Soft Tissue Injury

More about Open Wounds More about Closed Wounds

Soft tissue injury and hard tissue injury are expressions that should be familiar to students of GCSE Physical Education (GCSE PE, a popular school exam in the UK.)

Soft tissue injuries and hard tissue injuries are included in the Sports Injuries module.

The most important information about soft tissue injuries for GCSE PE includes the sub-topics:

  • What is a soft tissue injury ?
  • Open wounds and closed wounds.
  • Common types of open wounds.
  • Common types of closed wounds.

These are explained below.

What is a Soft Tissue Injury ?

Definition of a soft tissue injury:

A soft tissue injury is damage to any biological tissues except for bone i.e. bone tissues.
(Damage to bone tissue is classed as a "hard tissue injury.)

So, it is easy to define a soft tissue injury as damage to any of the tissues in the body except for bone (tissues).

Examples of soft tissue injuries include:

There are several types and examples of soft tissue injuries. In general they can involve pain, swelling, bruising, reduction in or loss of function of the affected part of the body, or a combination of these symptoms.

Soft tissue injures can be classified into two main groups:

What is the difference between an open wound and a closed wound ?

Definitions of open and closed wounds:

The difference between open wounds and closed wounds is that open wounds allow blood to leave the body whereas closed wounds do not involve any external bleeding (although there may be bleeding under the skin, which is called a bruise).

Examples of Open Wounds:
Examples of Closed Wounds:
    • cuts
    • grazes
    • blisters
    • chafing
    • bruises
    • strained muscle(s)
    • sprained ligament(s)
    • torn muscle(s)

In some cases a single incident can result in both "open wounds" and "closed wounds" in the same area of the body e.g. impact at speed may result in a forearm being both grazed and bruised, perhaps on opposite sides of the limb. However, if any blood escapes from the region of the injury the wound is generally classed as an "open wound" even when there are also some symptoms that could apply to "closed wounds".

If blood is released from the site of an injury then the injury is classed as an open wound.

Notes about both types of soft tissue injury are included on the pages about open wounds and closed wounds.

Although students may be required to know about how certain types of soft tissue injury are treated, treatment should be given and/or supervised by a qualified person e.g. a qualified first aider, nurse, paramedic or similar. Remembering the correct treatment to mention in test and exam questions is not, on its own, enough skill to be able to provide or perform treatments safely and effectively.

Common Types of Open Wounds

Types of open wounds include cuts, puncture wounds (deep narrow wounds into skin and the soft tissues incl. e.g. organs beneath), grazes (abrasions), chafing, incisions, lacerations and impaled objects. Examples of less common and often more serious open wounds include avulsions (skin or other tissue partially or completely torn from the body), amputations (complete separation of of an appendage e.g. finger or part of finger from the body, degloving injuries (skin peeled off or at least back from an extremity) and gunshot wounds.

A few of the mildest and most common of these injuries are described on the page about open wounds - approx. GCSE PE level.

Common Types of Closed Wounds

Common types of closed wounds include bruises, strained muscles, sprained ligaments, tendonitis and meniscal tears. These are described on the page about closed wounds - approx. GCSE PE level.

This is the end of the page about soft tissue injury for GCSE Physical Education (GCSE PE). See also other pages in this section listed top-right and the effects of exercise on muscles and the effects of exercise on circulation.


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This is not medical, First Aid or other advice and is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment. Consult an expert in person. Care has been taken when compiling this page but accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This material is copyright.

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