Hard Tissue Injuries

Critical question 1: How are sports injuries classified and managed?
Hard Tissue Injuries

Hard tissue injuries involve damage to the bones or teeth and are caused as a direct result of force applied to the body, resulting in fractures, dislocations and other breakages. Typically, medical assistance is required immediately when these types of injury occur.


These are two main classifications for fractures:

1. Simple (closed) Fractures
This type of fracture is characterised by a complete break of the bone, which remains underneath the skin.

2. Compound (open) Fractures
Compound fractures occur when the bone breaks and protrudes through the skin.

These are broad classifications; there are many more types of fractures including greenstick, hairline, complicated and depressed.


Signs/Symptoms of fractures:

There are a variety of signs and symptoms, which may indicate the occurrence of a fracture or break including:

– Pain
– The break may be audible/heard
– Deformity
– Swelling
– Loss of strength/function

If athletes experience or display any of the above symptoms it is important to seek medical advice straight away. Injury management of fractures may involve the use of DRSABCD, rest, immobilisation of the area to prevent further injury (possibly by applying a splint or sling), control of bleeding and treatment for shock.



Dislocations are caused by the movement or dislodgment of a bone at a joint and commonly affect the joints of fingers, shoulders and knees.. The results are painful and often noticeable because of disfigurement at the site of injury. The tendons and ligaments of the injured site are also affected as dislocations stretch and tear muscle fibre around the bone.

When a dislocation occurs, the bone is forced out of the joint. Until it is physically placed back into its rightful position, it will remain out. Dislocation can cause significant weakness in the joint, even after the bone has been reinserted, increasing the chance of reoccurrence each time.

A subluxation occurs when a joint momentarily ‘pops out’ and ‘pops’ back in. This can happen instead of a dislocation and can still cause a lot of damage and weaken the surrounding ligaments by over stretching them.

Common signs and symptoms of dislocation include:

– Swelling
– Deformity
– Pain
– Lack of functionality

Injury management of dislocation involves the protection of the injured site, with a splint or sling to immobilise the joint. After the site of injury has been secured, ice, elevation and bandages can be applied to reduce swelling and provide support.

Seeking quick medical assistance is important. The injury should be x-rayed to ensure that there is damage to the surrounding nerves as a result of resetting the joint.