Mann spielt Tennis

Sports Injury SOS – Ready, steady, ouch? Sports injuries can happen to anyone, anytime. Here’s how to deal with them to ensure a speedy recovery.

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Injury SOS: what you should know about sports injuries

Getting active has a lot of benefits for your health to offer. Sometimes – particularly when people overdo it or don‘t properly train or warm up – these benefits can come at a price: sports injuries.

The downside of getting active

The term sports injury, in the broadest sense, refers to the kinds of injuries that most commonly occur during sports or exercise. Some sports injuries result from accidents; others are due to poor training practices, improper equipment, lack of conditioning, or insufficient warm-up and stretching.

Are you warmed up and have enough conditioning? Most sports injuries are due to...
...insufficient warm-up and stretching and can be prevented.

Although virtually any part of your body can be injured during sports or exercise, the term is usually reserved for injuries that involve the musculoskeletal system, which includes the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons.




Fortunately, even though there are acute or chronic cases, most sports injuries, especially those due to adaptational processes or instabilities, can be treated effectively, and mostly you will be able to return to your previous satisfying level of physical activity after an injury. Even better, many sports injuries can be prevented if you take the proper precautions.

Common joint injuries

The shoulder is one of our crucial joints and can be hurt in contact sports

Joints can swell and suffer from inflammation and redness. They can become immobile, in which case your range of motion may be reduced. Typical joint injuries are knee and elbow injuries.

How do joint injuries occur?
Joint injuries are often seen after falling in contact sports, bicycle and car accidents.

Pain, stiffness, weakness, instability, swelling and locking may be symptoms of joint injuries.

Find out what to do about them here.

Injuries Symptoms Steps you can take
Injuries: Runner's knee, plica syndrome of the knee, torn rotator cuff (shoulder) Symptoms : Inflammation, redness, swelling, reduced range of motion. Steps you can take: Inflammation, swelling and redness can be reduced by cooling (RICER). Braces help in cases of instability or too much joint play by improving coordination of joints and improving stability. Knee joint stiffness and arthritis will be helped by heat therapy.

Common muscle and tendon injuries

Overuse of one body part (i.e. the shoulder in golf or tennis) can lead to chronic muscle pain
Ankles are especially prone to tendon injuries such as strains

Muscles and tendons (a tendon is the fibrous tissue that attaches muscle to bone in the human body) can become too weak which will lead to them not being able to stabilise the joints anymore. (This can quickly become a challenge for the joints which, in turn, might also, be affected.) Weak muscles will mean they will deliver less endurance and are more susceptible to injury.
When there is excessive stretching of a muscle or tendon resulting in pain, soreness and inability to use normally it’s called a strain. Signs of strain: pain, muscle contraction or tremor, and loss of strength.

How do muscle and tendon injuries occur?
Causes of strain are excessive use, pull or stretch of tissue affected. Strain may come about suddenly or develop from chronic use or overuse.
A typcial tendon injury is Tendovaginitis (inflammation of the sheath of the tendon) from overuse, or tendinitis.

Swelling, moderate hematoma, pain at weight bearing.

Find out what to do about them here.

A severe sprain might feel the same as a broken ankle.

Learn more about ankle injuries.

Make sure that the sprain is examined and attended to by a doctor to rule out a fracture.

Injuries Symptoms Steps you can take
Injuries: Achilles tendonitis pain over tendon or tendovaginitis, shin splints (inflammation of the sheath of the tendon) Symptoms: Pain, stiffness, pain with range of motion, weakness and no endurance, unstable joints as weak muscles cannot stabilise them anymore. Steps you can take: Acute muscle and tendon injuries can be treated with RICER: cooling with a cold pack will reduce inflammation and pain. Chronic muscle injuries and stiffness can be treated with heat. During rehabilitation phase: heel lifts.

Common ligament injuries

Ligaments are the fibrous, slightly stretchy connective tissues that hold one bone to another in the body. Because their function is stabilising the joint so that the bones move in the proper alignment, they are highly susceptible to injury. They also control the range of motion of a joint. For example, they are what prevents your elbow from bending backwards and they also help to perform the complex coordinated activities needed for sport.

Ligaments are made of dense connective tissue consisting of a protein substance called collagen. The organisation of collagen fibres gives the ligament its tensile strength.

Another function of ligaments is to provide proprioceptive input to the brain that allows a person to know what position their joints are in, without having to look.

