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Published on June 29, 2018

Summer Sports Injuries: Elbow, Ankle and Shoulder Injuries

Summer Sports Injuries

In this Fox 8 House Call series, Cone Health experts explore sports injuries, including:

Elbow Injuries

Elbow injuries are common in children and adults; although, they often have different causes depending on your stage of life. Elbow injuries may be acute, like a fracture, or may develop gradually over time through overuse. Fractures are less common in adults, but are normally the result of trauma, like a fall. Overuse injuries, like tendonitis or tendinopathy, are most common in adults between ages 40 to 60 years old and can cause chronic joint pain. These types of injuries are often associated with athletes, but can occur in anyone who practices a repetitive motion in their job or throughout the day.

Children are more likely to experience elbow pain from trauma, and elbow fractures are common in kids. If your child falls or gets hurt and their elbow becomes swollen, it could be a sign that they’ve fractured their elbow and they should be seen by a doctor. The elbow supports a lot of the important movements of the hand and arm, and a fracture may permanently limit its motion if not treated properly and quickly. Overuse injuries don’t normally appear until adolescence, when school sports are more demanding. Baseball pitchers are very susceptible to ligament injuries or chronic pain from constant use, which is why it’s important to make sure that all players have periods of rest. In the long run, it’ll be better to sit out a few games and give their body a break if it helps prevent injury.

Many breaks or fractures can be set with a cast and will heal correctly, although in some cases, surgery may be necessary to restore the joint. Treatment of overuse injuries normally starts conservatively, with rest, over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy or injections. If conservative methods haven’t helped, then your physician may recommend surgery to correct the issue.

William Gramig, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon in Greensboro and is a member of the Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff.

Ankle Injuries

Now that summer is in full swing, many of us are feeling the urge to get back to our favorite outdoor activities. While getting back into regular activity is good, it is important to take it slow and not immediately begin intense exercise as this can cause injury. Other small steps that can prevent injury include:

  • Wearing proper footwear for each activity to help prevent ankle injuries from happening, such as wearing tennis shoes to work in the yard or a sturdy hiking shoe when you’ll be hiking.
  • Looking for a field or court that’s in good shape when you are playing sports. The playing surface should be without holes or large cracks that can lead to injury.
  • Being mindful of how deep the water is when you go swimming, and not jumping into shallow or dark water where you can’t see the bottom.

Ankle injuries can vary in severity from mild to severe. A broken foot or ankle with an obvious deformity should be seen by a medical professional at the emergency department or an urgent care as soon as possible. Mild ankle sprains may cause swelling, bruising, difficulty moving and tenderness. They can be treated using the RICE method, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. If your ankle isn’t feeling better, the swelling and bruising haven’t gone down or you’re having trouble walking on it after a few days, it’s time to follow up with a specialist. Some ankle breaks may need to be treated with surgery to make sure the joint heals correctly. Proper treatment of a broken ankle is important to prevent further discomfort and injury.

Recovery depends on the type of injury and the level of activity each individual wants to return to. For minor injuries, many people can return to their activities in sports within several days, but severe injuries may take up to several weeks.

John Hewitt, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in foot and ankle surgery in Greensboro and is a member of the Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff.

Shoulder Injuries

The weather is warm and many of us are ready to jump back into our favorite summer activities, hit the gym to work on our beach bodies, or get our yard ready for the season. However, our muscles may not be ready for this kind of activity after spending so much of the winter indoors. The shoulder is the most movable joint in the body, and it relies on the tendons and ligaments to function properly. Those same tendons and ligaments are also very susceptible to strain with a quick increase in activity and use.

To help avoid injury, it’s important to make sure you are properly warmed up and stretched before any activity. Start by getting your joint and the synovial fluid in it moving. This can be as simple as making some small circles with your arms, front and back. Then start slow – if you’re playing tennis, take some easy overhead shots to warm up before beginning to serve. Take your time to get back into your routine and give your body the chance to recover by taking a day off between intense exercise. Going from not practicing at all to practicing your serve for two hours straight can put you at risk of injury since your body isn’t used to that much activity.

When it comes to shoulder pain, exercising can both aggravate pain and help prevent it – it all depends on how you’re exercising. Some exercises put extra strain on your shoulder and if you’re already prone to shoulder pain you’ll want to stick to safer exercises. Look for exercises that stay around or below shoulder height and practice doing more reps at a lower weight. By making a few changes, you can still get that beach body without injuring your shoulder.

Jesse Chandler, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon in Greensboro and a member of the Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff.

Fox 8 House Call

Fox 8 House Call

Cone Health experts appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:30 a.m. on the Fox 8 morning news.