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Infographic. Pain or injury? Why differentiation matters in exercise and sports medicine
  1. Morten Hoegh1,
  2. Tasha Stanton2,
  3. Steven George3,
  4. Kristian Damgaard Lyng1,4,
  5. Sabina Vistrup4,
  6. Michael Skovdal Rathleff1,4
  1. 1 Department of Health Science and Technology, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
  2. 2 IIMPACT in Health, Allied Health & Human Performance Academic Unit, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  3. 3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Duke Clinical Research Institute, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4 Center for General Practice at Aalborg University, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Dr Morten Hoegh, Department of Health Science and Technology, Aalborg University, 9100 Aalborg, Denmark; msh{at}

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‘Pain’ and ‘injury’ are not, and should not, be considered synonymous

Successful management of tissue injury cannot rely solely on pain responses because tissue healing is not directly related to pain. Pain without identifiable pathology is common in athletes,1 and as a result medical labelling remains an ongoing challenge. Therefore, we argue that, for the benefit of athletes, there is an urgent need for a clear distinction between pain and injury (see Infographic).

Synonymous use of pain and injury in research and clinical practice may negatively impact clinical management. First, benign and normal fluctuations in pain may be seen as signs of sports-related injury, which could impact performance negatively. Second, viewing all pain …

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  • Twitter @mh_dk, @_Kristianlyng

  • Contributors MH and MSR were involved in idea generation. All authors contributed equally to writing and reviewing the editorial, appendix and infographic.

  • Funding TS is supported by a National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia Career Development Fellowship (ID1141735). Duke University has received support for Prof. Steven Georges’ salary from NIH grants (outside of this work).

  • Competing interests MH has received support from professional and scientific bodies (reimbursement of travel costs and speaker fees) for lectures on pain, and he receives book royalties from Gyldendal, Munksgaard Denmark, FADL and Muusmann publications. TS has received payment for lectures relating to pain and rehabilitation.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.