Do You Know How To Prevent a Chronic Sports Injury? | Keck Medicine of USC

Do You Know How To Prevent a Chronic Sports Injury?

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

Overuse injuries account for 25% of all sports injuries — regardless of age or skill level. We spoke with two Keck Medicine of USC physicians to learn more about overuse injuries and how to prevent them.

James E. Tibone, MD, a Moss Foundation professor of sports medicine and professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Seth C. Gamradt, MD, director of orthopaedic athletic medicine at Keck Medicine and an associate professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School.

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

Both work with USC athletes and other major sports teams, like the LA Kings, Los Angeles Dodgers, Lakers, Rams and New York Giants.

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Types of injuries and their cause

There are two types of injuries: acute and overuse. Acute injuries happen in a single, traumatic event. Overuse injuries occur again and again, before the body has had time to heal.

Common acute injuries are:

  • Sprained ankles
  • Fractures
  • Pulled muscles, like hamstring strains

Some types of overuse injuries are:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Runner’s knee
  • Tennis elbow
  • Tendinitis, such as swimmer’s shoulder
  • Shin splints

Certain types of overuse injuries reoccur in specific sports. Swimmers and volleyball players often have shoulder pain from tendinitis. Runners frequently have knee injuries, 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 the 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 on 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 reinjuring 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.

by Heidi Tyline King

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