RACHEL HATCHER is a sports therapist and lead coach at Swansea Water Polo Club. Rachel is owner of The Hub, a sports therapy clinic in the Phoenix Centre, Townhill


Soft tissue injuries are really common in everyone, not just athletes. A soft tissue injury can occur anywhere in the body and is generally caused by a sudden uncontrolled change in direction, falling or landing awkwardly or colliding with some-thing or someone. This forces the joint, muscle, ligament or tendon to stretch or tear.


There are two main types of soft tissue injuries –

Sprains and Strains

A sprain refers to a ligament. This is the tough band of fibrous tissue that connects and stabilises connecting bone to bone. Common areas for a sprain to occur would be the ankles, knees, wrists and shoulders.

A strain refers to the muscle or tendon. A tendon is the fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone. Tendon strains are slightly less common than muscle sprains. The most common areas of muscle strains occur in the hamstrings, and lower back.


Pain in the affected area


Muscle tightness or spasm


Haematoma – a collection of blood under the surface of the skin

Loss of range of movement and function

Tender to touch (more common with a sprain)

Unable to put weight on the affected area


The first 24 hours are important in how the injury heals; following a few simple steps can help increase recovery time.

Rest – Stop using the affected area to allow the area to recover.

Ice – Apply an ice pack or bag of frozen peas to the area, for best results do this a minimum of 5 times a day for 5-15 minutes at a time.

Compression – Apply a compression bandage or clothing.

Elevation – Keep the area above the heart to help reduce the swelling.

Anti inflammatory tablets or gels may help to reduce pain and swelling.

Massage is also extremely effective in reducing the bruising, swelling and encouraging healing.


Depending on the severity of the injury depends on the time in which you can return to sport.

Once the swelling has reduced, you are able to move pain free and the area is no longer painful to touch you can return to sport. Remember there is likely to be a slight weakness in that area following a strain or sprain so it is important to take your time and warm up properly.

It may be beneficial to contact a Sports Therapist in order to prevent a re-occurrence by strengthening the affected area with a rehabilitation programme. 

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