Sports injuries can be brutal. Do you know how to prevent them?

Overuse injuries account for 25 percent of all sports injuries – regardless of age or skill level.

We spoke with two USC physicians to learn more about overuse injuries and how to prevent them. James E. Tibone, MD, Moss professor of sports medicine, professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery and Seth C. Gamradt, MD, director of orthopaedic athletic medicine and associate professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the USC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Keck Medicine of USC. Both work with USC athletes and other major sports teams like the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lakers, Kings and Rams.

Seth C. Gamradt, MD, James E. Tibone, MD

Types of Injuries and Their Cause

There are two types of injuries. Acute injuries happen in a single, traumatic event.

Common acute injuries are:

  • Sprained ankles
  • Fractures
  • Pulled muscles like hamstring strains

Overuse injuries occur again and again before the body has had time to heal. Some types of overuse injuries are:

Certain types of overuse injuries reoccur in specific sports. Swimmers and volleyball players always present with shoulder pain from tendinitis. Runners have knee injuries all the time, usually because they have increased their training intensity. Baseball players often have elbow injuries. These injuries are prevalent in kids who play the same sport twelve months a year.

When your body undergoes physical stress, your bones and muscles grow stronger and more functional. However, if the stress occurs rapidly or frequently, it can break down these same bones and muscles, causing an imbalance in flexibility and strength. This imbalance is when injury occurs.


Overuse symptoms include:

  • Chronic pain, before, during or after exercising
  • Decreased speed or strength
  • Swelling
  • Aches and soreness
  • Pain while resting

Treatment for Overuse Injuries

Treatments for an overuse injury include:

  • Reducing the frequency and intensity of your sport.
  • Rest. Your body needs downtime to heal and recover.
  • Ice. Treat your injury after practice and games.
  • Using anti-inflammatory medicines when needed.

In extreme cases, surgery may be required. For instance, we often perform Tommy John surgery in high school athletes to reconstruct the elbow ligament.

Forget the “no-pain, no-gain” approach. Instead, listen to your body and learn ways to prevent injury from occurring:

  • Learn special training techniques to avoid re-injuring yourself.
  • Cross-train. Change your workout routine to ease the stress on your injury.
  • Increase the intensity, duration and frequency of your workout gradually.
  • Avoid specializing in one sport. This is especially important for children who are prone to injury and burnout.

Our orthopaedic surgeons do not just treat collegiate and professional athletes. We treat everyone from weekend warriors to high school athletes to early adolescents just learning to play sports.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top orthopaedic surgeons in the world, schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting

By Heidi Tyline King