Many sports injuries are painful,long lasting and hinder participation in sports. The athlete many times opts for a cortisone injection into the injured area. The athlete must understand that cortisone is meant to reduce inflammation and is not a cure. Knowing the benefits and risks of cortisone injections is very important when there is a sports injury.
By definition corticosteroid is a substance that simulates the natural hormones produced in the adrenal glands. Don’t confuse this with anabolic steroids which are misused by body builders and well known athletes. The potential to reduce pain and inflammation in a joint or soft tissue from a cortisone injection is likely and it can last for several weeks or months.
In this article I will discuss some of the facts regarding cortisone injections and sports injuries.
No doubt that a cortisone injection will give the injured athlete a quick fix to his pain and inflammation but he is not out of the woods! Cortisone is not a cure all and the athlete may need to get into a rehabilitation program. Here the benefit of an injection is that the athlete can start physical therapy sooner than later.
The athlete should be made aware by the doctor that a cortisone injection can mask a more serious injury. This happens many times when athletes start to experience relief and begins participating in sports. The cycle of pain and inflammation occurs again.
Side affects from a cortisone injection are usually localized. The area around the injection site will become somewhat painful and swollen within 24-48 hours. There is sometimes a lightening or thinning of the skin near the site. A reaction known as cortisone flare can cause crystals in the joint or soft tissue setting off an episode of inflammation.
Any time an injection is given there is always a small risk of infection. One of the more important side affects comes with repeated injections. This can cause a weakening or rupturing of a tendon, osteoporosis of bone and a reduction of cartilage material. If by chance the athlete is diabetic the blood glucose level must be monitored.
It is extremely important to tell your doctor if you ever had any allergic reactions to cortisone or that you are taking steroids by mouth. Cortisone injection with a sports injury should not be administered if there is an open wound due to the possibility of spreading an infection.
A cortisone injection may be the right way to go as far as reducing pain and inflammation but the best advise is to limit the number to prevent long term complications. The rule of thumb is that if the athlete does not experience relief after 2 injections the doctor usually advises against further shots.
In my opinion, to get the most benefit from an injection make an appointment with a physical therapist to take advantage of the reduced pain in a well designed treatment plan. Many sports injuries respond very well to the combination of cortisone injection and physical therapy.