Sports Injury Treatment

Articles researched and written by Sally Ann Quirke, a fully qualified professional chartered Physiotherapist based in Ireland.

Do You Recognise Your Sport and it’s Common Injuries?

Sports injury treatment and prevention is successful when you understand the cause of your injury.

So - what is a typical sports injury treatment? Well, put simply, it depends on the sport.

While sitting down to my breakfast this morning I did some calculations and realised that I have treated approximately 56,000 patients over the past 16 years – many of whom have come to me with a specific sports injury!

It is through the aches and pains of these wonderful people that I have achieved the level of experience and knowledge that I have today! From this experience - as well as the many courses I have completed over the years - I have noticed patterns of injury and pain within the various types of sports people and their injuries that I treat. Each sport appears to have it’s own type of injuries. Also, each sport appears to attract a certain shape and form of athlete.

I have also noticed that combination of the mechanics of each individual sport and the body type of the athlete can contribute to a specific type of injury. Now, that is not to say that all sports only have one or two possible types of injuries. However, I do suggest that in each sport there are one or two very common injuries within the large spectrum of injuries possible for that sport. Noticing these re-occurring common injuries has allowed me to help athletes to prevent them from re-occurring again.

I myself have done 30 triathlons over the past 4 years! I am proud to say that I have not suffered with any sports injuries over the course of training and competition. The simple reason for this (apart from whatever luck is on my side) is that I understand the movements involved in each of the three triathalon disciplines and have tailored my training programme to enhance these movements. If I spend three hours on the bike I know I have to work my body in the opposite direction during my post training stretching. This is because I have spent the time on my bike flexed (bent over) - and to release this I need to spend some time in the extended (arched backwards) position.

This is just one example of how I prevent injuries in my training. The ability to do this lies in my understanding the movements and positions involved in my sport. So, to all you sports people - strive to understand the movements you are asking your body to do for your sport, and then help your body to recover by counteracting this movement afterwards. A chartered physiotherapist will help you gain this knowledge.

So, in this article I am going to present the typical injuries I associate with each sport that I treat, as well as the treatments I use. I hope it helps you!

So, what are the typical injuries of each sport? Let’s look at the more common sports in turn:

Soccer. Soccer involves speed, power, endurance, balance flexibility and strength. Injuries result from impact and overuse. Impact injuries from tackles usually affect the knee or ankle. Ligaments are also frequently torn.

Read more on the Top 5 Soccer Injuries and associated treatments.

Golf. Golf involves power, strength, and endurance. The golf swing is a clever swing. When I listen to golfers sitting in the clubhouse - I hear them referring to the quality of each other’s swing! Your golf swing can be enhanced greatly through mobilisation and exercise. If you have a stiff spine or shoulder then all the lessons in the world will not enhance your swing.

My advice is to attend a chartered physiotherapist or Pilate’s instructor who will help you to break down the movements involved in your golf swing. They will also give you exercises to work on each of the movements individually before re-connecting them together. I have golfers who come to me each month for advice and exercises – and their handicaps are reaping the results of their efforts!

Tennis. Like golf, tennis involves power, strength, endurance - as well as the speed aspects of fitness. Common injuries from tennis result from twisting your upper body on a fixed base. The fixed base is your feet. A good tennis player is in no way flat on their feet and helps the twisting movement of their back by moving their feet at the same time. For those of us who are less natural tennis players, training the body to twist in the back and the feet to move at the same time is an excellent exercise. I use this exercise in the treatment and prevention of tennis-related injuries.

Many of you will have also heard of tennis elbow. This is an inflammation to the tendon of your forearm causing pain on the inside of your elbow. It occurs in tennis due to overuse -where your tendon fatigues and eventually becomes inflamed and sore. The cause of tennis elbow often results from your back being stiff in the first place. If you have a stiff back you compensate by working your arm harder. Eventually, breakdown results. Keeping your spine mobile is essential in the treatment and prevention of tennis-related injuries.

Running. Running involves strength, power, endurance and speed. Injuries generally result from propulsion where your calf or hamstring muscle gets strained, or from overuse where your hamstring or lower back become painful and achy. Prevention is the key and involves knowledge of both your sport and the techniques you need to work on.

Last year I studied the Catriona Mc Kiernan technique called Chi running - which I found to be of great value. It teaches you how to become aware of your posture while running and how to reduce the risk of injury. This is one method I believe in for runners, but a chartered physiotherapist could also advise you.


