Chest Pain in Sports

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What does it mean if my chest hurts from physical activity?

Chest Pain in Sports

You're breathing so heavily after your tennis match, you're not sure if your chest really hurts or if you're just struggling for oxygen. Could it be your heart? How can you know?

Chest pain due to sports activities is a fairly rare occurrence, and it's easy to mistake it for a heart attack. Of course, if there is any doubt, you should see a physician right away. There are some musculoskeletal problems that may be causes of chest pain when you're physically active. They include:

  • Chest wall strain: This harmless condition results from a muscle or cartilage disruption where the ribs meet the sternum or breastbone. There will be localized tenderness to the touch (which you don't have with a heart problem) that increases when you push on the sternum. There may also be swelling in the area.
  • Costochondritis: This is an inflammation of the cartilage of the ribcage, usually caused by a blow or some type of trauma. Extreme physical exertion, demanding deep and repetitive breathing, or upper body strain may be the cause. Symptoms include increased pain with movement or pressure to the ribs.
Once a more serious problem is ruled out, treating sports injuries such as these involves rest, ice or heat, avoidance of activities that may put strain on the area, and pain relievers such as NSAIDs or acetaminophen. Visit for more information on chest pain and use the free clinician finder to find a clinician in your area.



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