Injections for the Athlete

There are several categories of injections for athletes, each with its purpose and benefits. Athletes may benefit from certain types of medical injections, and those will be discussed.

Generally, there are three particular reasons an athlete might require an injection. These are to combat pain, reduce inflammation, and aid in surgical procedures.  Injections can also be used in a rehabilitation program for injury maintenance.

In the following, we’ll discuss some of the details about injections used to treat athletes. In addition, we’ll distinguish several types of injections and their uses and benefits.

Types of Injections

Athletes often require injections for some type of treatment.  With so many different injuries and problems with pain, certain injections can help pave the way for an athlete to return to the sport they love.

The most common athlete-related injuries requiring injection include bursitis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, muscular injuries such as strains and contusions, and more severe injuries such as tendon or ligament tears or ruptures.

Below are the three most common injections that athletes receive for various treatments:

  • Corticosteroid Injection
  • Local Anesthetic
  • Ketorolac (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain killer)

Corticosteroid Injection

A staple in history for the treatment of muscular trauma and inflammatory injuries in athletes, corticosteroids have been known to many as the superior option of treatment.

Its reputation in the medical literature is profound, such that it has been the most consistent symptomatic relief of pain for so many people with minimal bad side effects

Corticosteroids do have some potential risks and side effects, and complications, especially when intramuscularly injected. Nevertheless, corticosteroids are a common injective treatment used on athletes regularly, and they have been shown through comprehensive research and systematic reviews to be extremely beneficial both in the short-term and long term.

Corticosteroid injections may also have the benefit of decreasing the overall need for additional steroid use in the future by the athlete.

Local Anesthetic

The use of local anesthetic is highly beneficial for the immediate relief of pain, whether caused by injury or other inflammatory conditions. It also plays a significant role during surgical procedures both at the pre-surgical stage and the postsurgical recovery.  More and more surgeons have adopted the use of local anesthetic at the area of surgical incisions at the conclusion of the operation.  This significantly improves immediate postoperative pain control.

Like any type of injection to the body, a local anesthetic can cause potential adverse reactions such as an allergic reaction.  This possibility must be closely monitored post-injection, such that treatment can be administered in the event of an allergic reaction. 

Interestingly, in some sports federations, local anesthesia for the sole purpose of pain relief has been banned due to its apparent performance-enhancing benefits.

Ketorolac (Toradol)

Ketorolac, or Toradol, is one of the most common pharmaceutical drugs used in medicine. When injected intramuscularly, Toradol acts as an extremely effective pain reliever without causing the undesirable side effects of some more potent pain medications.

While Toradol has been used regularly for pain control over the years, its uses are still somewhat controversial in certain settings due to its potential ineffectiveness and side effects on certain patients.  Toradol can be especially harmful to the kidney in patients who already have kidney damage or have a higher risk of developing kidney damage.

Potential Side Effects

The risks of the most commonly used injections in athletes are generally low, but it’s best to be aware of what these potential effects are.

The following are some of the side effects and complications that can occur when injecting an athlete with a medication such as a steroidal or non-steroidal therapeutic drug:

  • Infection
  • Allergic Reaction
  • Further Weakening of the Tendon Resulting in Rupture
  • Increase in Pain Rather Than a Decrease
  • Muscle Atrophy & Weight Gain
  • Vascular Injury and Bleeding
  • Nerve Damage
  • Breast Tissue Development in Men
  • Infertility
  • Acne
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Syncope (passing out)

These are only some of the potential side effects of injections.  In addition, many of these side effects are specific to the type of injection that the athlete receives, as well as the overall health of the athlete at the time of injection.  It’s important to understand that not all athletes will be good candidates for medication injections, such as steroids. Therefore, it’s essential that the administration of any injection should be overseen by a medical professional.

Injections Side Effects

Yet, while any medication poses potential risks, the most commonly used injections that have been discussed have been shown to be very safe. It’s best to discuss these issues with your medical doctor to understand these potential side effects better and know your risk.

Final Thoughts

Medical injections used for athletes in sports medicine have proven to be extremely useful. Following particular protocols and safe methodology helps the athlete to be able to continue their sport in the face of obstacles such as pain. 

When injections are performed by medical professionals in the organization of a well-designed sports program, the best outcomes for athletes can be achieved. 

It’s also important to understand the safety and concerns of injections and their application in your respective sport.

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