Physical Fitness and Sports Month: Commonly Asked Questions About Sports Injuries with Dr. Packer

Dr. Jonathan Packer is an orthopaedic surgeon with the University of Maryland Department of Orthopaedics and an Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  Dr. Packer specializes in sports medicine and is a Team Physician with the University of Maryland Terrapins.  Below he answers common questions about sports injuries.

What are the most common sports-related injuries you see in your clinic?

The most common sports related injuries are ankle sprains and contusions.  The most common knee injuries that I see are meniscus tears and knee ligament injuries, such as the MCL (meniscus collateral ligament) and ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).

What can an athlete do after an injury to recover quicker?

The treatment depends on the specific injury and the severity of the injury.  The athlete should have the injury evaluated by the team Athletic Trainer, who can then determine whether the injury requires an evaluation by a physician.  Low grade injuries typically respond well to rest and different treatments to reduce the inflammation (elevation, ice, anti-inflammatory medications – i.e. Ibuprofen or Naproxen).

Why should an athlete use ice and not heat on an injury? 

The initial treatment goals after an acute injury (first 48 hours) are to reduce inflammation and swelling.  Cryotherapy, such as ice, is an effective method of reducing the swelling and bleeding into the tissues.  Heat is used for chronic injuries to relax and loosen tissues and to increase blood flow to the area, typically before participating in sports.

Can an athlete play with a cast or brace? 

It depends on the injury and the sport.  Athletes are frequently cleared to play with either a cast or a brace.  Your sports medicine physician will be able to make the decision whether or not it is safe to play with a cast / brace or not given your injury and sport.

When does an athlete need to see a physician? 

If the athlete’s team has an Athletic Trainer, s/he should evaluate the athlete and determine whether a referral to a physician is necessary.  In general, if the injury is accompanied with a “pop” or if a joint has a large amount of swelling, then it is concerning for a more serious injury that should be evaluated by a physician.  Other reasons to see a physician are joint instability and failure to improve with rest and anti-inflammatory treatments.

How can sports injuries be prevented?  

Sports injuries are best prevented by a dedicated prevention program that would ideally start at least 6 weeks before the start of the season. The prevention programs should focus on flexibility, muscle coordination and strengthening, neuromuscular control, plyometrics, body mechanics, and proper landing techniques.  The prevention programs are especially important for preventing ACL tears and have been shown to reduce non-contact ACL tears by up to 80%.  There are many different prevention programs that can be found online.  Two of the most well-known and established programs are the Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance (PEP) Program and the Knee Injury Prevention Program (KIPP).  Athletes and their coaches can find these programs online here and here.

Why should athletes choose University of Maryland Department of Orthopaedics to diagnose and treat their sports injuries?  

The University of Maryland has many physicians that specialize in Sports Medicine and treat all types of sports injuries. If at all possible, we will try to get you back to your sport without surgery. However, if surgery is necessary, we have the expertise to treat even the most complex injuries. The Sports Medicine team has extensive experience and are the team physicians for 12 high schools and for the University of Maryland Terrapins.

To make an appointment or to learn more about the University of Maryland Department of Orthopaedics sports medicine specialists, call 410-448-6400, or visit their website.

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