How to manage, prevent common sports injuries

Michele Arnold, M.D. - Courtesy Photo
Michele Arnold, M.D.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

By Dr. Michele Arnold

Spring is a big season for sports injuries. Everyone from weekend warriors to perfectly healthy athletes is at risk for sprains, strains and concussions. It is important to know the most common injuries, how to prevent them, and when to seek professional treatment.

Concussions occur from impact to the head, resulting in temporary dysfunction of brain activity.

Symptoms: Dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, confusion, nausea, others

Prevention: Wear a well-fitting helmet; avoid leading with the head when making contact.

Treatment: There is no ‘home remedy’ for concussions, they require immediate medical attention. Many sports programs – including several Eastside sports clubs – are participating in baseline testing before a concussion occurs, which helps physicians determine severity.


Low back pain affects both adults and young athletes, often from twisting, turning or impact.

Symptoms: Pain, stiffness, limited mobility

Prevention: Always warm up and cool down; use proper technique, form and posture; develop core muscles.

Treatment: If pain is minor, rest for two days and periodically apply ice. Seek medical attention if there is severe pain, numbness, weakness or tingling in the legs.


Shin Splints are common among joggers or runners.

Symptoms: Shin pain; if left untreated they can develop into stress fractures.

Prevention: Wear well-fitting low-mileage running shoes; use orthotics when necessary; thoroughly stretch; know your limits.

Treatment: With minor pain, apply ice, and rest. Seek medical attention if you have flat arches, persistent pain in a localized area, or even interrupted menstrual cycles.


Sprains occur when ligaments or joint capsules are forced beyond normal limits. A strain is an injury to muscle or tendon due to trauma, overuse or overload. A tear can occur when there is significant force.

Symptoms: Pain, inability to support weight, limited movement, stiffness

Prevention: Warm up before activity, strengthen joints and muscles, agility drills, know your limits when performing cuts/pivots, consider high-top shoes or other protective equipment.

Treatment: Use the PRICE method: Protect from re-injury, Rest, Ice the affected area, Compress with a wrap, Elevate the injury above the heart. Seek medical advice if you experience continued pain, limited range of motion, significant bruising, or cannot bear weight.

For more information on preventing injuries, visit the American College of Sports Medicine website at


Michele Arnold is a sports medicine physician and neuromuscular physiatrist at Swedish. She sees patients in Issaquah and Seattle.

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