For both onlookers and athletes, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of sports to bring people together. But nothing can end a game faster than a sports injury. Anyone can experience sports injuries when participating in physical activity, which often take the form of strains, sprains, and breaks. Knowing how to prevent them can go a long way in making sure you stay healthy and game ready. Here are 5 ways to prevent sports injuries and 5 ways to treat them when they do happen.
How do I prevent a sports injury?
Engage in proper conditioning: Long before game day, be sure that your body is ready. Become educated on activity-specific exercises that will make sure you’re ready for the required straining, endurance, and repetitive motion of your chosen sport.
Have downtime: Although training is very important, so is taking time to rest. Without rest days, your joints, muscles, and tendons will not have time to strengthen and recuperate, leaving them weakened and vulnerable when it’s time to play.
Warm up: “Warm” muscles typically stretch under pressure, while “cold” muscles may strain or spasm. Getting the blood flowing first with stretching and cardio will not only prevent injury but will help you perform better and be mentally prepared.
Don’t play through pain: Sudden onset pain is the body’s best alarm to let you know something is wrong. Rather than making you a team player, continuing to play with pain can quickly turn a simple injury into a complex one with a lengthy recovery.
Use proper technique and gear: Understanding the proper way to hold yourself, exert force, and even crash or fall will protect your body from the strain and impact of sports. Using the proper gear will also ensure an added layer of protection as you interact with the environment and other players.
How do I treat a sports injury?
A widely accepted method for treating a minor sports injury in the first 2-3 days after it occurs is the
Rest: As you recover from an injury, avoid any motion, activity, or weight bearing that reproduces your pain. This allows for healing while also avoiding further damage.
Ice: Swelling often appears soon after pain, restricting the movement of an injury and delivering healing cells to the area. Excessive swelling, though, can cause additional discomfort and weaken muscles. Applying ice—alternating 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off with a covered ice pack—to the affected area will reduce swelling. Never apply heat in the first 2-3 days following an acute injury.
Compression: Compression with an elastic bandage can also combat swelling and immobilize the injured area. However, you can apply a bandage too tight and interrupt blood flow, so if you see a blue or purple tinge to the surrounding areas, loosen the bandage immediately. Research proper techniques or seek medical advice if you are unsure how to bandage.
Elevation: When possible, keeping the injured body part raised above the level of your heart will help to reduce pain, swelling, and throbbing.
A 5th step in addition to the RICE method is:
Medication: Over-the-counter medications can help you manage the pain, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen reduce inflammation as well. Always check with your pharmacist or doctor if you have questions about dosage or drug interactions.
Should I see a doctor?
When dealing with sports injuries, it’s never a bad idea to see a doctor, even just to rule out something more serious. Immediate medical attention may be needed if you hear a popping sound at the time of injury; if you can’t place any weight on the injury; if you experience severe pain, or your pain worsens or doesn’t improve after a few days; or you experience a neck or back injury accompanied by radiating pain or numbness.
Seeing a doctor of sports medicine can help you recover faster with better outcomes. Even if you aren’t a serious athlete, seeking help early in your recovery can help you prevent the development of a chronic condition, which can affect not only your athletic performance but your ability to comfortably perform everyday tasks. Dr. Chappell and the team at In2it Medical can guide you down the correct rehabilitation path for your specific sports-related injury, with many treatment options including nutrition and exercise recommendations, physical therapy and manual manipulation, and regenerative injections. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can return to the activities you love!