Sports Injuries

If you are not sure what your injury is why not visit our sports injury symptom checker. Or select from the options below to view sports injuries for that particular body area or category.

Foot and heel injuries

Foot injuries are separated into heel pain, midfoot pain, forefoot pain (including pain under the ball of the foot), toe injuries and skin conditions such as athletes foot and blisters. Foot pain can be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (gradual onset). If you have suffered a recent foot injury then it is usually best to apply immediate first aid in the form of ice or cold therapy. We also explain under which circumstances you should see a doctor or seek professional medical advice.

Ankle injuries can be acute (sudden onset) such as ankle sprains and fractures, or gradual onset through overuse. Here we explain acute ankle injuries, lateral ankle pain (outside of the ankle), medial ankle pain (inside of the ankle), anterior ankle pain (front of the ankle) and achilles pain at the back of the ankle. We cover emergency first aid in the form of cold therapy and compression, when to seek medical advice as well as rehabilitation exercises.

Shin and calf injuries in sport

Injuries to the lower leg can be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (gradual onset). The most common cause of pain at the front of the lower leg is known as shin splints and refers to pain along the bone on the lower, inside of the shin which develops gradually over time. A calf strain is the most likely cause of sudden onset pain at the back of the leg. We explain how and when to apply emergency first aid in the form of cold therapy as well as when to see a doctor or seek medical advice.

Knee pain & knee injuries

Knee injuries can be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (gradual onset). Acute knee injuries are usually the result of twisting or a hard impact and will likely involve ligament, tendon or cartilage joint injury. We have categorised gradual onset knee injuries into lateral knee pain (outside of the knee), medial knee pain (inside of the knee), anterior (front of the knee) and posterior (back of the knee).

Thigh pain

Thigh injuries are separated into front thigh, back of the thigh and groin pain. Most thigh injuries are sudden onset (acute) such as a thigh strain, groin strain or hamstring strain, but thigh pain can also be chronic (occur gradually over time). This is especially likely if an acute injury has not been treated correctly or failed to heal properly. If you have suffered a sudden onset thigh injury we explain how to apply emergency first aid in the form of ice or cold therapy as well as when to seek professional advice.

Buttock, hip and groin pain is often connected or might be pain referred from another area such as the lower back. The hip and groin area is one of the most challenging areas of the body to treat by sports injury specialists. This is because there are a large number of possible structures that can be injured and cause pain in this area, and also because most of the structures are very deep within the groin area (including the hip joint).

back pain

Back pain can be acute or chronic. Acute back pain can come on suddenly from a specific incident or injury and is particularly painful or it can occur from chronic long term back pain which has flared up and become painful. Here we explain specific back injuries as well as treatment, management and prevention of back pain.

Face and Head Injuries

If you have sustained any kind of head injury it is always advisable to seek medical attention immediately. A direct blow to the head can be a minor injury right through to something more serious or even death. Head injuries include trauma to the head or brain, concussion, facial injuries including the eyes and nose, and ear pain. Here we explain how to recognise and treat various head injuries as well as when to seek medical attention.

shoulder pain

Shoulder Pain & Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder pain & Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries are common in sport and can be either acute (sudden onset) or chronic (gradual onset). Sudden onset shoulder injuries usually occur through direct impact or trauma and can become chronic if they are not diagnosed and treated properly.

Chronic shoulder injuries may develop from overuse, wear and tear or degeneration of ligaments and tendons over a long period of time. If you are not sure what is causing your shoulder pain then why not try our sports injury symptom checker? Or select from the options below.

On this page:

Acute shoulder injuries

Sudden onset or acute shoulder injuries often occur from a fall onto an outstretched arm, from a direct impact, overstretching or overloading. Often the athlete will feel a sudden sharp pain with discomfort and/or loss of mobility. Sometimes there will be swelling and inflammation. It is important acute shoulder injuries are treated as soon as possible to prevent further damage and stop them from becoming a chronic injury.

