Sports Injuries

Updated 30 March 2016

Symptoms of sports injuries

The symptoms of sports injuries vary depending on the type of injury sustained although swelling, pain, bruising, reduced range of motion, weakness and muscle spasms are commonly experienced.

If you suspect you have an injury from exercise or sport, the first thing you need to do is stop doing it and rest the affected area. Depending on the severity of the sport injury you may need to seek medical advice.

The following symptoms are signs that you have indeed injured yourself and medical treatment may be required:


If there is immediate swelling with pain and/or numbness following a blow or fall or hard knock, this is an indication of injury. If there is swelling of an old injury after fall or collision, this could also indicate further injury.


If the pain is instant and does not subside within a few minutes or hours, of if it gets worse, this is indicative of a serious injury requiring medical treatment. Similarly if it is a limb or joint which is injured and you cannot put any weight on it or it feels unstable.


Any signs of bruising on the skin following a blow or a fall can signify an underlying injury. If tissue damage is widespread, this can indicate a broken bone, dislocated joint, sprain or torn muscle.

Reduced range of motion

If your joint cannot move easily through its full range of motion, or there is pain in flexion or extension, this may point towards injury.

Weakness, tingling/numbness

Weakness in a joint or muscle and any tingling or numbness is the body’s way of indicating there is a problem. If you experience all three symptoms together, seek medical attention immediately.

Tenderness or stiffness

If a joint or muscle is excessively tender or stiff following exercise this is a good indication there may be an underlying injury.

Muscle spasms

Muscle spasms are often due to dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities due to overuse or exercise in extreme heat. Sometimes they can be eased with gentle stretching, but if they occur.

Read more:

Causes of sports injuries 

Preventing sports injuries 

What are sports injuries?


Handout on Health: Sports Injuries: NIH Publication No. 13–5278;

Sports Injuries; Mediline Plus ( 2 October 2014);

Achilles Tendon Injuries; Sports Medicine Australia;

Dislocations:Mediline Plus; US National Library of Medicine (27 January 2014);


Ask the Expert

Sports Injuries Expert

Adrian Rotunno is a medical doctor in the Sports & Exercise Medicine fellowship at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and qualified physiotherapist. Team physician for Dimension Data pro-cycling, and Boland Rugby. Special interests include endurance sport, in particular cycling, as well as contact sports.

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