Treatment for Sports Injuries & Ligament Reconstruction
Sometimes when engaged in sports activities or while exercising, “Sports Injuries” can happen, but sometimes they can even be accidents. Sports injuries can happen during practice or training sessions. They can even happen due to poor training, improper gear, when a person is not in proper form and due to lack of proper warming up/stretching before embarking on a sports activity. Some of the most common sports injuries are:
- Swollen muscles
- Knee injuries
- Sprains and strains
- Pain along the shin bone
- Pulling a ham string
- Damaging the Achilles tendon
- Dislocating bones
Chronic injuries pertain to pain that occurs after you have been strenuously exercising or after a sports activity and continues to be there for a long time. Constant nagging pain when you play, pain when you exercise, a dull ache when you are resting or swelling are all symptoms of a chronic injury.
Sports injuries like sprains and strains are generally treated by the RICE method – rest, ice, compression and elevation of the injured limb. Anti-inflammatory drugs that are non-steroidal in nature will be prescribed, to reduce the swelling and the pain. Immobilization of the injured area is another form of treatment rendered to patients with sports injuries, so as to prevent more damages from occurring. Casts, leg immobilizers, slings and splints are used to immobilize. Surgery is performed when there are torn tendons or ligaments, and broken bones. Rehabilitation plays a key role in the treatment of patients with sports injuries. Finally, resting plays an important part in the healing of a sports injury. Though moving an injured part is good, adequate rest is also necessary and your doctor will guide you to maintain that balance between rehabilitation and rest.
Ligament damage often occurs from a sports injury. Ligaments are sinewy, strong elastic bands that surround a joint to support and limit the movement of the joint. The ligaments most prone to get damaged in a sports activity are the knee ligaments and the ankle ligaments. The ligaments tear or get stretched due to twisting during sudden motion.
Reconstructive surgery of a ligament tear is performed only when there is a complete tear of the ligament which consequently causes instability in the knee or ankle joints. During surgery the torn ligament is replaced with a piece of a healthy tendon from either the knee cap, ankle or hamstring. The tendon is grafted into place to hold the knee or ankle joint together.
The most common sports-related ligament injuries are of the knee. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a band of tissue in the knee that holds the bones of the joint in place. If the ligament is damaged, it may heal over time with medication and physical therapy. However, if it is badly stretched or torn, ACL surgery may be the only option.
ACL ligament surgery is a fairly common procedure, but it is a highly specialized one. In most cases, arthroscopic surgical procedures are used. This means that it is a minimally invasive surgery that uses tiny tools and a camera inserted through a small incision to perform the operation. This causes less scarring than open knee ACL reconstruction surgeries and also results in faster recovery.
Once the graft is in place, the surgeon will drill holes in the bones above and below the knee and use ACL screws to ensure the grafted tendon stays in place. The ACL operation typically takes about one hour and is done under general anesthesia. In many cases, the patient can go home the same day. The surgeon will give instructions on the rest and care of the knee during the recovery period. A brace is often prescribed to protect the knee. There will be regular post-surgical checkups, and depending on the progress of the recovery, the doctor will permit increased use of the knee.
The medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) is part of the network of tissues that keep the knee stable. It attaches the inner surface of the kneecap (patella) to the thigh bone. MPFL injuries occur when the patella becomes either partially or fully dislocated due to a sports injury or accident. MPFL injuries may, in some cases, be able to heal without surgery. However, the risk is that the healed ligament may be looser and longer than before, which increases the risk of future dislocations and injuries.
MPFL reconstruction surgery is done under either general or local anesthesia. The surgeon replaces the injured ligament with a portion of tendon, typically taken from the hamstring. Similar to the ACL procedure, an arthroscope is used by the surgeon to view the surgical area while keeping the incision as small as possible. As in the case of ACL surgery, the patient is normally able to return home the same day with a rest and physiotherapy regimen to follow to ensure that the healing is complete.
Posterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction:
The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) connects the thigh bone to the shin bone. It is the largest and strongest ligament in the knee and plays a key role in keeping it stable. PCL damage results in severe pain and disability. The procedure for PCL reconstruction is similar to other ligament operations. It is a minimally invasive procedure that uses an arthroscope and tiny surgical tools to perform the surgery. While PCL injuries may, in some cases, be able to heal without surgery, the completeness of the healing may be uncertain, and the risk of future damage and injuries will remain high. This is why PCL reconstruction is often the preferred option.