Rotator cuff tear

A rotator cuff strain is a tear to any of the four 'rotator cuff' muscles in the shoulder and is common in throwing and racket sports. Symptoms include sudden shoulder pain and a feeling that something has torn. Pain may also radiate down into the arm. Rotator cuff strains can range from mild to very severe. Immediate first aid applying the PRICE principles is important followed by a gradually rehabilitation and strengthening program. Read more on:

AC joint separation

An AC joint separation, or AC joint sprain, is a tear to the ligament that joins the acromium and clavicular bones at the top of the shoulder. It is usually caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm and can range in severity from mild to a complete tear of the ligament. Severe pain and swelling will be felt at the time of injury and will radiate throughout the shoulder initially, but later on, pain will be more localized to the bony part on the top of the shoulder.

Immediate first aid is important and strapping or taping the shoulder is usually recommended to prevent long-term deformity of the shoulder. Read more on:

Long head of biceps rupture

This is a tear or strain of the long tendon of the biceps muscle which originates from the shoulder. It is more common in older athletes. A sudden sharp pain is felt at the front of the upper arm/shoulder. There may be pain and swelling over the front of the shoulder joint. Contracting the biceps muscle against resistance is likely to be painful and in particular, lifting a straight arm up forwards against resistance is likely to be painful.

Clavicle fracture

A clavicle fracture is also known as a broken collarbone. The bone can be fractured by a fall. Symptoms include severe pain in the collarbone, sometimes with swelling over the area and a bony deformity is often seen. If a broken collarbone is suspected then seek medical attention immediately.

Dislocated shoulder

A dislocated shoulder is very traumatic and painful injury and occurs when the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) pops out of the shoulder joint. It usually dislocates out forwards as the arm is forced upwards and outwards, damaging soft tissue, tendons, and ligaments in the process. Severe pain will be felt with rapid swelling around the shoulder joint which is likely to appear deformed or 'dropped'. It is essential emergency medical attention is sought if a shoulder dislocation is expected. Do not try to pop it back into place as this can cause permanent injury to nerves or blood vessels. Read more on:

Pectoralis major tendon strain

The pectoralis major muscle is a large powerful muscle at the front of the chest. It is used to rotate the arm inwards. Its weak point is where the tendon attaches to the arm bone, and a strain or rupture can happen here when it is put under stress when weight training for example. Symptoms of this shoulder injury include pain and swelling at the front of the shoulder.

View all acute shoulder injuries.

Chronic shoulder injuries

Gradual onset shoulder pain or chronic shoulder pain develops over a period of time. The athlete may not have known the exact time of injury which could have been niggling away for a while as they train through it. Due to the complexity of the shoulder joint, there are some injuries which may appear to have happened suddenly but also may develop gradually over time

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a condition causing pain and restricted movement in the shoulder joint. It is normally only seen in older people, with no specific cause. There are three phases to this injury. Initially, the shoulder will ache, with the pain becoming more widespread and worse at night. The joint will then start to stiffen and the pain may limit daily activities. Eventually, with treatment, the joint will begin to loosen up and pain will ease.

Rotator cuff tendinopathy

This is a degenerative condition affecting one or more of the rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder. The shoulder pain is often present when resting and may be exacerbated by lifting and moving the arm above the shoulder. The tendon will probably feel tender and there may be a creaking feeling when the shoulder moves.

Glenoid labrum tear

When the tissue in the joint socket tears, it creates shoulder pain and weakness. The shoulder pain often cannot be localised to a specific point. This shoulder injury is often caused by repetitive movement such as overhead throwing. Resisted flexion of the biceps and moving the arm behind your back may reproduce pain.

Subacromial bursitis

Subacromial bursitis has similar symptoms to Supraspinatus tendinitis. The injury occurs when the bursa (sack of fluid over tendon to facilitate movement) become trapped. It will cause pain and weakness in the arm, particularly when it is lifted sideways through a 60-degree arc. Pain may also be felt when you press in at the inside front of the upper arm.

