Participating in sports activities is a great way to maintain an active and healthy life, but it can also be a common source of injury. Injuries typically occur due to repetitive movements or when people try to push themselves too hard. The specific movement of the body plays an active role. Sports injuries could occur if you try to overdo an activity or don’t properly train or warm up. Sports injuries occur during exercise or while participating in sports activities. Many athletes suffer from these types of injuries caused by over-stretching of the muscles and ligaments. These injuries can also result from lack of conditioning, poor training practices, collisions, sudden movements, improper equipment and changes in direction. Children are particularly at risk of suffering these types of injuries, but adults can also get these injuries. Although virtually any part of your body can be injured during sports or exercise, the term is specifically reserved for injuries that involve the musculoskeletal system (comprising the bones, muscles and associated tissues like cartilage). It is estimated that about 30 million children and teens in the United States participate in some form of organized sports and more than 3.5 million injuries occur each year. About one-third of all injuries incurred in childhood are sports related. By far, the most common injuries are sprains and strains. With an increase in the number and type of sports injuries, orthopedic medical billing and coding is becoming more challenging and complex. Outsourcing all or part of the billing and coding tasks allows practitioners to focus on their work without worrying about the documentation process.

What Causes Common Sports Injuries?

There are several common causes for sporting injuries which include – direct impact, muscle or joint overuse or when a part of the body experiences an application of force higher than it can structurally withstand. Generally, sports injuries are classified as –

  • Acute sports injuries – Basically, these are injuries that occur suddenly. For instance, landing awkwardly and spraining the ankle.
  • Chronic sports injuries – These injuries develop over time. A chronic sports injury occurs when a person continuously overuses his/her group of muscles or joints. In addition, poor technique or having structural abnormalities can also lead to chronic injuries.

Persons with severe sports-related injuries need to seek an appointment with their physician immediately. Emergency care is important if the injured joint shows signs of severe swelling and pain, visible lumps, bumps or other deformities, joint instability, weakness or inability to put weight on the joint and popping or crunching sounds (when using the joint).

Common Types of Sports Injuries

Jumper’s Knee – Jumper’s knee is a condition characterized by injury and inflammation to the tissue connecting the kneecap to the shin bone (patellar tendon). Also known as patellar tendonitis, the injury is more common among athletes playing basketball, volleyball, and track and field (requiring lot of running and jumping). It is caused by overuse of the knee joint, such as frequent jumping on hard surfaces. With repeated stress, your tendon may become inflamed. Symptoms include severe pain and tenderness around your patellar tendon, pain with jumping, running, or walking, swelling and pain when bending or straightening your leg. If left untreated, the condition can lead to tears in your tendon. Treatment modalities include a combination of rest, ice (cold packs), medications, stretching and strengthening exercises, and knee elevation. ICD-10 diagnosis codes for Jumper’s knee include –

  • M76.5 Patellar tendinitis
  • M76.50 Patellar tendinitis, unspecified knee
  • M76.51 Patellar tendinitis, right knee
  • M76.52 Patellar tendinitis, left knee

Achilles tendinitis – This is an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon – the band of tissue that connects the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone. The condition is more common among middle-aged people who play sports like tennis or basketball (only on the weekends) or who have suddenly increased the intensity of their running programs. Symptoms may begin as a mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel (after running or any other sports activity). Episodes of more severe pain may occur after prolonged running, stair climbing or sprinting. People may also experience tenderness or stiffness, especially in the morning. Treatment includes rest, icing the area, and stretching the calf muscles. The ICD-10 codes for Achilles Tendinitis (AT) –

  • M76.6 – Achilles tendinitis
  • M76.60 – Achilles tendinitis, unspecified leg
  • M76.61 – Achilles tendinitis, right leg
  • M76.62 – Achilles tendinitis, left leg

Little league elbow – A common problem among young, adolescent baseball players, little league elbow is a growth plate injury to the medial (inner) part of the elbow that occurs due to repetitive throwing motions. With too much repetitive throwing of a baseball, the growth plate on the inside of the elbow end (known as medial epicondyle) becomes inflamed. Also known as an apophysitis, the condition generally occurs in up to 40% of throwers. Gradual increase of medial elbow pain and stiffness (particularly while throwing) is one of the initial symptoms associated with the condition. If left untreated, little league elbow can become more severe, causing tears in the ligaments and tendons. Treatment options for this condition depend on the extent of the growth plate injury and include – resting the affected area, applying ice packs (to reduce swelling) and using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Related ICD-10 codes include –

  • M24.82 Other specific joint derangements of elbow, not elsewhere classified
  • M24.821 Other specific joint derangements of right elbow, not elsewhere classified
  • M24.822 Other specific joint derangements of left elbow, not elsewhere classified
  • M24.829 Other specific joint derangements of unspecified elbow, not elsewhere classified

Tennis Elbow – A common sports-related elbow injury, tennis elbow causes pain and inflammation around the outside of the elbow. Also called lateral epicondylitis, the condition occurs when the tendons (that join the muscles of the forearm to the outside of the elbow) in the elbow are overloaded, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. The repeated movements may result in a series of tiny tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bony prominence at the outside of the elbow. The condition affects between 1 to 3 percent of the population in the United States. As the name suggests, playing tennis sport is one of the prominent causes of this condition. A burning sensation and pain surrounding the elbow is a common symptom associated with the condition. Even though the condition can affect people of any age group, it is most common among people in the age group of 30 – 50 years. For majority of patients, tennis elbow is treated non-surgically to relieve pain and weakness associated with the condition. Treatment may vary depending on the type and severity of symptoms and may include – physical therapy, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), chiropractic care, pain injections, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), cold therapy and compression and extracorporeal shock wave therapy. ICD-10 codes used for billing procedures include –

  • M77.1 – Lateral epicondylitis
  • M77.10 – Lateral epicondylitis, unspecified elbow
  • M77.11 – Lateral epicondylitis, right elbow
  • M77.12 – Lateral epicondylitis, left elbow

Injuries resulting from various types of sports activities and physical exercises are common among people of all age groups. Playing a sport ill-prepared or suddenly increasing the duration, intensity or frequency of an activity can increase the risk of injury. It is best to increase the length and intensity of your training gradually. Wearing the appropriate gear including shoes and safety guards (pads, mouth guards and helmets) is important before playing sports. Also, athletes should make sure that they are getting appropriate warm-up exercises and proper stretching before engaging in any sport.

Billing and coding for sports injuries can be complex, as there are different codes associated with the condition. By outsourcing these tasks to a reliable medical billing service provider that offers the services of AAPC-certified coding specialists, healthcare practices can ensure correct and timely medical billing and claims submission.