Swimming invlolves the speed, power, strength, flexibility, and endurance aspects of fitness. Commonly, I see injuries in the neck and shoulders as a result of swimming injuries. Generally, the injuries that I see are simply down to overuse. They occur from repetition of a poor swimming posture, where you are turning your head repetitively to one side or overstraining your shoulder muscles on your arm stroke.

It is very important to have good spinal mobility if you are swimming long distances. This will help reduce the risk of injury to your shoulder from compensation techniques i.e. where your arm is being overstretched to compensate for your stiff spine. Pilates is great for spinal mobility.


Cycling involves mainly endurance and strength. Injuries result from the sustained flexion - where your back is bent over in the saddle. Generally I see upper back and neck injuries resulting from this sustained position. Treatment involves stretches that counteract this position after cycling and teaching you how to hold your back and neck while cycling to reduce the risks of injury in the future.

I love teaching cyclists how to stretch after cycling to reduce the risk of injury in the future. Seek advice. I myself am a cyclist and have benefited greatly from simple stretches that eliminate injuries as a result of long mileage.


The triathalon involves all aspects of fitness. It is a demanding sport as it involves three sports directly performed one after the other. The fitness demand is great as is the challenge on your body as you transition from the movements of one sport to another. The main injuries I see with the triathlon are a result of overuse. Commonly, it is your leg muscles or back that feel the overuse potential of serious triathlon training.

Treatment of triathlon injuries requires a detailed look at your training protocol and changes made where necessary. Adequate attention has to be given to your flexibility and core strength. This should be part of your overall training programme. Often, it is triathletes who do not address flexibility and core strength that end up injured and I eventually see them in my practice! Prevention involves a balanced fitness programme - incorporating strength and flexibility into the programme.

Treatment involves physiotherapy from the early stages. As the ligament heals you will be advised on exercises to strengthen your knee and regain the balance reactions in your leg. These balance or “proprioception” exercises are of particular importance in football because of the time spent on one leg quite frequently. It therefore needs to be strong and reactive underfoot. Many injuries in football result from poor warm up and training techniques.

Gymnastics. Gymnastics involves too much flexibility!! The truth is that some gymnasts are designed to do all the extreme movements as their muscles can control these extreme positions that their sport takes them to. However, forcing your body into these positions, when it is not designed to do so, leads to injury and breakdown. If your muscles cannot control the position you are putting your spine and other joints into, then ligament and joint damage may result.

Rugby (and American Football). Rugby is a high impact sport with a lot of contact. It requires strength, power, endurance, flexibility and speed. It therefore requires a well-balanced training programme to enhance all these aspects of fitness. The injuries that I see with rugby players are related to impact injuries and to general wear and tear.

A recent example of an impact injury that I saw in one of my rugby players resulted from a tackle from the side. John was knocked over with force from one side. The main point of contact was on the outside of his knee. This resulted in a nasty tear to his medial collateral ligament, on the inside of his knee. Initial treatment involved R.I.C.E. (stands for rest ice compression and elevation).

This is the typical treatment for an acute impact injury as long as no bone is broken. We applied this treatment for three days. Subsequently, I commenced physiotherapy treatments, which involved mobilising his injured ligament and using anti-inflammatory modalities. Exercises were gradually introduced.

Six weeks later john was pain free and we then commenced the most important aspect of his treatment. This is when he worked to strengthen the surrounding muscles to help support the knee joint. We also addressed re-educating the balance reactions of his knee which he had lost. This is important to reduce the risk of re-occurrence. Frequently, sports people return to contact sport before their balance has returned and they usually re-injure themselves and return to me with their tail between their legs!

The stronger your balance and leg strength are the less likely you are to injure yourself in the first place. However, although injury cannot be avoided on occasional impact, your recovery is often enhanced and quickened by understanding the potential impact injuries related to your sport and doing the prevention exercises to help prevent them from happening in the first place!

In summary, understanding the cause of your injury is the key to a good rehabilitation. Once the cause has been identified treatment involves removing the cause where possible, or managing the cause in a way that alleviates the pressure it is placing on your body.

Understand the mechanics of your sport and you will help prevent injury through awareness and prevention exercises. Listen to your body and feedback to your physiotherapist when and where you feel your symptoms. This will help you both resolve your sports injuries.

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While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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