Be the Real MVP — When and When Not to Push Through a Sports Injury

The life of a col­lege or high school ath­lete isn’t always an easy one. You may face the chal­lenge of bal­anc­ing school, prac­tice, work, and friends. You may find your­self work­ing hard to take care of your phys­i­cal and men­tal health every day.

But high school and col­lege sports can also be reward­ing. You might day­dream about Nation­al Sign­ing Day when you choose a hat and the crowd goes wild. 

With big dreams can come big pres­sure, which can lead to play­ing through pain or injuries on game day. But when is push­ing through okay, and when should you give your body a break — even if it means sit­ting on the bench? 

Here’s how to know when to step up and when to rest up.

Com­mon Ath­let­ic Injuries 

Dif­fer­ent sports come with dif­fer­ent injuries, but there are some injuries that tend to be com­mon across dif­fer­ent sports.

Com­mon Sports Injuries

  • Knee injuries — like a torn ACL or runner’s knee
  • Ankle injuries — like Achilles ten­dini­tis or ankle sprain 
  • Shoul­der injuries — like rota­tor cuff tear or dislocation
  • Bone injuries — like frac­tures or bro­ken bones

While there are quite a few dif­fer­ent types of injuries, they can gen­er­al­ly be sort­ed into two major cat­e­gories: Chron­ic injuries and acute injuries. 

Chron­ic injuries (also called overuse injuries) tend to hap­pen over time. For exam­ple, if you are a base­ball pitch­er, you repeat the same motion of throw­ing the ball over and over again. This overuse can lead to a chron­ic injury.

Acute injuries, on the oth­er hand, hap­pen all of a sud­den and all at once — like if you land wrong on a jump shot and break your ankle while play­ing basketball. 

Both kinds of injuries can impact your game­play. Lis­ten to what your body is say­ing dur­ing a game or prac­tice to both rec­og­nize — and pre­vent — injuries.

Know­ing When to Play — And When to Sit This One Out 

Some sore­ness after play­ing or exer­cis­ing is nor­mal. But injuries and pain are dif­fer­ent from reg­u­lar sore­ness — and can affect when you should play or return to play. 

With an acute injury like a bro­ken arm, it might be eas­i­er to know when you can and can’t play (the cast is prob­a­bly a pret­ty big hint). But with a chron­ic or overuse injury, you may expe­ri­ence sore­ness or some pain for a while before it becomes too painful to play. 

You can take steps to pre­vent or min­i­mize sore­ness and injury by mak­ing sure you have gear that fits and tak­ing the time to warm up and also cool down. But some­times, tak­ing the right steps to pre­vent injuries is not enough, and you might find your­self won­der­ing if your pain is enough to con­tact your doctor.

It’s time to sit out and call your Duly care provider if your pain is:

  • In one spe­cif­ic part of your body (and is get­ting worse)
  • Con­stant and doesn’t go away
  • Not improv­ing with heat, ice, rest, or medication
  • Caus­ing you to limp or have trou­ble walking 
  • Accom­pa­nied by joint swelling 
  • Get­ting in the way of dai­ly activ­i­ties, sleep, or practice
  • Undi­ag­nosed, or you’re not sure what’s caus­ing it

At Duly, our care starts with providers who will assess your con­di­tion to cre­ate the best care plan for you. Your care plan will be made in col­lab­o­ra­tion with our full orthopaedics team and might include non-sur­gi­cal or sur­gi­cal pain man­age­ment and reha­bil­i­ta­tion options.

Play­ing Safer, Health­i­er, and Longer

As an ath­lete, you may be used to play­ing a game even if you’re in pain. Many movies, TV shows, and great sports leg­ends fea­ture ath­letes who win it all — at the expense of their own health or well-being. 

While play­ing through pain is tempt­ing, unchecked injuries can lead to life­long dam­age and health issues. If you find your­self ask­ing, Should I play this one?” before every game, then your pain might be more seri­ous than you think. 

While it might feel like you’re let­ting your team or fans down by not play­ing a game, tak­ing care of your body means you’ll be able to play more games in the long run. Pro­tect­ing your health is what makes you a real MVP. 

No one knows your body bet­ter than you do, and if something’s not right, talk to a Duly Sports Med­i­cine Orthopaedic Provider ear­ly. They can talk with you about your con­cerns to assess your con­di­tion and coor­di­nate your care with oth­er spe­cial­ists to pre­vent small issues from becom­ing big health con­cerns and keep you on the field.

Health Topics:

  • My primary goal when meeting any new patient is to understand how their injury is impacting their quality of life and level of function as well as their goals for treatment. I focus on educating each person on the full extent of their injury so that they can best participate in their own medical decision making. By appreciating the important individualized differences, I work with my patients to create a customized state-of-the-art treatment plan so that they can get back to the activities that they love.