Injuries can be trivial or more serious, and they can be classified in a variety of ways. Injuries can be described as being intrinsic or extrinsic. They can also be classified according to the type of tissue that is injured. Soft, hard and special tissue injuries. They can be classified according to the type of insult inflicted upon the tissues, that is direct or indirect, such as with the direct impact of a hard tackle, or the indirect forces exerted during the overloading of a hamstring muscle in an explosive sprint. Injuries can be from one traumatic incident or as a result of overuse (repetitive stress). Injuries are usually described in relation to their stage of healing, i.e. acute, sub-acute or chronic. More simply, injuries are described as being mild, moderate or severe. Furthermore, injuries are described as being regional (i.e. pertaining to a particular body region, for example, rotator cuff tendinitis is a shoulder injury), sport-related (i.e. injuries common to a particular sport, such as knee cartilage injuries in football) and age-related (for example, Osgood-Schlatter’sndises, which is an injury problem affecting the insertion site of the patellar tendon at the tibia tuberosity in growing children, particularly boys, who play a lot of football).

Some sports and activity-related problems are perhaps not best categorised as being injuries, such as overstraining syndrome, but they are still problems none the less. These also include such conditions as cramp or stitch. 

Direct injury

These are extrinsic injuries, usually involving a forceful impact with an opponent or implement (such as a hockey stick or ball). Often produces a contusion, but haematoma, nerve damage, dislocation, sprain, strain, fracture or open wound are all possible.

Indirect injury

These are intrinsic injuries, resulting from excessive forces generated within. Commonly, it is the major muscles that span two joints, such as the hamstrings, quadriceps and gastrocnemius, that are strained during explosive activity. Ligament sprains and meniscus tears can also result from unaccustomed, ill-prepared or excessive movements.

Acute injury

This classification of injury is defined by the early onset and short duration of the particular signs and symptoms following the trauma. The injury could involve any one or more of the body’s tissues. Typically, the athlete is aware of how the injury occurred, and with acute sporting injury the common signs and symptoms can include immediate pain, tenderness, swelling, contour deformity or bleeding. An injury is normally described as being acute until the initial signs of inflammation have reduced, and the healing process has begun, which is normally after 48 to 72 hours.

Sub-acute injury

Sometimes referred to as post-acute injury, this classification is more related to the time-scale of repair, and typically, a sub-acute injury is the state of injury two to three days or a week after initial trauma. Obviously, the severity of the injury and the acute treatment provided affect the rate of healing and the quality of repair, but the sub-acute injury is where the inflammation has begun to reduce, and where there are gradual improvements in symptoms and function. The rehabilitation process begins here.

Chronic injury

These injuries usually have a gradual onset, resulting most commonly from repetitive minor insults, the cumulative effects often being the cause of a long-standing problem. Chronic problems often develop when motor injuries are poorly managed. Unfortunately, with more severe injuries, whether from one traumatic incident or from overuse, the athlete is often left with a chronic problem. Chronic problems usually demand management adaptations to normal daily activities.



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