Ligament injuries and damage should not be taken lightly. When a sporting injury results in joint pain, it is important to consult an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine. Only a specialist will be able to decide on whether a ligament operation is required or if another treatment protocol should be followed.
If you are active in sports or other physical activities where there is a risk of ligament injuries, you should search for a “sports injury doctor near me” and have the contact information with you for quick use if an injury should occur.
Physiotherapy for Sports Injuries
Physiotherapy is the branch of medicine that deals with restoring function to damaged parts of the body. It also involves diagnosing, assessment, evaluation, and treatment of disorders and disabilities by use of exercise, massage, and other movement protocols. Physiotherapy plays a major role in the recovery and regaining of mobility after surgeries.
Sports physiotherapy is a specialization within the field of physiotherapy. It deals with the physical methods of preventing, curing, and rehabilitating sports injuries. Physiotherapy may be used as a standalone form of treatment or may be a part of the recovery process from a surgical procedure.
Sports physiotherapy is an integral part of sports medicine. Its main objectives are:
- Providing the support and exercise regimen that a sportsperson needs to recover from an injury.
- Providing patient-specific exercise and rehabilitation plans. Physiotherapy must be personalized to meet the needs of the individual patient.
- Providing sports persons with the tools they need to reduce the risk of future injuries.
- Supplying sports persons with the knowledge of how their bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves function so that they are able to use this knowledge to improve their performance.
Physiotherapy is an integral aspect of sports medicine, and an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports injuries will prescribe it to help patients recover from surgeries and regain their flexibility, strength, and range of movement. In some cases, physiotherapy may be prescribed before the surgery to strengthen the affected part of the body and reduce the trauma of the surgery.
The symptoms vary depending on the type of injury. Generally, they include bruises, pain and movement limitation of the limbs, and if there has been a head injury, dizziness, or disorientation.
Most sports injuries result from impact with another player, a piece of sporting equipment, falling or straining/stretching the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments too much.
Most school injuries occur on the playground. The most common is due to falling from playground equipment, colliding with another child, and muscle and joint pain from overexertion.
The 3 most common types of sports injuries are cuts and bruises, joint injuries and sprains, and damage to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Follow the R.I.C.E. protocol. R- rest; I-Ice should be applied to the injury; C- Compression in the form of a pressure bandage on the injury and; E- Elevation – keep the injured limb elevated.
Sports persons can sustain a wide range of injuries due to collision with other players, hard objects hitting them, and nasty falls. These include fractures in any part of the body, rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder, ligament tears in the knee or other parts of the body, Achilles tendons, labral tears, swimmer’s shoulder (or throwers’ shoulder), sprains in ligaments or muscles, and misalignment of rotator cuff and labrum. If left untreated, sports injuries can get serious and put the person out of sports for a long time, or permanently.
Home remedies are risky as they may provide short-term relief while sustaining long-term damage. Please see a doctor immediately if you have suffered a fracture, a concussion, dislocation, tendon rupture, ruptured disc, slipped disc, infection, swelling, damage to bone fractured earlier, and blood clots. All these will manifest as dull or acute pain, swelling, stiffness and restricted movement in the affected part.
There are 4 cruciate ligaments (anterior, posterior, median and lateral) that hold up the 3 bones which make up the knee joint. They prevent the thigh and shin bones from slipping over each other, and help you move your knee in all directions, up, down and sideways. These movements are required for day-to-day living, during sporting activity and warm-up exercises before play. All these ligaments are vulnerable to injury, especially tear, with anterior cruciate ligament tears being the most common.
If the ACL is torn due to sporting activity or other reasons, it’s important to get it fixed, else, it will seriously affect your range of movement. This may temporarily or permanently put you out of sport, and further, affect your day-to-day quality of life. Ligament reconstruction is the most popular and effective treatment for the same, when nothing else works.
While historically, ACL Reconstruction was an open or incisional surgery requiring a long recovery time, in recent years, minimally invasive options such as Arthroscopy are more popular. This makes it an outpatient procedure, with minimal bleeding, reduced damage to surrounding tissues, minimal to no hospitalization, quick recovery and rehabilitation. These are handled by expert surgeons which ensures better outcome for the procedure, so you should be able to get back to your sport in a couple of months.