Chest pain is a common complaint in athletes and has a number of possible underlying causes. Although chest pain in athletes is most often caused by the musculoskeletal system, pain may originate from organs within the thoracic cage, such as the heart, lungs, or esophagus. Musculoskeletal chest injuries in athletes can be caused by direct trauma to the chest or arise from extreme or repetitive forces that occur through the structures comprising the thoracic cage during sports. Overuse injuries may affect the ribs, sternum, joints, and muscles of the chest wall. Referred pain from the thoracic spine may also be perceived as chest pain. This chapter focuses on functional anatomy, injury mechanisms, and clinical description of specific sports-related injuries of the chest wall.
Rib and sternal fractures are common traumatic chest injuries in athletes, caused by a direct blow. Elbows and other body parts may cause a hard-enough strike, as may bats, sticks, or projectiles. Overuse injuries of the chest wall, such as stress fractures of the ribs, are caused by repetitive forces of contracting muscles due to rowing or playing golf and may be harder to diagnose. Tietze’s syndrome and costochondritis, conditions of unknown etiology, may also occur in athletes and may be difficult to assess.
KeywordsStress Fracture Overuse Injury Chest Injury Sternoclavicular Joint External Oblique Muscle
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