Explain What Distinguishes Acute And Chronic Sports Injuries

Explain What Distinguishes Acute And Chronic Sports Injuries

Anyone who has engaged in sports or undergone extended physical activity has probably encountered a sports injury. These injuries can vary from slight inconveniences to significant problems necessitating medical intervention. Regardless of the seriousness, discerning the type is crucial: acute or chronic sports injuries.

Acute sports injuries are those occurring abruptly, typically stemming from trauma to the impacted region. An acute injury is provoked by a distinct, identifiable occurrence. Chronic sports injuries, alternatively termed overuse injuries, develop gradually over time and are not triggered by a solitary incident.

What are Acute Sports Injuries 

What are Acute Sports Injuries

Occurring in a singular moment, acute injuries manifest abruptly. In the realm of sports, they might stem from a collision, unusual twisting, landing improperly following a jump or another form of traumatic injury.

Simply put, when encountering an acute injury in sports, the signs are evident. You might hear a distinctive “pop” or sense a tearing sensation, typically accompanied by pain, swelling, bruising, or deformity post-injury.

What are Chronic Sports Injuries 

Many individuals engaged in activity and sports can resonate with persistent, prolonged discomfort or rigidity in the body, whether it’s the enduring ache in a baseball pitcher’s shoulder or a runner’s knees displaying soreness. These symptoms align with chronic sports injuries.

Developing gradually over time, chronic injuries typically result from overuse. They occur as a joint, tendon, or other structure undergoes wear and tear over an extended period. Instances include tendinitis and rotator cuff injuries involving microtears that accumulate over the years.

In sports, subjecting a joint or other structure to incorrect loading or excessive force for prolonged durations can lead to the structure thinning and eventually failing. While our bodies are constructed to withstand force, repetitive surpassing of the force threshold by an athlete can set the groundwork for a chronic sports injury.

What Are Some Examples of Chronic and Acute Sports Injuries?

Chronic and acute injuries are pretty prevalent across all types of sports. Whether engaging in winter sports, the quintessential American pastime, or even a low-impact activity like cycling, both types of injuries can manifest. Here are instances of the most frequent chronic and acute injuries.

Common Chronic Injuries:

  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)
  • Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints)
  • Issues with the Achilles Tendon
  • Stress Fractures
  • Impingement Syndrome (Swimmer’s Shoulder)
  • Vertebral Defects in the Lower Back (Spondylolysis)

Frequent Acute Injuries:

  • Sprains and Strains
  • Whiplash
  • Concussion
  • Tears in the Rotator Cuff
  • Fractured Bones or Fractures
  • ACL Tears
  • Shoulder Dislocations
  • Stingers and Burners

There are additional injuries that may result from trauma, overuse, or a combination of both. These encompass:

  • Bulging Disc(s) in the Back or Neck
  • Strain in the Musculoligamentous System
  • Generalized Back Discomfort

How To Diagnose And Treat An Acute Sports Injury?

An urgent assessment of acute injuries is essential, ideally within a week and, if feasible, on the very day of the injury. The treatment plan hinges on the injury’s severity, but undergoing an immediate X-ray and assessment is consistently advisable. Swift treatment is crucial when dealing with an acute injury to ensure proper healing.

In cases where surgery becomes necessary, prompt action is vital. This ensures the timely alignment of bones and ligaments, offering the athlete the optimal opportunity to return to sports swiftly. Contemplating a return to sports should be a component of an athlete’s conversation with a sports medicine provider following an acute injury.

How Are Chronic Sports Injuries Treated?

In the case of chronic injuries, the temporal aspect is less crucial since the injury is of a prolonged nature. For chronic injuries, we can explore non-surgical interventions such as physical therapy, RICE, and anti-inflammatory measures. Even if surgical intervention is suggested, there’s no immediate urgency for it to take place.

Differentiating between chronic and acute injuries

The distinction between chronic and acute sports injuries is evident in the indications and manifestations of the injury. Acute injuries manifest abruptly and are generally linked with intense pain. Instances of acute injuries encompass a fractured bone, muscle tear, or bruising. However, chronic injuries are caused by extended overuse of one body part. For example, stress fractures and heel inflammations are manifestations of chronic injuries.

Indications of a chronic injury comprise:

  • Pain during activity
  • Some pain during resting periods.
  • Swelling

An acute injury normally develops its symptoms within two weeks after the occurrence. In the acute stage, inflammation is used to repair the injured tissues.

Signs of an acute injury encompass:

  • Sudden, intense pain
  • Swelling
  • Being unable to bear full weight through the lower limb
  • Extreme discomfort in an upper arm or elbow.
  • Failure to carry out conjoint movements within its capacity.
  • Severe limb weakness
  • Obvious displacement of a bone out or fractures.

Are Chronic or Acute Injuries More Common?

Are Chronic or Acute Injuries More Common

The probability of acute or chronic damage will vary depending on what you do the most, how healthy you are and whether you do enough exercises before doing some activities. Acute injuries seem to be common in most organized sports, while chronic injuries are associated with recreational and fitness activities.

A comprehensive evaluation of chronic and acute injuries in college athletes showed that 29.3% were chronic and 70.7% were acute. Throughout the three years of the study, 573 athletes were injured in 1300 injuries over 16 sports. The highest reported number of overuse injuries was in men’s cross-country track and field and women’s rowing, with football and wrestling having the highest number of acute injuries.

These findings are in line with what one expected in relation to college athletes. Nevertheless, people involved in recreational sports for fitness are prone to chronic injuries rather than acute ones. Older adults are more susceptible to chronic injuries when pursuing activities such as running, cycling, tennis, golf, strength training, or swimming.

How to Avoid Acute and Chronic Sports Injuries?

To avoid such acute or chronic injuries, it is advisable to stay physically fit, improve your technique and always do the right warm-up. Furthermore, it is wise to have a qualified expert in place as you may sustain injuries.

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