow is caused by micro tears in your tendon where it attaches to your elbow. These micro tears can lead to inflammation, weakness, and limited range of motion at the elbow and wrist. Common symptoms include pain at the inside of the elbow, weakness, and sharp pain with contractions of forearm muscles.This injury is common in golfers, ultimate Frisbee players, throwing athletes, and tennis players. If the injury is not treated properly, it can lead to long-term degenerative changes to the tendon and may increase healing time.


Dislocations happen when the bones that make up a joint move beyond their normal resting point or are forced out of their usual position. Dislocations are most often caused by a large force or trauma such as a fall, collision, or a motor vehicle accident. They can occur at most joints in your body, but most commonly in the shoulders for adults and in elbows for children. Medical attention is needed for all dislocations in order to examine the extent of the trauma to the area. Without intervention, the probability of dislocating your joint again is increased. These injuries occur more often in contact sports due to the collision and falling that occurs. Your physical therapist will perform a detailed examination of your dislocation to identify all factors involved in the injury and work to strengthen the muscles around the joint to help with stability of the joint.


Fractures, or broken bones, may be a result of trauma, osteoporosis, repeated stress, or overuse. Fractures from overuse are called stress fractures and these are most common in athletes, especially runners. This happens when the muscle and soft tissue are unable to absorb the repeated shock, generated by an activity over time. This shock is then transferred to the bone. When this happens, small cracks occur in the bone, which is a stress fracture. They most commonly occur in the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. A very common symptom is pain with weight bearing that increases with activity and decreases with rest, although this pain can be constant with a more severe injury. Symptoms are usually localized and are often aggravated by palpation and vibration. Improper footwear or drastic increases in training may put you at greater risk for stress fractures. Stress fractures may take upwards of two weeks to appear in a standard x-ray, which can complicate your diagnosis. Your physical therapist will work with you to strengthen the muscles around your stress fracture after it has healed and to improve the mechanics that caused the stress fracture.

Treatment Options for Sports Injuries

Prevention of Sports Injuries