How do ligament injuries occur?
A great deal of force is required to damage ligaments. In a collision sport such as football, this is easily done by opposition players or when a player catches their foot in the turf and their whole body weight goes over on one joint. This force then produces the structural damage to the joint capsule and ligaments known as a ligament sprain.

The anterior cruciate ligament located behind the knee (often referred to as the ACL) is commonly damaged in rough sports.

Another commonly injured ligament is the anterior talofibular ligament in the ankle joint.

Ligaments are what aligns coordination of your knee

Knee ligament injuries are most common, often caused by:
• Twisting your knee
• Getting hit on the knee
• Extending the knee too far
• Jumping and landing on a flexed knee
• Stopping suddenly when running
• Suddenly shifting weight from one leg to the other

General symptoms:
• Pain, often sudden and severe
• Loud pop or snap during the injury
• Swelling
• Feeling of looseness in the joint
• Inability to put weight on the point
without pain

Find out what to do here.

Injuries Symptoms Steps you can take
Injuries: Ankle: anterior cruciate or ACL, lateral collateral or LCL), wrist sprains, knee ligament injuries. Symptoms: Tender or slightly painful joint when weight is placed on it and swelling. Sprains are characterised as mild, moderate or severe. The severity of the injury will depend on the extent of the injury (whether a tear is partial or complete) and the number of ligaments involved. A mild sprain results when a ligament is stretched or slightly torn. Steps you can take: Torn ligaments are best treated with ice. Follow RICER. If you have sprained an ankle, ease the weight you place on it. Ice the area for 10-15 minutes three or four times a day. After RICER, compress the joint with a bandage to reduce swelling. All chronic insufficiency and ligament injuries due to instability can profit from braces.

Risk factors

Several factors can make it more likely that you will have a muscle strain in your leg, including:

01. Muscle tightness. Tight muscles are vulnerable to strain. Daily stretching exercises will reduce athletes’ risk of muscle tightness.

02. You are not in shape. Unexercised, weak muscles are less able to withstand the stress of exercise and are therefore more prone to injury. Do not exceed your limit when running. Take it slow.

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03. Muscle imbalance. Is one muscle group much stronger than its opposing muscle group? Then this imbalance can lead to a strain. This frequently happens with the hamstring muscles, which may become fatigued faster than other stronger calf muscles.

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04. Muscle fatigue. Fatigue reduces the energy-absorbing capabilities of muscles, making them more susceptible to injury.

Health Management

Know-how: the RICER rule

Whether it’s a sprain or a twist, applying RICER will help as first aid measure.

The RICER rule – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Referral – will help with sprains, minor bruises, muscle soreness, and painful movement.

What it is: RICER is the golden standard and recommended formula for recovering from injury.

What it does: RICER prevents further injury to the damaged body part, immediately after the injury. If applied right away and correctly, RICER can greatly reduce the recovery time.

Act fast. The most important time while treating acute sports injuries is the first 24 to 48 hours after they have occurred. Soft tissue damage happens, for example, when a muscle tears or blood vessels rupture, which will lead to the injured body part beginning to swell. The increase in blood volume in the area can lead to more swelling and oedema, which should be prevented.


RICER step by step:

RICER works so well because each step helps to limit swelling and decrease pain.
Hurt your leg? Resting is the first measure

Rest. Rest is the first line of action for any sports injury. It prevents you from damaging the joint or injured body part further. Avoid movement as much as possible to limit further injury.

This does not only refer to resting immediately after the injury, but also for a period of time following it. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about how long this should be.

Ice. Cooling the tissue helps to reduce pain, swelling and internal bleeding. You can cool the injured body part by using an Elastoplast Hot Cold pack or a Cold Spray

Do not apply the cold pack directly to the skin, especially if the skin is grazed (also, do not use the cold spray), but wrap it in a towel and place it on the injured area. Leave it in place for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, not more. Then reapply after a few hours.

Put some pressure on to prevent further swelling

Compression. Wearing a stabilising brace, tape or bandage will prevent additional swelling. Make sure that the bandage is not too tight.

High places: make sure to elevate the injured area

Elevation. Elevating the injured body part, e.g. with a pillow, will help to reduce bleeding and swelling, as gravity will help to draw the fluid away from the injured area. Decreasing the swelling can also decrease pain.

In lower limb injuries, you should try to keep the ankle above the level of the hip. Upper limb injuries can be elevated by use of a pillow or sling. For the first 48 hours, try to elevate the injured limb for as long as possible.

