The Most Common Sports Injuries And When to Seek Treatment

By Jessica Poole, Certified Athletic Trainer

So you have been battling, keeping resolutions and have felt great. Mighty warrior winning the fight. You have a great workout, go about your day and go to bed. When you wake your shins are on fire. The thought of putting on your running shoes and walking to the door has you cringing. What is going on? Things were going great. This aggravation makes you want to quit. Give up. Is it worth the pain? Where’s my brownie and ice cream? Arrrrg!

Don’t fret! Mrs. Jessie is here with advice. Today I am going to give you a basic run down of the aggravating overuse injuries we may encounter on this exercise journey. I will warn you, I have spent years and years talking about this stuff and there are textbooks written on just the subject of overuse injuries. There are many causes and treatments and I can’t simply discuss it all in one blog. I will give you an overview and enough info to make an informed decision on how to continue and when and what to tell your doctor. So hang on and lets go! 


Tendonitis: pain and inflammation in the tendon structure. Tendons attach muscle to bone. Often we will overwork a muscle group or change some dynamic of our exercise and cause inflammation. The most common sites for tendonitis are in the knees (patellar tendonitis), around the outside of the ankle (peroneal tendonitis), elbow (in either the tendon structures or the epicondyle, which is the outmost bony areas), and the shoulder (rotator cuff tendonitis- this is what puts baseball pitchers on the DL).

Shin splints: technically medial tibial stress syndrome. The tendon structures that hold the anterior tibialis muscle onto the shin bone (tibia) becomes inflamed. It causes pain when we flex the foot to walk. It may be worse on one side or hurt equally on both. If not treated it can cause stress fractures.

Stress fractures: typically occur in the foot bones or the shin. Usually due to drastic changes in training, mileage, or surface. Usually the shin hurts more in one specific place when you plant your foot versus all along the shin bone.

Dull low back pain: aches and/or stiffness before exercise or after sitting for long periods of time. Usually accompanies tight and inflexible hamstring muscles (back of the upper leg).

Sciatica: sudden onset of numbness or tingling running down back of leg and buttocks. Usually accompanied by tight and inflexible hamstrings. Tightness of the sciatic nerve.

Plantar fasciitis: inflammation of the fascial tissue which runs along the bottom of the foot. Usually hurts first thing in the morning when walking for the first time. Lessens as the day goes on and aches at night.

Muscle pulls: small to large tears from overexertion or over stretching of the muscle group. Various grades depending on degree of pain, mobility and tears. Severe pulls need to be seen by a doctor.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS): overexertion causing pain 24-48 hours after a workout and lasting up to a week. Causes a decrease in flexibility, pain and muscle swelling. 

Whew. Any of these ring a bell? It is my hope no one experiences these injuries, but even Achilles had a weakness. 

So when do you see a doctor? Usually after treating these injuries yourself (see my next post for treatments…) for a week or two, if you do not improve, it is time to see a doctor. If any of these injuries cause pain even when you decrease time or intensity, then it’s time to see a doctor. Also, if you are unsure or worried, see your doctor. So, that’s the run down. Stay tuned for treatments in my next post. 

Stay healthy my friends.  

How GMC Can Help

We know that even the smallest injury can hamper your performance and the enjoyment of your favorite sport. That's why our mission is simple: To help ALL athletes prevent injury, heal, manage pain and get off the sidelines sooner. 

Whether you want to prevent an injury or recover from one, Gwinnett Medical Center's sports medicine program can help get you back to doing the things you love. 

Starkey, C., Brown, S. D., & Ryan, J. (2009). Examination of orthopedic and athletic injuries. FA Davis

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