Understanding common sports injuries: prevention and treatment tips

Every athlete, whether amateur or professional, faces the risk of sports injuries. These incidents are not just physical setbacks but can also bring emotional and financial strain. In South Africa, where sports are integral to our cultural fabric, understanding how to prevent, treat, and financially manage common sports injuries is crucial.  Our article explores common sports injuries, shares prevention techniques, explores treatment options, and highlights the significance of medical cover, focusing on the Momentum medical aid sports injury benefit.

What are the types of common sports injuries?

Sports injuries are an inevitable risk for athletes of all levels, from weekend warriors to professional competitors. Understanding these injuries is the first step towards prevention and effective treatment.  Here’s a closer look at some of the most common sports injuries, their causes, and the sports most often associated with them.

Strains and sprains

Strains and sprains are among the most frequent injuries occurring during physical activities. A strain happens when a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn, often manifesting as a result of acute overloading during sprinting, lifting, or jumping. Symptoms include pain, muscle spasms, and weakness. Sprains, on the other hand, involve the overstretching or tearing of ligaments—the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones in your joints. Ankle and wrist sprains are common and can result from falls, sudden twists, or impacts. Both injuries share symptoms like pain, swelling, and limited mobility in the affected area.


ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears are particularly notorious, especially among footballers and rugby players. The ACL, one of the key ligaments stabilising the knee joint, can tear if you suddenly slow down and change direction (cutting), land awkwardly from a jump, or experience a direct collision. Symptoms include a popping sensation in the knee, severe pain, and swelling. ACL tears are a significant injury that often requires surgery followed by extensive physiotherapy to regain full function of the knee joint.


Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone, usually occurring in the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. They’re typically the result of overuse, such as repeatedly jumping up and down or running long distances, hence common among runners, basketball players, and dancers. Symptoms include pain that worsens with activity, swelling, and tenderness. Treatment involves rest and avoiding the activity that caused the fracture. Protective footwear or braces may sometimes be needed to aid healing.


A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. Common in contact sports such as rugby, football, and boxing, concussions require immediate attention. Symptoms can include headaches, confusion, dizziness, and memory loss, though they may not be immediately apparent. Any athlete suspected of having a concussion should be removed from play and evaluated by a healthcare professional. Rest, both physically and mentally, is crucial for recovery. Understanding these common sports injuries and their potential impact is essential for athletes, coaches, and parents alike. By recognising the signs and symptoms, taking immediate action, and seeking professional advice, the risks associated with these injuries can be significantly reduced, ensuring athletes can safely enjoy their chosen sports.

4 Injury prevention techniques for common sports injuries

  1. Comprehensive warm-up and cool-down routines
  • Warm-up: Engage in at least 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity to increase blood flow to your muscles and prepare your body for exertion.
  • Cool-down: Dedicate time after your workout to slow down gradually, followed by stretching to aid recovery and flexibility.
  1. Strength and conditioning exercises
  • Incorporate exercises that build muscle strength and improve joint stability into your routine, targeting both major muscle groups and the often-neglected smaller muscles.
  • Focus on core strength to support your entire body and reduce the risk of injury.
  1. Proper technique and form
  • Ensure you’re performing all exercises and sports movements with correct technique, seeking advice from professionals if unsure.
  • Use appropriate equipment (e.g., weights, machines) that matches your level of fitness and strength to avoid strain.
  1. Rest and recovery
  • Allow adequate rest days between intense workouts to give your muscles time to heal and strengthen.
  • Incorporate active recovery activities, such as gentle stretching or yoga, to promote flexibility and blood circulation.

By following these injury prevention techniques, athletes can enjoy a healthier, more sustainable sporting life, minimising the risk of injuries that can sideline them from the activities they love.

The role of proper equipment

Utilising the correct equipment is pivotal in significantly reducing the risk of sports injuries. Protective gear, designed to shield vulnerable parts of the body, can absorb impacts, distribute forces, and prevent cuts and abrasions, thus safeguarding athletes during play. For instance, helmets are crucial for preventing head injuries in sports like cycling, rugby, and cricket, while mouthguards protect teeth and reduce the risk of oral injuries in contact sports. Additionally, appropriate footwear can improve grip and stability, preventing falls and sprains. When selecting sports equipment, it’s essential to ensure that each item is suited to the specific demands of the sport and the athlete’s individual needs. Gear should fit correctly, neither too tight nor too loose, to provide optimal protection without hindering movement. Always check that equipment meets recognised safety standards and replace it if it becomes worn out or damaged.  Consulting with coaches or professionals when choosing gear can also provide valuable insights into making the best selections for safety and performance.

