Average Healing Times for Common Sports Injuries

man touching injured knee in brace
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According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 8.6 million sports- and recreation-related injuries occur each year. Men (61.3 percent) and people between the ages of five and 24 (64.9 percent) make up more than half of these.

Though the majority of sports injuries are superficial or caused by low-grade strains or sprains, no less than 20 percent are the result of a bone fracture or more serious injury.

Healing from sports injuries takes time, depending on the location of the injury and the extent of the skin, joint, tendon, muscle, or bone damage. Bone fractures tend to take longer than sprains or strains, while the complete rupture of tendons or muscles can take months before you are fully returned to activity.

Luckily, athletes tend to heal faster simply because they are in better physical shape and are more apt to put in the time to rehabilitate. Moreover, better cardiovascular health confers to a stronger blood supply, speeding the healing of the wound. The only thing that could potentially set you back is not taking the time to recuperate or rushing back into sports before your bones or tissues have fully healed.

If you are in reasonable physical shape and have no co-occurring illness or impairment, here is what you can expect when recovering for the following sports injuries:

Bone Fractures

In sports, the highest rate of bone fractures occurs with football and other contact sports. Most are centered around the lower extremities but may also involve the arms, ribs, neck, and shoulder blade.

  • Simple fractures generally take at least six weeks to heal, depending on the age and health of the person and the type and location of the break.
  • Fractured fingers or toes typically heal in three to five weeks.
  • Fractured ribs usually take around six weeks to heal and require painkillers and breathing exercises as part of the treatment plan.
  • Neck fractures may involve any one of the seven neck vertebrae and can take up to six weeks to health, either with a neck brace or a halo device screwed into the skull for stability.
  • Fractured clavicle (collarbone) may take five to 10 weeks to fully heal and require the mobilization of the shoulder and upper arm.
  • Compound fractures in which a bone is broken in several places may require surgery to stabilize the bone and as many as eight months to heal.

Sprains and Strains

A sprain is a stretching or tearing of ligaments (the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones together at a joint). A joint strain is the overstretching or tearing of muscles or tendons. 

According to the CDC report, sprains and strains account for 41.4 percent of all sports injuries.

  • Sprained ankles can often heal in five days if uncomplicated. More severe sprains involving torn or ruptured tendons can take from three to six weeks to heal.
  • Acute neck strain, such as whiplash caused by a tackle, can any take anywhere from a couple of weeks to six weeks to fully heal.
  • Calf strains classified as grade 1 (mild) can heal in two weeks, while a grade 3 (severe) strain may require three months or more to completely heal.

Other Sports Injuries

  • Mild contusions (bruises) are caused with a blow to the skin, causing blood vessels to break. In most cases, contusion will take five to seven days to heal.
  • Shoulder separations, if treated properly, usually take around two weeks of rest and recovery before you can return to activity.
  • Cuts and lacerations can take anywhere from a week to a month to heal, depending on the depth and location of the injury. You will need more time to heal if a deep cut requires stitches. In the absence of any accompany injury, most stitches can be removed within two to three weeks.
  • ACL tears, involving the anterior cruciate ligament, usually require months of recuperation and rehabilitation. You will usually be able to walk with crutches by week 3 and be able to fully return to activity by month five.
  • Achilles tendon ruptures occur when the tendon is either fully or partially torn. After hearing the dreaded "pop" of the initial rupture, you will probably face surgery and a recovery time of no less than four to six months. It is a serious injury.

A Word From Verywell

To reduce your time on the sidelines, get immediate first aid treatment for any sports injury. After the initial inflammation and swelling are controlled, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan that almost always involves physical rehab (either self-performed or overseen by a physical therapist).

To prevent re-injury, make sure that your doctor signs off on your health before returning to sports or strenuous physical activity.

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