The Pain Game

Britain’s stellar Olympics is getting more people than ever into sport – but be sure you know just how far you can push your body

Team GB’s awesome medal tally at last month Olympics has inspired many of us to get more active and participate in competitive sports. Before you head off to become the next Max Whitlock or Laura Trott, it’s worth swotting up on basic knowledge of sports injuries. It’s something everyone at any level can benefit from by understanding what should happen, what shouldn’t, and when to seek expert help.


A strain is caused by stretching or even tearing a muscular tendinous unit. A sprain involves damage to a ligament which attaches one bone to another, crossing a joint. Strains come in three grades: minor muscle pulls; tearing of the fibres leading to swelling that will need three to six weeks to heal; a complete tear which needs to be immobilised in a cast and will take you out of all training for up to six months.


For treating an injury, PRICE stands for Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Protect the injured area to avoid further injury; Rest to prevent it hurting; Ice the injured joint for 20 minutes every three or four hours; Compression with an elastic bandage to limit swelling; Elevation by lifting a lower extremity such as an ankle above the level of your heart.


The repeated action of running and jumping can exert repetitive stresses that lead to microscopic breaks in part of the bone. This is a stress fracture and treatment usually involves stopping the activity and allowing a healing process over six to eight weeks. A complete fracture means the bone must be reset with a cast.


These days, surgery for Anterior Cruciate Ligament tears is not only highly effective but also open to people in their 50s and 60s who want to keep playing demanding sports such as football. Surgery may not always be needed. However, if your sport involves sudden stop starts and fast changes in direction, a procedure to repair or reconstruct the ligament may be the best way forward.


Do I need to see a specialist? It’s a question athletes and sports people often ask themselves about an injury. If it’s a trauma injury – yes. If you can’t walk or use a limb, or if it’s severe enough to cause disfiguration, then you should see a doctor or visit A&E.

For further information on sports injury call BMI The Priory Hospital 0800 142 2316. For physiotherapy enquiries 0121 446 1551 or visit