Treatment and rehabilitation for common sports injuries

Following a sports injury, the immediate response can significantly influence the recovery process.  The R.I.C.E. method—Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation—is widely recommended as an initial treatment within the first 24-48 hours of an injury. This approach helps reduce swelling, ease pain, and mitigate further damage to the injured area. Rest is crucial to prevent strain on the injury, ice reduces swelling and numbs the area, compression helps minimise swelling, and elevation above the heart level reduces swelling by increasing venous return. The journey from injury to full recovery encompasses a variety of treatment options tailored to the severity and type of injury.  Physiotherapy plays a central role in rehabilitation, offering exercises and techniques to restore movement and strength. Medication, including pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, can manage pain and assist in the healing process. In cases where injuries are severe, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair the damage. Regardless of the treatment path, the cornerstone of a successful recovery is a personalised rehabilitation program meticulously designed by healthcare professionals. Such programs ensure that the return to physical activity is not only safe but also strategic, aiming to bring the athlete back to their pre-injury level of performance while minimising the risk of re-injury.

The importance of medical cover for athletes

Financial peace of mind: Comprehensive medical aid offers athletes a safety net, covering the costs of treatments and rehabilitation for sports injuries. This financial protection helps athletes focus on recovery without the stress of potential medical bills that can accumulate from physiotherapy, surgery, and post-injury care. Comprehensive cover: When selecting a medical aid plan, look for comprehensive cover that includes:

  • Sports injury benefits: Ensure the plan covers common sports-related injuries and treatments, providing specific support for the needs of athletes.
  • Rehabilitative services: Cover for rehabilitative services such as physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, and biokinetics is crucial for a full recovery. This ensures access to essential rehabilitation without out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Preventive care: Plans that offer preventive care benefits, including regular check-ups and screenings, can help identify potential health issues before they escalate into serious injuries.
  • Flexibility and customisation: Look for plans that allow customisation based on the athlete’s specific sport and risk level, offering tailored protection that matches their unique needs.

Choosing the right medical cover is pivotal for athletes, providing financial protection and access to necessary medical and rehabilitative services, ensuring they can safely return to their sport.

Momentum medical aid sports injury benefit

The Momentum Evolve Medical Aid offers a specific benefit aimed at supporting South African athletes: the Sports Injury Benefit. This feature is designed with the active individual in mind, providing cover for essential visits to physiotherapists or biokineticists following sports-related injuries.  Here are the details of this valuable benefit:

  • Cover scope: Each beneficiary is entitled to two visits per year to a physiotherapist or biokineticist for treatment related to sports injuries.
  • Cover rate: These visits are covered at 100% of the Momentum Medical Scheme Rate, ensuring that beneficiaries receive full support without the burden of additional costs.
  • Annual limit: The cover extends up to a maximum of R1,000 per beneficiary each year, allowing athletes to access professional care needed for a swift recovery.

For those seeking comprehensive medical aid, Momentum offers the Evolve option, starting from R1,424 per month. The Evolve option caters to digitally savvy individuals looking for efficient hospital cover and the convenience of virtual GP consultations, all manageable from their device.  Key highlights include:

  • Hospitalisation Cover: Unlimited annual cover for hospitalisation from the Evolve Network of private hospitals, ensuring peace of mind for more significant medical needs.
  • Virtual Consultations: Includes two virtual doctor’s consultations, allowing for immediate and convenient access to healthcare professionals without leaving home.

The Momentum Evolve option represents a blend of comprehensive medical insurance quotes and support and digital convenience, tailored for today’s athlete and modern individual. By offering essential cover for sports injuries and broad hospitalisation benefits, Momentum ensures that South Africans can pursue their active lifestyles with confidence, knowing their health is in good hands. Don’t let sports injuries set you back. Explore Momentum’s Evolve medical aid option today and find the cover that best suits your athletic lifestyle. Request a quote online and take the first step towards comprehensive protection on and off the field.

Your journey to quality healthcare starts here.

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Momentum Health4Me is not a medical scheme product, and is not a substitute for medical scheme membership. The information provided on this website does not constitute advice in terms of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act. Momentum is a division of Momentum Metropolitan Life Limited, an authorised financial services provider (FSP 6406) and a wholly owned subsidiary of Momentum Metropolitan Holdings Limited.

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