10 Common Sports Injuries (& How Long it Takes to Properly Recover)

Child kicking orange soccer ball on athletic field

Being an athlete comes with many benefits. Discipline, exercise habits, sportsmanship, teamwork, and even strategy are just some of the positive contributions that being active in the sports world can bring to an individual. But, even with the seemingly infinite amount of pros, there are still a few cons to be found. And sometimes, they’re inevitable.

At some point in time, many athletes will get hurt. But fortunately, we can learn to prevent many common sports injuries—and make sure we know how to recover properly from the ones that do happen. Here are 10 of the most common sports injuries, with a timeline of recovery for each one.

Common Sports Injury #10: Sprained Ankle

Hand holding sprained ankle of child in grassy field

Via South Shore Orthopedics.

The most common sports injury is the ever-so-infamous ankle sprain. There are three grades of ankle sprains. Grade I ankle sprain is when the ligaments have stretched further than normal but have not torn. Grade II ankle sprains usually have a partial tear of one or more ligaments, and walking is typically painful without support. Grade III ankle sprains involve a full tear of one or more ligaments in the ankle and leave the ankle very unstable with severe swelling.

Sprained ankles are common in nearly all sports, but recovery is attainable with proper care—such as the RICE method. Using shin guards for soccer and other dynamic activities can also help prevent ankle sprains.

Recommended Recovery Time: Recovery time for grades I, II, and III ankle sprains respectively range from 2-3 weeks, 3-6 weeks, and up to 3 months or more.

Common Sports Injury #9: Jammed Finger

Diagram showing jammed index finger

Via South Florida Hand Center.

Jammed fingers are usually the cause of the hand absorbing the shock of catching an object. The end of the finger gets forced into the hand, hyperextending the finger joints and stretching the ligaments. This causes swelling and pain in the finger.

Taking a break from activities is helpful, but this injury typically resolves itself within a week.

Recommended Recovery Time: Recovery time can vary slightly for jammed fingers but is typically no more than 1-2 weeks.

Child with concussion holding head and lying on mat

Via Everyday Health.

Common Sports Injury #8: Concussion

MRI of human brain with concussion

Via ABC 7.

Of all sports injuries, the effects of concussions can be some of the longest-lasting. A concussion is a brain injury caused by either a blow or a violent jolt to the head.

There are three grades of concussion. Grade I is mild, and symptoms typically last less than an hour. Grade II is moderate and can have symptoms that last longer than an hour but may vary. Grade III is severe, and the patient will lose consciousness.

The most common concussion symptoms include confusion, lack of coordination, nausea, ringing in the ears, and excessive fatigue.

Football is the most common sport that results in these injuries, but proper protection and equipment are crucial for all sports. Concussions must be diagnosed by a doctor (whose advice should always be followed properly).

Recommended Recovery Time: Recovery time for grades I, II, and III concussions will typically resolve within about 14 days.

Common Sports Injury #7: Tennis Elbow

Diagram showing arm with tennis elbow

Via OrthoInfo.

Tennis elbow is caused by overloading the elbow and is not exclusive to athletes. Tennis elbow is typically self-diagnosable; the most prominent symptom is pain on the outside of the elbow. This condition can make doing simple things like holding a cup of coffee difficult.

This condition is treated with resting and avoiding the activity that caused the injury, but if the symptoms are severe enough, surgery may be an option.

Recommended Recovery Time: Recovery from tennis elbow varies depending on the condition’s severity and ranges from 6 months to 2 years. Most cases fully recover within a year of starting treatment.

Common Sports Injury #6: Shin Splints

Woman with shin splints grimacing and sitting on staircase

Via Popsugar.

Diagram showing various parts of the shin

Via StretchCoach.

The most common sign or symptom of shin splints is pain running up and down the front of the lower leg because of continuous strain. Too much strain can cause the muscles and tendons in the shins to become irritated and inflamed.

You’ll often hear about shin splints causing reasonably significant pain. This injury happens most frequently in people who run often—cross-country runners, soccer players, and football players are all common examples.

Fortunately, recovery is possible with rest, icing, massages after use, utilizing proper shoes, and physical therapy. Regularly performing leg exercises can also help prevent shin splints.

Recommended Recovery Time: 3-4 weeks of appropriate treatment.

Common Sports Injury #5: Patellofemoral Syndrome

Diagram showing parts of the knee

Via Buoy.

More common than we may realize, this ongoing syndrome makes its presence known by causing pain at the front of the knee. It is also known as “runner’s knee” and mostly affects those involved in sports with a lot of running or jumping.

This is a syndrome and not an injury, so flare-ups should be treated when they arise to prevent further harm. Once a flare-up does occur, use the RICE method.

Recommended Recovery Time: A syndrome can be ongoing, so it may always be present. It’s important to take breaks when the pain persists.

Common Sports Injury #4: Hamstring Strain

Diagram showing parts of the hamstring

Via OrthoInfo.

Straining a hamstring can be incredibly annoying. This injury happens when one or more of the three muscles at the back of your thigh become overworked or begin to tear. And this happens to a variety of athletes.

A strained hamstring can be extremely painful, so it’s essential to treat it appropriately. For best results, combine the RICE method with a course of anti-inflammatory painkillers.

Recommended Recovery Time: There are also three grades of strain for your hamstrings. Grade I or II will heal within 3-8 weeks. Grade III may last up to three months, depending on whether the muscle is torn.

Common Sports Injury #3: Bursitis

Diagram of human shoulder with bursa and other parts labeled

Via Össur.

Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa sacs in joints that perform constant repetitive motions. This condition typically occurs in the larger joints in the body, such as the knees, elbows, shoulders, and hips.

Bursitis also leads to stiffness in the affected joints. Treatment usually consists of applying the RICE method.

Recommended Recovery Time: Usually no more than eight weeks, but can resolve in as few as two weeks.

Common Sports Injury #2: ACL Tear

Man lying on stomach in field and holding ankle with soccer ball in foreground

Via Ochsner Health.

Diagram showing parts of the knee

Via Town Centre Orthopaedic Associates.

An ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear is a serious injury to the knee, typically caused by sudden twisting motions. An ACL tear requires a diagnosis from a doctor, as well as surgery to fully recover and repair the tear.

ACL tears typically leave the knee feeling very unstable and cause walking to be extremely painful. Feeling as if the knee is weak or about to give out can be a telltale sign of a torn ACL.

Full recovery from this injury often involves extensive physical therapy as well as surgery.

Recommended Recovery Time: Recovery time after surgery can range between 6-9 months.

Common Sports Injury #1: Pulled Groin

Diagram of muscles affected in groin strain

Via Rehab My Patient

A pulled groin can happen when the abductor muscles of the thigh become inflamed or torn. All athletes are at risk for this injury, especially when involved in sudden movements such as kicking or jumping.

The RICE method, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory painkillers can all be used to help treat this condition.

Recommended Recovery Time: Usually, the groin will heal itself in 4-8 weeks with proper care.