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Injury - Natural Healing or Surgery

Jen Fox looks at a few sports-related injuries that highlight both ends of the treatment spectrum.

We tend to think of athletes as super-fit people in better shape than the general population. While their physiques may be above average, athletes are not impervious to injury. Because they participate in many physical activities, they could be more prone to injury than people who do not play sports.

When an injury occurs, proper treatment is essential. Without it, the body will heal improperly and never be the same. Some sports injuries can be treated naturally, but others will only get better and heal correctly with surgery. Athletes hate hearing that they have to have surgery because it will almost always mean a longer recovery time.

Broken Bones - The Injury That Almost Always Requires a Doctor

Every year millions of people break a bone. Some of those people are athletes. Many of them play a contact sport, like football or rugby. However, non-contact sports can also lead to a broken bone due to strain or a simple misstep. Unless you break a toe, you will need to see a doctor to heal a broken bone properly. Even a hairline fracture will require the use of a cast or an orthopaedic brace.

In the case of a complete break, orthopaedic surgery is usually the fix. An orthopaedic surgeon must piece the bone back together with metal rods, pins, and plates so that the bone has the support and can fuse back together. Some severe injuries also require the surgeon to repair the muscle and ligaments around the bone.

As you can imagine, a complete break will take a while to heal properly. You may even need multiple surgeries. Fractures that require a cast typically take 3-10 weeks to heal.

Sprained Ankle

One of the most common injuries in sports is a sprained ankle. An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments around the ankle are stretched past their limit, which creates tears. It can happen when the ankle rolls, and it is common in softball and baseball after sliding into a base.

The most common medical advice for a sprained ankle is to follow R.I.C.E.

  • Rest - Stay off of the injured ankle.
  • Ice - Use a cold compress on the ankle to decrease swelling.
  • Compression - Wrap the ankle tightly to reduce swelling and minimize movement.
  • Elevation - Prop the ankle up to be higher than the chest level.

After a rest period, you will need to stretch and exercise the ankle to prevent flexibility loss and build up muscle strength in the area.

Sports Shoe Safety

Wearing the appropriate sporting shoes are also important to your child's safety. For example, if your child plays soccer or baseball, they may be required to wear shoes known as cleats. These shoes are designed to support the players as they run. As these sports can be played on an array of terrains in varying types of weather, it can be easy for them to slip and fall with typical sneakers on. As a result, cleats dig into the ground, preventing them from slipping as often.

Mouth Guard Safety

Mouthguards are also common requests for physical or contact sports. They protect the mouth and teeth from significant injuries. Your child's dental structure is just beginning to develop at this point. Significant impact on the mouth could result in damage that requires corrective or cosmetic surgery. The most common categories of dental injuries from sports include:

  • Fractures – damage to the root, chipped or broken tooth
  • Avulsion – The entire tooth, inclusive of the root, has fallen out
  • Luxation – the tooth remains in the socket but has been knocked out of place

Additional Padding for the Knees and Elbows

More common than not while playing sports is the risk of injuries to the knees, elbows, and wrists. Protective padding such as the knee, elbow, and wrist pads helps to reduce the chances of injuries such as fractures, sprains, cuts, bruises, and burns.

As you can see, each piece of sports equipment required by your child's coach is a necessity and not an option. Failure to take the time in finding the appropriate gear for the game could result in injuries that could have otherwise been avoided. When shopping for your child's equipment, be sure to purchase a quality brand and the right size to ensure optimal safety as they play. 

Torn ACL 

This injury can heal on its own if it is a minor tear, but if the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears completely, surgery is often the best solution. The ACL is a major ligament running down the centre of the knee. If it is not functioning correctly, it cannot provide adequate support, and the knee will buckle.

Immediately after the injury, the injured party will need to be examined by a doctor to determine the extent of the damage. This will involve a physical exam and imaging. Whether surgery is suggested or not, the first thing a person should do is follow the R.I.C.E. method. 

Whether an ACL heals on its own or is repaired through arthroscopic reconstructive surgery, physical therapy is an integral part of the process. You will have to spend weeks or even months working with a physical therapist to regain full function. The amount of time you have to spend in physical therapy will depend on the severity of the injury and your commitment to your recovery.

Shoulder Separation

A shoulder separation, also known as a dislocated shoulder, is another common sports-related injury that may or may not require surgery. It happens when blunt force to the shoulder from a fall or other types of contact pushes the acromioclavicular joint separating the collarbone from the shoulder blade.

Often the decision to surgically repair the injury comes down to the athlete's age. When a young athlete has shoulder separation, surgery is often the remedy. The shoulder can also be manually put back in place, iced, and held in a sling to recover naturally on its own. Recovery will take anywhere between 3-8 weeks.

Pulled Groin

The groin muscle is a group of muscles that run from the inner pelvis region down the inner thigh. It is a muscle that most people never think about until they strain it. The side typically injures it to side motions that overexert the muscles, causing tears. Like an ankle sprain, the best thing you can do is take it easy and ice the area. Getting back on your feet can further aggravate the groin muscle and worsen the injury or create a re-occurring problem.


Like any other type of injury, a sports injury needs to be taken seriously. "Walking it off" will only likely lead to more significant issues later, thanks to improper healing. Talk to a doctor if something feels weird or is newly painful. You will be glad you did!

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • FOX, J. (2018) Injury - Natural Healing or Surgery [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Jen Fox is a freelance writer.