Traumatic injuries have a known cause and are usually characterized by a major inflammatory process including redness, warmth, swelling, pain and loss of function. Seek medical attention if any of the following occur:
- Swelling around a joint
- Inability to move the joint or decreased motion of the joint
- Any bony deformity
- Inability to walk without a limp
- Extensive bruising
Overuse injuries are common in sports that involve repetitive movement such as swimming, running, jumping or throwing. The characteristics of overuse injuries include gradual onset, no history of trauma and usually no major inflammation.
Overuse injuries can be the result of strength or flexibility deficits, training errors or abnormal biomechanics. The treatment of overuse injuries initially involves activity modification with local treatment such as ice to decrease the inflammatory process. Seek medical attention with an overuse injury if the symptoms:
- Don’t resolve after activity modification and resumption of full sporting activity
- Are occurring with daily activities such as walking
- Persist for longer than ten days
Treating Sports-Related Injuries
Ice and heat can be helpful in the treatment of sports-related injuries. However, understanding the proper use of both is essential to maximizing the benefits.
Use of Ice
- Use of ice will decrease blood flow, tissue temperature, inflammation, pain and swelling.
- Use for no longer than 15 minutes every 3-4 hours; first 24-48 hours following an acute injury.
- Use following exercise to decrease the inflammatory process.
- Prolonged exposure to ice (greater than 20 minutes) may lead to tissue damage.
Use of Heat
- Use of heat will increase blood flow and tissue temperature, but like ice, will decrease pain.
- Heat can be used prior to exercise as part of a warm-up. However, general whole body warm-up activities such as jogging are more effective in increasing blood flow and tissue temperature to an area.
- Chronic injuries can benefit from heat application prior to stretching.
- Do not apply heat following acute injuries. (Wait 48-72 hours after acute injury.)
- Do not apply heat when signs of inflammation (redness, warmth, swelling) are present.
Nonprescription anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen may also help relieve your pain and swelling. Don’t give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome. Once the soreness and pain are gone, slowly begin stretching and strengthening exercises. Gradually increase them until your able to resume your activities without pain.
If you experience a knee or ankle sprain, you can relieve the pain and swelling and promote healing and flexibility with RICE:
- Rest: Rest and protect the injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
- Ice: Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat to the area that hurts. Do not apply ice or heat directly to the skin. Place a towel over the cold or heat pack before applying it to the skin.
- Compression: Compression, or wrapping the injured or sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, since this can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your health professional if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72 hours; a more serious problem may be present.
- Elevation: Elevate the injured or sore area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.