Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries

Created by Dr. Charles Kaelin

Last Updated: December 28, 2020

CATEGORIES: Physical Fitness

If you play sports, wearing the right gear is considered a must to keep the most prevalent sports injuries at bay. It is crucial to keep in mind that when you play sports, regardless of the kind, you are more prone to injuries. 

While you are more at risk when you are young, it does not mean you are safe from the most common sports injuries once you become an adult.    

Essentially, sports injuries refer to the injuries that occur during sports or exercise. Although any part of the body is susceptible to injury while playing sports, the term sports injury commonly refers to injuries of the musculoskeletal system. 

Sports injuries can also occur due to lack of conditioning, improper technique or form, and overtraining. Failure to warm-up can also increase the risk of sports injuries. Tears, strains, bruises, and broken bones can also occur as a result of sports injuries.

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The Ten Most Common Sports Injuries

1. Patellofemoral Syndrome

This sports injury is just like knee injuries, sprains, and strains. Patellofemoral Syndrome is also commonly referred to as runner’s or jumper’s knee. This type of injury occurs when the knee joint hits the leg bone repeatedly. It can also happen when you fall onto your knees. 

Athletes in sports that involve constant leg motion like cycling or track and field are more likely to suffer from Patellofemoral Syndrome. Apart from severe pain, patients with a runner’s knee may experience cracking or popping. 

Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries-Patellofemoral Syndrome-Cycling

Prevention / Treatment Option

To prevent further sports complications, avoiding activities that can stress the knee joints further is recommended. Rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE therapy) have also been known to help.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and physical therapy are also treatment options that have been proven to provide relief. While very rare, surgery can also be an option in severe cases that do not respond to other treatments.

2. Sprains

Those who play sports have likely fallen victim to sprains at one point or another. Typically, most sprains occur around the joints. Sprains are often attributed to torn or overstretched ligaments. 

When tackling, swinging, throwing, running, shifting directions, jumping, or doing other sports-related movements, athletes can become susceptible to sprains. The most common sprain occurs in the ankle. 

While seemingly harmless, an ankle sprain can render an athlete inactive for several days or weeks.

Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries-sprains-rugby team

Prevention / Treatment Option

Warming up and stretching well (and properly) before starting any physical activity is recommended to keep sprains at bay.

3. Plantar Fasciitis

The ligament connecting the heel to the front foot is known as the plantar fascia. When the plantar fascia ligament gets inflamed, a condition known as plantar fasciitis occurs. Individuals suffering from plantar fasciitis often experience heel pain after an activity or after getting out of bed in the morning. 

Plantar fasciitis is the third most prevalent injury for runners. Plantar fasciitis sends approximately 1 million people—runners and non-runners alike—to the doctor annually.

When the feet are subjected to severe strain or stress, plantar fasciitis can also develop. Repetitive use, high arches, tight calf, and obesity are other factors that can also result in the development of the condition. 

Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries-plantar fasciitis-woman running

Prevention / Treatment Option

Plantar fasciitis can be treated with the RICE method, certain exercises, and NSAIDs.  To minimize the pain, wearing splints at night may be recommended. Severe cases of plantar fasciitis may be treated with physical therapy, cortisone injections, or surgery.

4. Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is an overuse injury that’s attributed to playing racket sports. However, individuals in other professions are also susceptible. For instance, painters and plumbers are also at risk. 

Tennis elbow occurs when the tendons on the outside of the elbow become inflamed. Tennis elbow does not only cause pain, it can also cause a weak grip. 

Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries-tennis elbow

Prevention / Treatment Option

Symptoms of tennis elbow may respond well to rest and NSAIDs. To minimize pressure on the sore area, wearing a special brace may be prescribed. Steroid injections have also been known to help decrease inflammation. Physical therapy may also be helpful. When all the other treatments have failed, surgery may be an option.

5. Concussion

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) that happens when the brain goes through a rapid acceleration is called a concussion. Concussions are typically caused by a direct hit to the head or body. Individuals involved in contact sports like football have an increased risk for concussions.

Concussion symptoms often include loss of consciousness, sleepiness, vomiting, nausea, memory loss, and headache. A neurological exam may be performed to determine the extent of the injury.

Prevention / Treatment Option

Those who suffer from concussions will need physical and mental health to heal and recover. A doctor’s clearance may be required before athletes can resume playing sports.

6. Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation that causes pain in the leg’s lower back (just above the heel). When Achilles tendonitis occurs, the area can become swollen, stiff, and painful. The pain can worsen after doing physical activities. 

There is also a tendency for the tendon to thicken. In some cases, bone spurs may also develop in the affected area.

Prevention / Treatment Option

Achilles tendonitis may respond well to ice, rest, NSAIDs, and stretching. A physical therapist may also prescribe some strengthening exercises. 

Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries-achilles tendonitis-physical therapy

7. Low Back Pain

Low back pain can be attributed to a lot of causes. Mostly, it can be due to lifting heavy weights, playing too many rounds of golf, or overuse. Typically, back strains will go away on their own without treatment. 

Prevention / Treatment Option

Anti-inflammatory medications and rest may provide relief for low back pain. In some instances, modifying an exercise technique may be needed to prevent further damage. Check with your doctor if you experience lingering back pain, as it might be caused by an underlying condition that might require immediate treatment.

[Check out these simple and effective exercises for lower back pain].

8. Fractures

This type of injury is by far one of the most recognizable as those who have bone fractures wear fractures and splints. Fractures can also happen to most athletes, regardless of the sport they are involved in.

A fracture can occur when a bone is hit with great force and impact. Typically, athletes can often tell right away if a fracture has happened as they can experience severe pain. In extreme cases, the bones may protrude.

Prevention / Treatment Option

Depending on how severe the fracture is and its location, treatment options can include braces, splints, plaster cast, and traction. In other cases, surgically inserted plates or metal rods may be needed to hold the pieces of the bone together.

Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries-fractures-wrist in bandage

9. Sciatica

If there is one very preventable sports injury, it’s sciatica. Sciatica is a specific type of back pain that often occurs in the lower back area. Most athletes who play different sports may experience sciatica at one point or another. 

Athletes who are into football, golf, cycling, and track and field are more prone to developing sciatica.

Prevention / Treatment Option

If the pain does not respond to self-care measures, doctors might suggest certain medications, physical therapy, and steroid injections. If the compressed nerve causes severe weakness, bladder and bowel control, or pain that worsens progressively, surgery may be required.

10. MCL/ACL Tears

Many athletes experience MCL or ACL tears now and then. However, these injuries are not common. Both tears occur around the knee. The ACL works by keeping the knee stable during physical activity. It is often torn when athletes make drastic direction changes. MCL tears occur when the MCL is overextended and tears.

Top 10 Most Common Sports Injuries-MCL-ACL tears-women relay runners

Prevention / Treatment Option

Unlike the other sports injuries on the list, MCL and ACL tears can require longer recovery time and may even require surgery. ACL injuries may also take several months to heal. MCL tears, on the other hand, may not require surgery but will still take several months to heal.


To ensure common sports injuries are avoided, certain precautions should be followed. Using the right equipment, for instance, is considered a must. Resting between workouts is also recommended to give the body time to rest and repair. Listening to the body and stopping at the first signs of stress, discomfort, or pain can also help prevent the most common sports injuries from developing.

Do you have any questions or comments about sports injuries? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below!

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