See a doctor for a precise diagnosis and treatment

Referral. This stands for consulting your doctor or a physiotherapist. Only a specialist can make a precise diagnosis and arrange for ongoing care and treatment. 

If you are unsure about the type of injury you might have, consult your doctor.
Please remember: the advice given on this page is no substitute for a medical examination and diagnosis.


How to prevent further injury:

Anyone who has been injured will know that the best cure is prevention. Make sure an old injury has completely recovered before working out again, and if needed, consult your doctor or physiotherapist first.

Tips for prevention

01. Warm up properly. Do not start cold. Do some simple muscular exercises after you have been running or exercising for a while and stretch your arms and legs until you loosen up.

02. Use the right equipment. Make sure your shoes are comfortable, fit well and you are wearing warm, dry clothing and well fitting socks. If you need protection, or if you have weak bones, make sure ankles and knees are well protected by tapes and bandages.

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03. After an injury or during recovery. Do not do too much too soon. Pace yourself and build up your strength again slowly. If you feel a twinge of pain where you have been injured before, take a break.

04. Always give your muscles a chance to recover between workout sessions. Don‘t pack a week‘s worth of activity into a day or two. Try to maintain a moderate level of activity throughout the week.

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05. Increase your exercise level gradually. Don’t overdo it when starting. Check out the concept of graded activity. Accept and respect your body‘s limits. You may not be able to perform at the same level you did 10 or 20 years ago. Modify your activities as necessary.

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06. Remember to wear safety gear. Depending on the sport, this may mean knee or wrist pads or a helmet.

07. Strive for a total body workout of cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Cross-training, for example, reduces injury while promoting total fitness.

Hot or cold? The temperature treatment

Cold packs and heat pads are among the most commonly used treatments for sports injuries, even in orthopaedics in general. So which one is the right one to use for your injury, ice or heat? And for how long should the ice or heat treatments last?

Cold Treatment

A cold pack will reduce swelling and lessen the pain

Most commonly used for acute injuries. If you have a recent injury (within the last 48 hours) where swelling is a problem, you this is the first measure you should take: Cold packs can help minimize swelling around the injury.

Cold packs are often used after injuries such as an ankle sprain have occurred. Applying a cold pack early and often for the first 48 hours will help minimize swelling. Decreasing swelling around an injury will help to control the pain.

Cold treatments may also be used for chronic conditions, such as overuse injuries in athletes. In this case, cool the injured area after activity to help control inflammation. Never cool a chronic injury before activity.

Heat Treatment

Relief in case of stiffness or overuse injuries: Heat treatments will help and come in convenient pads

Heat treatments are used for chronic conditions to help relax and loosen tissues, and to stimulate blood flow to the area.

Use heat treatment for chronic conditions, such as overuse injuries, before participating in activities.

Heating tissues can easily be accomplished using a heat pad, which will relieve pain and stiffness, help decrease muscle spasms and increase mobility.

"" Ice Heat
"": When to use it Ice : Use ice after an acute injury, such as an ankle sprain, or after activities that irritate a chronic injury, such as shin splints. Heat: Use heat before activities that irritate chronic injuries such as muscle strains. Heat can help loosen tissues and relax injured areas.
"": How to do it Ice : There are several ways to ice an injury. Cooling packs are one of the most convenient methods. Also, a cooling spray, which you can easily put into your locker or sports bag will do the same job. Heat: Self-adhesive Therapeutic Heat pads are a convenient method. They will give off constant warmth at 40°C. Apply to the injured area and leave on to relax tight muscles for a maximum of 8 hours.
"": For how long Ice : Apply an ice treatment for no longer than 20 minutes at a time. Too much ice can do harm – even cause frostbite. More ice does not mean more relief. Heat: It is not necessary to apply a heat treatment for more than about 20 minutes at a time. Never apply heat while sleeping.

Expert Tip

Making sure you take the right preventive measures is key to avoiding further sports injuries. Find out what you can do.


"Balancing between stretching and strengthening in your workout is the best you can do for your musculoskeletal system. Do not only train the things that come easily, as these are your predisposed strengths.




A person who is slender and very mobile should include strengthening exercises in their routines, and vice versa.”


Please note that none of the above tips replace professional medical advice. Consult a health expert in case of an injury or if you suspect overuse of joints or a medical condition such as a fracture.

A physician should be consulted in those acute cases when the condition is accompanied by reddening, swelling or hyperthermia of joints, ongoing joint trouble or severe pain and/or it is associated with neurological symptoms (e.g. numbness, tingling, loss of motion).

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