We can run, throw a ball, glide through water, and flip in the air because our joints help us move freely.
The joints that support your wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, and ankles are finely-tuned mechanisms. They work stunningly well — until they don’t.
You can sustain joint injuries in a car accident or on the pitching mound. Some injuries you may not be able to prevent. Others — such as those from sport-specific overuse — you have a better chance against.
What Are the Most Common Joint Injuries?
There are many different types of joint injuries. But doctors tend to see the same types of injuries over and over again for each major group of joints.
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are among the most common injuries to the knee joint. Athletes who compete in sports with a lot of jumping and twisting are most likely to injure their ACL. This includes sports like football, soccer, and basketball.
- Sprains and strains are among the most common wrist and ankle joint injuries. A sprain happens when you over-stretch a ligament attached to a joint. A strain happens when you hurt the muscle around the joint. Twisting an ankle or falling on a wrist are common causes.
- Throwing injuries are one of the most common elbow joint problems. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is particularly vulnerable in baseball pitchers. This is because pitching involves repetitive motion that taxes this ligament.
- A rotator cuff injury is one of the most common shoulder injuries. Your rotator cuff is what allows you to lift your arm over your head. A rotator cuff injury can happen from overuse or from an accident (such as falling on an outstretched arm).
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How Can You Prevent Joint Injuries?
Accidents are always a possibility, but there are some things that you can do to strengthen your joints.
For athletes, it’s a matter of knowing the most common joint injuries that happen in their sport. Once you know the risks, you can work on specific injury prevention.
For example, basketball players can do a zigzag drill with cones. This helps them safely practice quick bursts of speed. It also strengthens knees and ankles.
Even non-athletes should think about injury prevention activities. For example, a simple balance activity like standing on one leg for 30 seconds can strengthen your ankle joint. The more stable your ankle is, the less likely you are to twist or roll it.
Why Do Healthy Joints Matter?
The most obvious reason is that joint injuries hurt and keep you from doing what you love.
When you injure the muscles and ligaments around your joints, they can weaken. Over time, if they don’t get stronger, they have a harder time holding your joint in place.
The name for this is joint instability. You’re more likely to injure yourself again if your joints are unstable.
Osteoarthritis is another long-term side effect of weakened and injured joints. This is a type of arthritis that happens when the cartilage between your joints starts to break down. It causes pain and makes movement difficult.
If you do sustain a joint injury, make sure to talk to your doctor about treatment options to help you recover. Rehabbing an injury the right way can help prevent issues like joint instability and osteoarthritis down the line.
Your joints work hard for you. But they’re vulnerable. Keep active, stay healthy, and never take them for granted.
To learn more or schedule an appointment with UPMC Orthopaedic Care, please call 1-866-987-6784 or contact us online.
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About UPMC Orthopaedic Care
As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, UPMC treats a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. Whether you have bone, muscle, or joint pain, we provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. As leaders in research and clinical trials with cutting-edge tools and techniques, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside appears on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the top hospitals in the country for orthopaedics.