Athletic activities are a great way to get exercise in a variety of ways doing something people enjoy. While these recreational activities can be very enjoyable, they also carry a risk of injury. There are many different ways that an athletic injury can occur and as people age, even slight movements done the wrong way can cause issues. This is why it is important to know how to treat an athletic injury and some steps to take when one occurs.
To understand proper treatment, it is beneficial to know the difference between an acute and a chronic injury. An acute injury is one that occurs from a single event that causes discomfort, whereas a chronic injury is one that has persisted for a longer time. Chronic injuries are typically classified by discomfort that has persisted for two weeks or more where there is not a single event that can be attributed to the symptoms. Most athletic injuries are acute injuries that happen during the activity as they can be pinpointed to a specific event as the cause. Most acute injuries result in a constant pain or discomfort feeling, a loss of function or range of motion in the affected area, and visible swelling around the site of the injury.
Knowing the common sites of issues can also be beneficial to know the extent of athletic injuries. Some common minor injuries are ankle sprains, muscle sprains or strains, hyper flexibility of joints, and contusions or bruises. More serious injuries that can occur are fractures, dislocations, ligament damage or tears, and torn muscles. Serious injuries should be treated by a doctor as soon as possible.
When an athletic injury occurs, it is best to immediately stop activity to prevent a more severe issue. The initial stages of injury treatment recommended are described by the acronym RICE. This stands for rest, ice, compress, and elevate. These four things are able to provide treatment and reduce risk of further injury. Resting or abstaining from physical activity will prevent worsening the injury and allow the body to begin its healing processes. Icing the area will help reduce inflammation by constricting the blood vessels. Capillaries are typically ruptured during an injury and cause blood to leak into the area, causing swelling. Ice helps slow this leakage and reduce inflammation. Compression also helps with reducing inflammation to the area by applying pressure to the area. Using an ace bandage or compression wrap will also help restrict movement in the area that can lead to further pain or discomfort. The site of injury can also be immobilized with a splint to keep the area in proper position. Elevation of the injured site helps reduce swelling using gravity to promote swelling reduction and decreasing blood flow to the area. This is done by keeping the injured area higher than the heart to prevent blood from pooling at the site of injury. Along with the RICE method, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce pain and swelling.
Utilizing the RICE method can help many minor athletic injuries and promote healing. When pain becomes persistent or worsens, it may be time to schedule a visit to the doctor. Whenever there is an abnormality to the area or severe loss of function it is important to see a doctor right away to get a proper evaluation. If the injury occurs at an organized event, there may be an Athletic Trainer or health professional on-site that can provide guidance.
Athletic injuries can occur in a variety of different ways, and from seemingly minor events. Knowing how to properly care for injuries and the proper steps to take will help with the healing process and can prevent future issues. By initialing following the RICE protocol to enhance the healing process there can be a resolving of minor injuries. From there, rehabilitation and strength training can begin to prevent injuries in the future.