Sports Medicine

Athletes of any age can experience a sports-related injury, from mild sprains to severe issues such as a torn ACL. UNM Sports Medicine specialists will help you get back to your favorite activities safely.

Most sports-related injuries do not require surgery. For many, the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) treatment is enough. But moderate or severe cases require care from an orthopaedic doctor. For sprains, tendinitis, knee problems and more, expect high-quality musculoskeletal care at UNM.

Make an Appointment

To schedule an orthopaedic consultation, call 505-272-4866.

Conditions We Treat

At any sign of pain or discomfort following physical activity, make an appointment at UNM Health. Our team of surgeons, specialists and physical therapists can treat you for these common issues, as well as more advanced orthopaedic needs.

These are some of the most common injuries among athletes and weekend warriors. Sprains and strains have similar symptoms and treatments but involve different parts of your body.


When one of the ligaments that connect your bones is stretched too far, even to the point of tearing, it is sprained. Symptoms include pain, swelling, inflammation and bruising. At the time of injury, there may be a popping or tearing sensation. The joint may become non-functional with severe sprains.


When either the muscles or the tendons attached to your bones are stretched or torn, they are strained. Muscle weakness (spasms), pain, swelling, cramping and inflammation often indicate a strain. If the muscle or tendon is ruptured, the pain may be incapacitating. Strains commonly occur in the hamstring and lower back.

Maintaining a regular exercise program that includes stretching and strengthening exercises can help reduce your risk. However, some sprains and strains cannot be prevented.

Tendinitis occurs when the tendons in your body become inflamed or irritated. It can occur in any tendon in the body, but it most commonly affects around the wrists, shoulders, elbows and heels. Repetitive motions, often due to jobs or hobbies that irritate the tendons, are typical causes of tendinitis.

Common tendinitis-related problems include: Swimmer’s shoulder, pitcher’s shoulder, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. Symptoms often include pain and tenderness, a dull, aching sensation and swelling.

Home Treatments for Tendinitis

  • Rest the affected tendon. Any activity that increases pain or swelling should be avoided.
  • Ice the affected area for 20 minutes at a time several times a day.
  • Elevate the affected area above heart level, which will help reduce swelling.
  • Protect the area using a splint, sling, crutches or cane to facilitate healing and protect the area from further injury.
  • Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen can be used to control pain and inflammation.

Your doctor will often be able to diagnose tendinitis based on a physical exam, but further imaging tests (x-ray, MRI, etc.) may be needed. Your doctor may prescribe medications (such as corticosteroid injections) to reduce inflammation and pain. Physical therapy can strengthen and stretch the injured muscles and tendons. In some cases, you may need surgery.

The knee is a critical joint for most athletic activities. It supports nearly the entire weight of the body and is therefore prone to injuries such as ligament and meniscus tears.

ACL Injuries

  • The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) connects the back of the thighbone to the front of the shin bone. It is the most injured knee ligament and is often injured through hyperextension or twisting motions.
  • Because ACL injuries tend to involve pain and swelling, immediate treatments focus on decreasing both. Rest, pain medications and crutches will be used as needed. Physical therapy or a knee brace can also help patients regain a full range of motion.
  • However, some patients will require surgery to reconstruct the ACL if it is torn or sufficiently damaged. It is typically an arthroscopic and outpatient procedure.

Meniscus Injuries

  • The meniscus is C-shaped cartilage that protects the knee joint. It buffers the joint while limiting the knee’s ability to flex and extend. It may get torn if the knee is twisted or hyper-flexed.
  • Treatment may include ice to reduce swelling, NSAIDs to control pain and swelling and a knee brace or crutches.
  • Oftentimes arthroscopic surgery is needed to repair or remove the torn fragment.

Other Knee Ligament Injuries

  • The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) are all also prone to injury.
  • Treatment for most PCL, MCL and LCL injuries are non-operative, but surgery is sometimes necessary if one of the ligaments is damaged badly enough.
  • Typical treatment of pain medication, rest, physical therapy and crutches or a brace is often prescribed.

Most ligament injuries can be avoided by using proper form during competition and training. If you experience pain, resting is critical.

What to Bring to Your Appointment

All patients should be sure to bring:

  • Copies of recent medical imaging (x-rays, MRIs) related to your visit
  • Current list of all medications
  • Current medical records

If you have a running-related injury, please bring your running shoes or a video of yourself running outdoors. Student athletes who need a high school sports physical, should download and fill out the NMAA physical form.