Sports Medicine Terminology

Sports injuries are unique in many respects and classifying them accurately sometimes requires learning some new terms. To help you figure out the type and severity of your injury, here are some definitions to commonly used terms.


General Injury Terms

The term "injury" refers to a wound or physical harm that has been done to the body by a direct or indirect force or violence by a blunt object.

Soft tissue injuries involve the muscles, ligaments or tendons. Fractures and dislocations involve bones.

There are three levels of injury:

  • Acute: An injury with sudden onset and short duration (e.g. An ankle sprain for the first time).
  • Chronic: An injury with a long onset and long duration (e.g. Shin splints).
  • Catastrophic: Relates to permanent injury of the spinal cord that leaves the athlete either paraplegic or quadriplegic.


Injury Classifications



Bursitis is the inflammation of one or more bursae (small sacs) of synovial fluid in the body.


Concussions are injuries to the brain that often occur with contact sports. It is a complex pathophysiological process that affects the brain and is induced by traumatic biomechanical forces that can temporarily impair neurological functions. This is usually temporary, though multiple concussions can cause permanent problems.


Bruising and destruction of the soft tissue cells caused by a direct blow.


A forceful disruption of the bones of a joint.


A break or separation of a bone.


Inflammation can be an indicator of injury and is very common with athletic injuries.


A dislocation of a non-movable joint.


Injury involving a ligament and the joint it binds.


Injury involving a muscle or tendon.

Stress Fracture

Slow breakdown or small cracking of a bone.


Tendonitis is an inflammation of a tendon and very common in sports injuries.