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You may have just suffered a sports injury and are wondering when you can return to your usual level of activity again. Learn about the treatments and average healing time of these sports injuries, and how you can speed up the recovery process.

Last updated on 18 November 2020

sports injuries healing times You may have just suffered an injury and are wondering when you can return to your usual level of activity again. Learn how long it might to get better, and how you can speed up the process.

Ankle sprain

Ankle sprain is an injury that occurs when you roll, twist or turn your ankle in an awkward way. This causes the ligaments that hold the ankle bones together to stretch or tear, resulting in pain, swelling, or restricted movements.

Consult an orthopaedic specialist if you have pain and swelling in your ankle and you suspect a sprain. You may also benefit from physiotherapy to aid recovery.

Ankle sprain treatment

You can do self-care for your ankle sprain using the R.I.C.E approach for the first 2 or 3 days.

  • Rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling, or discomfort
  • Ice. Use an ice pack immediately for 15 – 20 minutes and repeat every 2 – 3 hours.
  • Compression. Compress the ankle with an elastic bandage until swelling stops. Begin wrapping at the end farthest from your heart.
  • Elevation. Elevate your ankle to above the level of your heart, especially at night. This helps reduce swelling by draining excess fluid.

Medications such as over-the-counter pain relievers can be used in most cases to ease the pain of a sprained ankle.

Ankle sprain recovery

The average healing time for mild to moderate ankle sprain is between 6 – 12 weeks for full recovery. You can probably go back to playing sports by 12 weeks but you must be careful in the first few weeks of recovery as you may prone to spraining your ankle again.

Severity   Damage to ligaments     Recovery time
Grade 1 Minimal stretching, no tearing   1 – 3 weeks
Grade 2 Partial tear   3 – 6 weeks
Grade 3 Full tear or rupture   Several months

Hamstring pull

A hamstring is a group of 3 muscles running along the back of your thigh that allow you to bend your leg at the knee. A hamstring pull or strain occurs when one or more of these muscles gets overused. A minor strain is classified as a grade I hamstring tear whereas a completely torn hamstring is classified as grade III.

These injuries commonly happen if you don’t warm up before exercising, or if you have tight quadriceps or weak glutes. They may appear as sudden and severe pain during exercise with a snapping or popping feeling or pain in the back of the thigh and lower buttock when walking.

Hamstring pull treatment

Mild to moderate hamstring pull usually heal on their own. To speed up the healing process, you can do the following:

  • Rest the leg by not putting any weight on it as much as you can. Crutches may help
  • Ice your leg for 20 – 30 minutes every 3 – 4 hours to reduce pain and swelling
  • Compress your leg with an elastic bandage to keep the swelling down
  • Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help with pain and swelling
  • Physical therapy for stretching and strengthening exercising

Hamstring pull recovery

Recovery time depends on the severity of your hamstring injury. The average healing time can range between 6 – 12 weeks. On occasion, it can even take up to a year to heal, often due to inadequate physiotherapy and stretching. The most common cause of re-injury is returning to sports too early. Recovery usually requires working on rebuilding muscles to prevent repeated injury.

Shin splints

Shin splints refer to inflammation and pain in your shins due to stress on the shinbone and the tissues that attach muscles to your bones. In medical terms, this condition is known as medial tibial stress syndrome.

Shin splints feel like throbbing and aching of the shins when you are actively moving. It is a common injury that can result from flat feet (collapsed foot arch), shoes that don’t fit well or provide good support, working out without warm-up or cooldown stretches, and weak ankles, hips, or core muscles.

Shin splints treatment

Shin splints often heal on their own. You can take some of the following measures to facilitate recovery:

  • Rest and take a break from certain physical activities to let your legs heal
  • Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken if needed to relieve pain and swelling
  • Ice your shin for 20 – 30 minutes ever 3 – 4 hours to ease pain and swelling
  • Using insoles or orthotics for shoes if your arches collapse or flatten when you stand

Shin splints recovery

The discomfort will usually resolve in a few days with rest and limited activity. However, the average healing time may range between 6 – 12 weeks the condition is not recognised early and treated.

Indications of a full recovery are being able to jog, sprint, and jump without pain, push hard on spots that used to be painful, and when your injured leg is as flexible and strong as your other leg.

ACL tear

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the major ligaments on your knee. An ACL injury is a tear or sprain of the ligament that most commonly occurs during sports that involve sudden stope or changes in direction, jumping, and landing.

When an ACL tear happens, people often report hearing a loud ‘pop’ or ‘popping’ sensation in the knee. The pain is severe and there is rapid swelling. You will also lose your ability to move or bend and flex your knee.

ACL tear treatment

Depending on the severity of your injury, treatment for an ACL tear may include the following:

  • First aid such as icing your knee and wrapping an elastic bandage around your knee if your injury is minor
  • Medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling
  • Physical therapy a few days a week to strengthen the muscles around your knee and to regain a full range of motion
  • Surgery to remove the damaged ACL and replace it with tissue if your ACL is torn badly

ACL tear recovery

Medical treatment for an ACL injury begins with several weeks of rehabilitation and your rate of recovery will depend on how bad the injury is. The average healing time may take 6 months or longer.

Whether you undergo surgery or not, rehabilitation plays a vital role in stabilising your condition and helping you return to a normal lifestyle.

Rehabilitation will focus on reducing pain and swelling, restoring the knee’s full range of motions, and strengthening of muscles especially the hamstrings, quads and glutes.

Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow is a type of tendinitis (swelling of the tendons). It causes pain in the elbow and arms and usually develops over time due to repetitive motions that put too much stress on the tendons, causing it to tear.

Tennis elbow treatment

Tennis elbow usually heals on its own. Here are several treatment you can try to speed up recovery:

  • Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the muscles
  • Range of motion exercises to reduce stiffness and increase flexibility
  • Medications including oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroid or painkiller injections to temporarily ease swelling and pain
  • Icing the elbow for 20 – 30 minutes every 3 – 4 hours to reduce pain and swelling
  • Elbow strap to protect the injured tendon from further strain

Tennis elbow recovery

Recovery from a tennis elbow differs from person to person. The average healing time is 3 – 12 months for full recovery.

You know you have fully recovered when there is no longer swelling in your elbow, you can flex your elbow without difficulty, there is no pain when you grip objects or bear weight on your arm or elbow, and when your injured elbow feels as strong as your other elbow.


Infographic reviewed by Dr Michael Soon, orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital


Sprained Ankle (2020, July 28) Retrieved October 27, 2020, from

Sprained Ankle (n.d) Retrieved October 27, 2020, from

Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis) (2020, June 13) Retrieved October 27, 2020, from

What Are Shin Splints? (2019, December 8) Retrieved October 27, 2020, from

Hamstring Strain (2019, July 7) Retrieved October 27, 2020, from

Hamstring Injuries (2019, December 12) Retrieved October 27, 2020, from

ACL Injury: What to Know? (2018, December 18) Retrieved October 27, 2020, from