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Are you careful with how you label an athlete’s pain?
Musculoskeletal pain in athletes is common, but not always associated with injury (ie, tissue damage).1 Damage occurs when load exceeds tissue tolerance, such as ligament tear or a fracture. However, pain in athletes that occurs in the absence of trauma and tissue damage is still often labelled an ‘injury’ by clinicians, coaches and athletes themselves. This highlights a gap between knowledge (tissue damage is not necessary for pain) and practice (assuming that all pain arises from tissue damage) in our clinical community.1 2 This applies particularly in the area of acute non-traumatic pain (such as back and joint pain). To help bridge this gap, we outline eight principles to guide clinicians who manage musculoskeletal pain in sport (see infographic in figure 1).
1. In the absence of trauma, do not assume that pain indicates tissue damage
Labels such as ‘sports injury’, ‘overuse injury’ or ‘microtrauma’ convey that pain is caused by tissue damage, resulting in over-protection of the athlete. While …
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Contributors JPC and POS drafted the manuscript. All authors contributed and approved the final version submitted. JPC, RA and LF drafted the figure.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests JPC, PB and POS are members of the editorial board of BJSM. JPC and POS deliver educational workshops on patient-centred care.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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