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The Average Healing Times For Sports Injuries

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Whether you’re training to stay healthy or to compete in the next tournament, here are five sports injuries you might suffer from and the average time it takes to recover from them.

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Ankle sprain

This painful injury happens due to running on uneven surfaces or by accidents. Sprains occur when ankle ligaments stretch beyond their limit and tear, which often happens when you ‘roll’ your foot.

Ligaments are the flexible and strong bands that hold the bones of your ankle together and allow movement. However, if there’s too much movement in an unusual posture, these ligaments can tear, leading to cause a sprain.

Average healing time: Ankle sprains heal on their own between 6 to 12 weeks.

Apply the RICE method – rest, ice, compression and elevation – at the point of injury, to treat ankle sprains. In case of severe ligament tears, surgeries are recommended or if the ankle remains unstable even after rehabilitation. Ankle sprains can also lead to simultaneous injuries like cartilage injury, which is treated surgically.

Hamstring pull

It occurs when an athlete overuses or over stretches the muscle. This happens as a result of movements like sudden deceleration when running or kicking the leg out sharply. In a hamstring pull, one or more of the hamstring muscles gets overstretched and overloaded. The muscles might even start to tear. Hamstrings are usually pulled during activities that involve a lot of jumping and running, or suddenly stopping and starting.

Average healing time: Hamstring pulls take anywhere between 3 to 6 months to heal. In some instances, it can even take up to 12 months to recover. The longer recovery period or re-injury is usually because of inadequate stretching and physiotherapy, and returning to sports before healing properly.

In cases where the muscles tear, surgery is required to repair them.

Shin splints

The pain felt in the lower leg between the knee and ankle is known as shin splints. This condition is called the medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). It is a cumulative stress disorder on the joints, bones and prevent your body from being able to naturally repair and restore itself.

Shin splints are very common among runners. Runners might get them after changing the surface they run on or ramping their workout intensity. Shin splints are often confused with a stress fracture in the bone.

Average healing time: The discomfort resolves in a few days if proper rest is taken and the person is involved in limited activity. However, this condition can persist if not recognised early and treated.

The root cause of the injury can either be from too much running or the improper surface on which the sports activity is done. This is why, running on a softer surface is always the safest option. If you are a heel-striker when running and have a flexible flat-foot, an arch support may be required. Moreover, surgery may be required if there’s a developing stress fracture or muscle tear.

ACL tear

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a core stabiliser of the knee that links the femur(thigh bone) and tibia(shin bone). ACL injuries occur in sports that consist of sudden changes in direction, stopping or jumping like skiing, football, and tennis.

A torn ACL is incapable of healing without surgery, in case you’re a young athlete. In the case of a less active and older individual, one may still be able to return to a healthy lifestyle without surgery.

Average healing time: It includes several weeks of rehabilitation. Other than that, the recovery depends on how bad the injury is.
Rehabilitation is extremely crucial as it focuses on reducing swelling and pain, strengthening of muscles especially the hamstrings, quads and glutes, and restoring the knee’s full range of motions.

Rehabilitation focuses on returning motion to the joint and surrounding muscles and protecting the new ligament. This leads to increased stress across the ligament. The final phase is all about a functional return tailored for the athlete's sport.

Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow is known as lateral epicondylitis by the doctors. It happens due to the overuse of hand muscles, arm, and forearm, usually as a result of monotonous movements of the arm and wrist.

Average healing time: This painful condition usually better on its own, however, it can take between 3 to 12 months to heal completely. During this period, rest is essential in allowing the tendons and muscles recover. Targeted rehabilitation and stretches are critical for this process.

After 12 months of non-operative treatment, if your symptoms don’t improve then you might be a candidate for surgery to remove damaged tissues. The procedure takes place through a small incision. After that, physical therapy is needed to strengthen the muscles and allow you to recover to a pre-injury state.

However, any time you step out onto the field of play, you’re still prone to injury. Constant wear and tear on your muscles eventually add up, leading to excessive stress on the muscles and joints that result in injury. A person should be able to differentiate between good pain from bad one. Struggling to do some extra workout may seem like a good idea today, but it could risk your progress in the long run.

The above article is reviewed by Dr. Michael Soon, who is an orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

The inspiration for this article has been taken from Health Plus Section, a source of credible health information by Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, Singapore.