The Top 10 Sports Injuries Taking You Out of the Game

The Top 10 Sports Injuries Taking You Out of the Game

Fall is an active season of sports for kids and adults. Football, field hockey, cross country track and soccer are in high gear, and kids across the country are back in school, ready to make the team. Along with the excitement of the season also comes the risk of injury. Virtua co-director of sports medicine John Gray, MD, explains the 10 most common types of sports injuries, and how you can get back in the game.

Strains and Sprains

The most common sports injuries result from overextension or tearing of the muscles (strains) and tendons (sprains). Usually these injuries affect the legs and lower body.

Neck or Back Strain

Over time, the muscles that stabilize the back and neck can be affected by strains or small muscle tears. This can happen on the job, or during a pickup game of ball. In fact, 75–80% of Americans will pull a back muscle at some point in their lives.

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

The rotator cuff connects the arm and shoulder joint. Repeated motion causes inflammation, leading to pain and instability. Swimmers, tennis players and throwing athletes like baseball pitchers and quarterbacks are the most susceptible.

Patella Femoral Syndrome

Commonly known as runner’s knee, this is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects the quadriceps muscle to the tibia (shin bone). In fact, when running, jumping and squatting, the stress on the cartilage can equal 5 to 10 times your body weight per square inch.

Meniscus Tear

The meniscus is cartilage in the knee that provides shock absorption between your thighbone and shinbone. As you get older, the cartilage can stiffen, and over activity can put a person at risk for a tear. For this reason, meniscus tears are more often seen in adults.

Shin Splints

Shin splints are an inflammation of the tissues around the inner tibia (shin bone). Shin splints are often seen in runners who jump back into activity after a long period of reduced activity. The best cure is usually a change of shoe or running on a softer surface.

Stress Fractures

Athletes who ignore shin splints may be susceptible to stress fractures, or tiny cracks in the bone. Stress fractures also can arise from normal use of a bone that's been weakened by osteoporosis.


A concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head or a violent shaking of the head and body. The impact of these injuries can range from mild headaches to amnesia or loss of consciousness. If your child plays football, you should ask if the coach is “Heads Up” certified and consider scheduling your child for baseline concussion screening.


This occurs when two or more bones are forced out of their normal position by sudden impact. This is a more significant injury that can affect the shoulder, kneecap, fingers, and ankles.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Damage

The ACL ligament is one of the main stabilizers of the knee joint and, when it tears, it doesn’t heal easily. Often called a trick knee or buckling knee, this type of injury may require surgery and extended rest.

Most sports injuries can be treated without surgery. Rest, anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen, and working with a professional trainer or a physical therapist will help the body recover on its own. Of course, if a sports injury persists without improvement, it’s time to speak with your primary care doctor or a sports medicine specialist.

Updated December 29, 2017

Sports Injury Hotline

Virtua’s Sports Injury Hotline

Have you been injured? Call to talk to an athletic trainer, get quick access to the appropriate care and follow-up with a board-certified, fellowship-trained sports medicine specialist. 

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