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Sports Injury Guide: The Common Types of Sports Injuries

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Updated June 10, 2014

10 of 10

Part 10 of 10 - What's The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Injuries?

Acute Injury

Acute injuries, such as a sprained ankle, strained back, or fractured hand, occur suddenly during activity. Signs of an acute injury include:

  • sudden, severe pain
  • swelling
  • inability to place weight on a lower limb
  • extreme tenderness in an upper limb
  • inability to move a joint through full range of motion
  • extreme limb weakness
  • visible dislocation / break of a bone

Chronic Injury

Chronic injuries usually result from overusing one area of the body while playing a sport or exercising over a long period. Signs of a chronic injury include:

  • pain when performing activities
  • a dull ache when at rest
  • swelling

What Should I Do If I Suffer An Injury?

Whether an injury is acute or chronic, there is never a good reason to try to "work through" the pain of an injury. When you have pain from a particular movement or activity, STOP! Continuing the activity only causes further harm.

Some injuries require prompt medical attention, while others can be self-treated.

When To Seek Medical Treatment

You should call a health professional if:

  • the injury causes severe pain, swelling, or numbness
  • you can't tolerate weight on the area
  • the pain or dull ache of an old injury is accompanied by increased swelling or joint abnormality or instability

If you don't have any of the above symptoms, it's probably safe to treat the injury at home, at least at first. If pain or other symptoms worsen, it's best to check with your doctor.

Source: NIH Publication No. 04-5278

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