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All physical activity comes with a certain level of risk, and because athletes put their bodies through so much stress, the risk of suffering an injury is much greater. As you might expect, the most common sports injuries are minor: abrasions, cramps, blisters, etc.

That said, more serious injuries happen all the time and are typically a result of overuse. For example, a golfer makes the same repeated swinging motion over the course of a round of golf. Over time, this can wear down his elbow, rotator cuff, and shoulder joints, not to mention cause back and knee pain.

And while these injuries usually aren’t life-threatening, they can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort in addition to a dramatic decline in your performance.

Now, with severe injuries, surgery could be necessary. But in many cases, sports injury physical therapy can eliminate the need for surgery completely.

The benefits of physical therapy for sports injuries are many. Not only is it a non-invasive alternative to surgery, but it will also get you back to the top of your game in far less time.

Read on to learn about 5 common sports injuries that can be remedied through physical therapy.

1. Runner’s Knee

Some of the most common sports injuries that require physical therapy occur in the knee, and the one at the top of the list is patellofemoral syndrome, or runner’s knee.

Despite what the name suggests, this injury can occur in any athlete, not just runners. Runner’s knee is a misalignment of the kneecap which causes the cartilage around the joint to wear away. It can also cause fluid build-up, leading to swelling of the knee.

Though runner’s knee can occur from repeated stress on the knee joint while running, it can also be the result of a fall or even an inadequate stretching routine.

A physical therapist can restore your knee’s full range of motion through stretching and strengthening exercises. They may also recommend taping or bracing to help guide your knee back into proper alignment.

2. Tennis or Golf Elbow

Another common overuse sports injury is tennis or golf elbow, also known as medial or lateral epicondylitis. As mentioned above, these injuries are typically the result of repetitive action (swinging a tennis racket or golf club).

Both tennis and golf elbow involves inflammation of the tendons that attach to the elbow, the difference lies in the specific location of the inflammation. A person with tennis elbow will experience inflammation on the outer side of the elbow, whereas golfer’s elbow affects the inner side.

In either condition, a physical therapist will employ stretching techniques and strengthening exercises to reduce stiffness and build strength and range of motion.

3. Shoulder Injury

For many athletes, shoulder strength and range of motion is crucial to peak performance. Unfortunately, the shoulder is the weakest joint of the body and is prone to a variety of injuries, from dislocations to muscle strains to ligament sprains.

As with any injury, early intervention is key. It might feel like you can play through the pain, but delaying treatment often results in a worsened condition and a longer recovery period.

If you notice stiffness, weakness, pain, a popping sensation, or reduced range of motion in your shoulder, don’t wait to reach out to a physical therapist. Taking advantage of sports injury physical therapy before your injury becomes severe will reduce the possibility of long-term effects.

4. Sciatica

Sciatica is a term for pain in the sciatic nerve, which begins at your lower back and runs down each leg. Formed by the convergence of five nerve roots, the sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. When it becomes compressed or inflamed, you’ll experience pain, sometimes accompanied by numbness or tingling, along the nerve’s pathway.

This injury is common in athletes who spend a great deal of time in a flexed forward posture, such as cyclists. Those who perform repeated trunk rotation, including golfers and tennis players, are also more prone to sciatica.

A physical therapist can ease your symptoms and prevent future injuries by correcting your posture and technique, as well as strengthening the muscles of your back and legs and improving your flexibility.

5. ACL Tear or Strain

If your chosen sport requires sudden stops or changes in direction or landing with a harsh impact, you’re susceptible to an ACL tear or strain. Because of this, ACL tears and strains are commonly seen in those who participate in soccer, football, or basketball.

An ACL tear is often an athlete’s worst nightmare. A complete tear requires surgery, aggressive post-op treatment, and months of recovery time before you can even consider returning to your normal activities. But a slight ACL tear or strain isn’t quite as serious and can be resolved through self-care and physical therapy.

A physical therapist can treat an ACL injury through non-invasive methods, including exercises designed to reduce pain and swelling, strengthen muscles, and restore the injured knee’s full range of motion. In order to avoid putting weight on the injured leg, crutches or a brace might be necessary to stabilize the knee during this process.

Don’t Let These Common Sports Injuries Stand in Your Way

It happens in an instant – one moment you feel fine; the next, a joint or muscle hits its breaking point and you’re in intense pain. And for an athlete, an injury can be a devastating experience. You’re not sure if or when you’ll be able to compete again.

But you don’t have to let a sports-related injury stand in your way. Through physical therapy for sports injury rehabilitation, you can get back in the game faster than you might think.

Whether you’ve experienced one of these common sports injuries or one that isn’t included in this list, contact us today. The Midland Sports Rehab team is ready to help you get back to your best self!