Mild sports injuries
Treating sports injuries early is important to prevent further damage to the injured site. For mild sprains, strains, bumps, or bruises, follow the RICE program for the first 48 hours:
- Rest: Take a break for the first 24 hours to let the injured area rest and recover. Your body needs time to heal the injury. Once you can go about your usual daily routine without pain, you can ease yourself back into a full slate of activities.
- Ice: Apply an icepack (or a bag of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a towel) to the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every few hours. Ice helps to cut down on swelling and inflammation by slowing blood flow to the injury, as well as lessening the pain by numbing it a bit. Avoid leaving the ice on for too long, since it could cause frostbite.
- Compression: Between ice treatments, wrap an elastic bandage around the affected part to apply pressure and reduce swelling for the first 24 hours. Compression can also help provide support to a weak joint. It should be fairly tight, but make sure it doesn't press on nerves or cut off blood circulation – if the end of the limb turns blue, that's too tight! It's also too tight if you feel throbbing in the bandaged area. For the same reason, don't wear the bandage at night.
- Elevation: Let gravity do the work – try to keep the injured limb raised above the level of the heart to prevent fluids from pooling in the inflamed tissues. For an injured leg, prop it up above the hips when lying down. Injured arms can be held up in a sling.
In addition, you can lessen inflammation and relieve pain by taking ASA, ibuprofen, naproxen, or other anti-inflammatory medications. Check with your doctor or pharmacist first before taking any medications, and take care not to exceed the recommended doses. If, after following these steps, the injury doesn't seem to be getting any better within 48 hours, it's best to see your doctor.
Sports injuries requiring medical attention
It's vital to seek immediate medical attention if a sports-related injury involves more severe symptoms, which include:
- blurred vision
- ear pain
- inability to move the limb or joint
- loss of consciousness
- loss of vision
- nosebleed lasting longer than 20 minutes
- ringing in the ears
- severe pain and swelling
So don't forget to warm up before you engage in sports, and wear proper protection while playing certain sports. Other devices like insoles, ankle supports, or knee braces can prevent sprains to stress fractures, while protective devices like helmets – well, that's common sense. Keep this in mind and keep yourself in the game.