Introduction of sports injuries

Playing sport and doing regular exercise is good for your health, but sometimes you can injure yourself.

Sports injuries can be caused by:

  • not warming up properly before exercising
  • using inadequate equipment
  • pushing yourself too hard
  • an accident

Types of sports injury

Some common types of sports injuries include:

Less common but more serious types of sports injuries include:

For a more comprehensive list of sports injuries, including symptoms, see Symptoms of sports injuries.

Your doctor may refer to sports injuries as:

  • a sudden injury – where damage happens as a result of a sudden impact or an awkward movement
  • an overuse injury – where an injury occurs over time due to overusing certain parts of the body

Children are most at risk of developing an overuse injury. This is because their bodies are still growing, which can make their bones, muscles and joints unstable and more vulnerable to damage.

To find out which injuries are common to particular sports, see Causes of sports injuries.

What to do if you have an injury

Stop exercising if you feel pain, regardless of whether your sports injury happened suddenly or you’ve had the pain for a while.

If a particular movement or activity hurts, stop doing it and get medical help. Continuing to exercise while you’re injured may cause further damage and slow your recovery time.

If you get a severe injury while doing a sporting activity, such as a deep cut or concussion from a blow to the head, go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.

If the injury does not require immediate medical attention but causes severe pain, swelling or numbness, or if you cannot place any weight on the affected area, go to your GP or local NHS walk-in centre.

Treating sports injuries

Most minor sports injuries can be treated using self-care techniques, such as:

  • resting the affected body part
  • using over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, to relieve symptoms of pain and swelling

More serious sports injuries, such as a broken bone or severely damaged cartilage, may require surgery to help repair the injury.

Find out more about treating sports injuries.

Preventing sports injuries

Not all sports injuries can be prevented, but you can reduce your risk of getting injured by:

  • warming up properly before you exercise
  • not pushing your body beyond your current fitness level
  • using recommended safety equipment for specific sports, such as shin guards for football or a gum shield for rugby

If you start doing a new sport or activity, get advice and training from a qualified healthcare professional or sports coach. See fitness and training tips for more advice.

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