Overcoming Sports Injuries

Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon Brian Schafer, M.D., Answers Your Questions

When it comes to sports injuries, what are the most common problems?

Injuries to knees and shoulders are the most common. Ankle injuries are a close third. Specific injuries include tendonitis, chronic anterior knee pain, ligament sprains and tears.

How do I differentiate between a minor bruise and a major orthopedic problem?

The red flag that patients and physicians should be concerned about is a mechanical symptom. If there’s a sensation of getting something stuck in the knee or the patient has to shake the knee to get it straight, or even if there’s a sense of shifting around in the knee, then the patient needs to be evaluated for a more serious injury. A sharp pain in the shoulder can be a sign of a torn rotator cuff or a separated shoulder.

How do you treat a torn ACL?

The ACL is one of four major ligaments around the knee joint that are critical for knee stability. Unlike the other ligaments, the ACL won’t heal by itself. Small ACL tears may be treated with muscle strengthening or bracing. If a patient wants to return to a highly active lifestyle, however, surgeons can perform an ACL reconstruction using grafts from the patient’s patellar or hamstring tendon, or by using donor tissue grafts.

What is the most common knee injury?

Meniscus tears are the most common. Meniscus tears happen when someone is playing a high intensity sport and then plants a foot and turns suddenly, such as during soccer or basketball. Typically, repairs are treated arthroscopically with the goal of maintaining as much of the meniscus as possible.

How do you treat a torn rotator cuff?

Small rotator cuff tears can be repaired in an outpatient procedure with arthroscopy. Those tears can be of any size if caught early, but smaller tears are easier to repair and the recovery is faster. In the case of larger tears, traditional open surgery sometimes is required for full repair. Once the patient recovers from surgery, physical therapy is needed to strengthen the shoulder muscles and educate the patient on proper movement.

How do you treat shoulder tendinitis and bursitis?

Properly diagnosed, these conditions may be treated by a primary care physician. Treatments include medication and physical therapy.