Sports injuries are very common and as much as we work hard to put systems in place to try and prevent them they are always going to happen. Whether it be during the big game, at training or out having fun with friends it surprises me how many people know very little about what they need to do in the event of injury and how to treat it. This article is designed to help in the event of an injury so that you can get on the path to recovery sooner and back enjoying your sport in the fastest time possible.
In the event of a sporting injury the first thing we need to do is to make sure we minimize or prevent any further injury or damage. So you need to stop the activity and look for the cause of the injury and determine what is wrong, so you can start immediate treatment.
Some of the most common injuries you find are what we call acute soft tissue injuries, which are injuries such as bruises, strains and tears. In cases such as these the first thing we need to do is to prevent, stop and reduce swelling. This is because when we damage the soft tissue it usually swells or can possibly even bleed internally. The sooner we can reduce swelling and stop the pain the greater the chance we have of not losing range of motion over the effected joints due to excessive swelling.
The most effective primary treatment for soft tissue injuries is R.I.C.E.R, which stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation and referral.
How to apply R.I.C.E.R
It is important that the injured area be kept as still as possible to reduce the chance of any further injury. Support the injured area with a sling or brace if necessary. This will help to slow down blood flow to the injured area and help prevent any further damage.
This is the most important part. By applying ice to the effected area you will help to greatly reduce bleeding, swelling and pain. Apply ice as soon as possible after the injury has occurred.
You need to apply ice to the injured area for 20 minutes, every two hours for the first 48-72 hours following the injury.
Some methods for applying ice are:
- Crushed or cubed ice in a wet towel or plastic bag
- Cold pack wrapped in a wet towel
- Frozen pea packet (or similar) in a wet towel
Note: Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
Compression helps to reduce both the bleeding and swelling around the injured area, and secondly, it provides added support to the injured area. Use an elastic compression bandage to cover the injured part. You will need to bandage both above and below the injured area.
Note: You need to find a happy medium here as you want it tight enough to compress but not tight enough that there is numbness, tingling or the skin becoming pale or blue. If this does occur simply remove and reapply correctly.
You will need to raise the injured area above the level of the heart. This will further help to reduce the bleeding, pain and swelling associated with the injury.
If the injury is severe enough you will need determine the extent of the injury. For this it is important that you consult a professional physiotherapist or a qualified sports doctor for an accurate diagnosis of the injury. With an accurate diagnosis, you can then start on working out what to do in the way of a rehabilitation program that is going to best help you reduce your injury time.
To ensure a successful recovery following the injury, ensure you have gone through the RICER steps and that you also apply the NO HARM factors.
How to apply NO HARM factors:
If you apply heat it will increase the bleeding, recover and healing time. So you need to avoid hot showers, baths, saunas, spas hot water bottles, heat creams or heat packs.
Alcohol increases bleeding and swelling which is also going to delay the healing process. Another danger is that it masks the pain which in turn can lead an increase in the severity of the injury.
Running or exercise will increase blood flow. This again can make the injury more severe and delay the healing process.
Massage will increase swelling and bleeding. It can be very beneficial after the healing process, which is about 48-72 hours if its not to severe, but not before this time.
Speaking from experience I know that as a player nobody enjoys being on the sidelines as a result of an injury. If you follow these steps you will ensure a speedy recovery from any soft tissue injury. Using the RICER and NO HARM approach for injury management will mean you greatly reduce the risk of further injury and a faster return to your sport or activity.