Sports injuries are a common occurrence among both professional and non-professional athletes. Out of the 7 most common sports injuries, 5 affect the legs. If ignored, some of these sports injuries can lead to chronic leg pain.

Many sports injuries are the result of overexertion or a poor warm-up routine.

A sprain occurs when a muscle is pulled too far, such as when the ankle rolls while running or walking. Indeed, sprained ankles are so common that approximately 25,000 occur every day. Maintaining a regular warm-up routine will keep muscles strong and flexible, which can help prevent sprained muscles. Another simple way to prevent sprains–especially sprained ankles–is to pay attention. Unnoticed obstacles or uneven surfaces can cause a fall that leads to a sports injury.

The recommended treatment for a sprained muscle is the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. If a person is still experiencing pain, over-the-counter medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs), can alleviate discomfort. Once the sprain has begun to heal, it’s important to become mobile again, although patients should be careful to avoid overexertion of the injured muscle.

Other potential sports injuries have to do with the connective tissue surrounding the heel bone.

The large bone forming the heel of the foot, called the calcaneus, is surrounded by fibrous tissue called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia connects the heel to the ball of the foot. When this connective tissue is subjected to excessive strain, it can become painful and inflamed. This condition is called plantar fasciitis. Rest, icing, over-the-counter pain medications, and stretches are usually sufficient at-home options to counteract pain from plantar fasciitis.

When the plantar fascia around the heel bone degenerates, though, it can put excess pressure on the heel bone, which can in turn lead to the formation of heel spurs. These are spur-shaped calcifications that usually develop on the bottom or back of the heel bone. Heel spurs are sometimes painless enough to go without notice, but other times heel spurs are to blame for chronic leg pain. This calcification is sometimes described as feeling like a knife or pin trying to poke through the skin. People who put excessive strain on their feet, such as athletes or those who spend a lot of time standing, are most at risk for heel spurs.

The pain from heel spurs, like that from other sports injuries, is sometimes responsive to over-the-counter pain medications. Orthotic inserts or shoes can also alleviate pain by correcting the underlying causes of heel spur formation, like biomechanical imbalance. In some cases, a physician might recommend an injection of corticosteroids to lessen painful inflammation.

More than 90% of people who suffer from plantar fasciitis and heel spurs experience relief from non-surgical methods. However, if a person hasn’t experienced a reduction in pain after a year, surgery might become necessary. During surgery to correct plantar fasciitis, the affected tissue might be cut to relieve the tension. Surgery to correct heel spurs usually entails the removal of the bone growths.

Another common sports injury that can lead to chronic leg pain is a hamstring strain.

The hamstring, rather than a string, is a group of muscles running along the back of the thigh. With a minor hamstring strain, 1 or more of these muscles might be pulled too far. With a more serious hamstring strain, there might be some tearing of the muscles. Pain from a hamstring strain can range from minor and manageable, to so severe that even standing is impossible. These strains are common during activities involving sudden starts or stops, running, and jumping.

In very severe cases, a hamstring strain might require corrective surgery. However, most hamstring strains heal on their own if the affected person follows some basic treatments. The RICE method is effective for this sports injury, as are NSAIDs. Additionally, exercises to strengthen the muscles on the front of the thigh can prevent further hamstring strains.

Shin splints, or pain along the bone on the front of the shin, are also quite common sports injuries. This condition is typically a result of overworking the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue of the legs. For shin splints, as for so many other sports injuries, proper warm-ups and careful avoidance of overexertion can prevent the condition. If shin splints occur, rest, icing, and over-the-counter pain medications are usually sufficient to alleviate the pain.

The best way to avoid chronic leg pain from a sports injury is to take precautions and prevent the injury from occurring.

Any sort of sports activity or workout should start with a warm-up of stretches and light exercises. This increases blood flow and flexibility. Additionally, overuse of muscles should be avoided. Going for a prolonged amount of time without exercise and then engaging in intensive activity runs a high risk of causing sports injuries. As stated on the WebMD website:

“You can always come out to play again next weekend—if you don’t get injured today.”

Having the proper equipment, such as footwear, is also important to avoiding sports injuries. Shoes that have adequate support and fit properly are a must, as is having the correct shoes for each activity. This can aid in prevention of several conditions, such as heel spurs, sprained ankles, and shin splints.

To make sure a sports injury doesn’t become recurring or chronic leg pain, patients should allow adequate time for the injury to heal.

Once a sports injury has healed, activity should be resumed gradually. If pain is experienced again, it means that the injury isn’t healed yet and more rest is required. The same guidelines for avoiding a sports injury, such as warming up before activity, avoiding overexertion, and obtaining proper sports equipment, can aid in avoiding recurring or chronic sports injuries. If you suffer from chronic leg pain that is persistent or interferes with your ability to take part in everyday activities, you should discuss the problem with your physician.

Have you experienced a recurring sports injury that caused chronic leg pain?

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