Read more on chronic shoulder injuries.

Immediate first aid

All acute and chronic shoulder injuries should be treated using the P.R.I.C.E. therapy principles of protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This should be applied at home for at least the first 2 - 3 days.

  • Protection - Protect the injury from further damage. Try not to move the shoulder or put any strain on it.
  • Rest - Refrain from using the arm/elbow, particularly from movements that exacerbate the pain.
  • Ice - Applying ice or cold therapy to the area of the injury can assist in reducing the symptoms of pain and inflammation. There are a small number of areas that you should not apply ice to which include the neck, the outside bone of the elbow, the collarbone (upper end), the front of the hip (bony part) and the outer bone of the knee.  The reason for this is there is a superficial nerve just below the skin in these areas that can be damaged by applying ice to it. Using ice on other parts of the body, however, can decrease the damage by:
    • Decreasing the amount of bleeding by closing down the blood vessels (called vasoconstriction)
    • Reducing pain (pain gate theory)
    • Reducing muscle spasm
    • Reducing the risk of cell death (also called necrosis) by decreasing the rate of metabolism
  • Compression - The use of a compression support to the arm or elbow can help reduce swelling. Compression is not quite so easy on the shoulder joint but an elastic bandage can be used to wrap and support the shoulder joint in the early stages.
  • Elevation - Keep the hand elevated above heart level whenever possible to help reduce swelling in the hand due to the effects of gravity. This is best achieved using an upper arm sling.

Shoulder assessment and diagnosis

In order to thoroughly assess any injury, a sound knowledge of the anatomy of the area is required. These examples are for information purposes only. We highly recommend seeing a sports injury professional or doctor to receive a full and accurate assessment of your injury. The assessment is split into subjective and objective. Subjective assessments gather information about the injury history, whilst objective assessments examine the shoulder itself.

Shoulder exercises

After an injury, shoulder rehabilitation exercises usually begin with mobility exercises. Then, when pain allows, isometric or static shoulder exercises are used to begin strengthening. These then progress to dynamic ones with a resistance band or dumbbell weights. Exercises to stabilise the shoulder girdle, including the shoulder blade, as well as any deficit in spine function, are important to prevent future injury. Later on, more sports-specific or functional exercises are done in preparation for returning to full training.

Arm & Elbow Pain

Arm and elbow injuries are separated into lateral elbow pain (outside of the elbow), medial elbow pain (inside of the elbow) posterior elbow pain (at the back of the elbow), acute elbow injuries (sudden onset), forearm pain and upper arm injuries. Tennis elbow is the most common cause of pain on the outside of the elbow. Here we explain how to recognise and treat elbow and arm injuries as well as when to seek medical advice.

Wrist pain and hand injuries

Wrist injuries which occur suddenly are known acute wrist injuries They are usually caused from a fall onto an outstretched arm or a forced twisting movement and include wrist strains, sprains and fractures. Gradual onset injuries or chronic wrist pain occurs over a period of time and often cannot be traced back to a single incident or cause. These include wrist tenonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and bursitis. An acute wrist injury may become chronic over time if it is not treated correctly.

Abdominal & Chest Pain

Chest pain in the athlete can be anything from indigestion to a heart attack so if you are at all unsure seek medical advice. Moderate to severe chest injuries should always be assessed by a doctor to ensure the ribs, lungs and other internal organs, including the heart, have not been affected or damaged. However, in view of the possible consequences from any chest or abdominal injury, always consult a doctor if in doubt.

General Medical Conditions

This section covers general medical conditions that do not fit into specific areas of the body and includes general musclular skeletal terms, viral illnesses, infections, diseases affecting the nervous system and cardiovascular system. Also included are mental health and psychological issues which are relevant in sport.