A sports injury
can occur due to an accident or from the repeated
overuse of muscles, tendons, and joints. In organized sports, over
fifty percent of these injuries occur in practice, rather than during
an actual game. The sports that rank among the highest of reported
injuries are basketball, football, and soccer. The type of injury
received from participation in these sports is referred to as an acute
With an acute injury, the initial response of the body is to create
swelling around the site of impact. The swelling is the result of your
immune system rushing chemicals to the injury site. This immune
response is meant to protect against infection and occurs whether or
not the skin was broken. The price we pay for this absolute protection
is in swelling. This is because immune system chemicals naturally
Initial action to reduce the amount of swelling was one of the greatest
discovers in the initial management of sports injuries. Experts
in this field have estimated that an injured athlete treated with the
RICE approach (documented below) will recover 50% faster and have less
chance of re-injury than an athlete who does not follow this approach.
The RICE Method:
Rest. Reduce your activities and take weight off the injured area.
Crutches, a cane or other supportive devices are often used. A cane
should be used on the opposite side of a hip, leg, knee, ankle, or foot
injury, (e.g., if your right foot or ankle is injured, use the cane on
your left side.)
Ice. Alternate an Ice pack to the injured area for 15 minutes on and 15
minutes off and repeat this two or three times. This routine should be
used four to eight times a day for a period of 72 hours. You can use a
cold pack, an ice bag, or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice and
wrapped in a thin towel. (IMPORTANT: To avoid cold damage,
less time with the ice pack on if the injured area has little padding,
see remarks below.)
To avoid cold injury, frostbite, do not leave ice on the skin for more
than 20 minutes. Also, smaller areas, like the toes, and areas with
little padding, like the sides of the knee, elbow, and foot, require
much less time on ice. A good rule of thumb is to check the area under
the ice. A feeling of pins and needles, numbness, pale skin, hard or
waxy skin are signs of early frostbite. Never go to sleep when using
ice. It is also a good idea to set a timer to alert you when it is time
to remove the ice.
Compression. Apply even compression (pressure) to the injured area to
help reduce swelling. Some devices that can be used are bandage wraps,
like an Ace bandage, sports tape, or an air cast. Be sure to check to
area to make sure the compression is not too tight. The compression
wrap should not cause pins and needles (tingling) or numbness.
Elevation. Place the injured area on a pillow or similar soft surface,
at or above the level of your heart. This will help to reduce swelling.
Remember that the elevation is only effective if the level of the
injured area is at or above the level of the heart. Sitting in a chair
with your leg on a short footstool does not do enough to return the
fluid to the heart.
The RICE method may also be applied to a chronic re-injury, or overuse
condition. The use of ice will help reduce the swelling and pain when a
flare up occurs. After the swelling has been reduced, the proper
management of any chronic condition requires an understanding of why
the affected area continues to be problematic. One of the most common
reasons is weakened support tissue or damaged muscle. Chronic
re-injuries can therefore be reduced by limiting or removing the
repetitive or exaggerated forces to the injured area while at the same
time improving the strength, flexibility, and integrity to the
It is always best to seek the advice of a qualified professional who is
knowledgeable in both the treatment and prevention of sports injuries.
Chiropractors diagnose, evaluate, and administer rehabilitative
treatment for many types of sports injuries, especially those involving
sprains to tendons and joints, strains to muscles, and non-paralyzing
injuries to the spine. A chiropractor with specialized training in the
treatment of sports injuries can help you to recover from your injury
and can also help you avoid future re-injury.
Chiropractors diagnose and evaluate sports injury by use of history
(how, when, and why it happened) examination, and (if needed) x-ray.
After the diagnosis and the severity of the injury are determined, an
appropriate treatment program will be recommended. This program may
involve the use of adjustive procedures and physiotherapy to help
reduce swelling and improve the integrity in and around the site of the
In the initial stage of care, your chiropractor may use certain
modalities such as ice massage, ultrasound, or galvanic stimulation to
reduce the swelling around a joint or in a muscle. Techniques such as
passive range of motion may also be applied (a modern technique proven
through research studies to decrease swelling and initiate as well as
improve healing to an injured area.)
In the later stages of care, the emphasis is generally placed on
improving the integrity of the injured tissue through heat, massage,
careful mobilization, and stretching. All of these therapies help to
remove the chemicals and waste products from within the injured, which
would lead to arthritis if left untreated. A strengthening plan, to
help you prevent re-injuries in the future, may be recommended when the
injury is well healed.
Early detection of problems, which could lead to an injury are
important to recognize. If you have any of the warning signs below, you
should consider contacting a Doctor of Chiropractic for an evaluation.
Tenderness or swelling in a joint or muscle before or after an activity.
Numbness or tingling in an extremity.
Pain during range of motion.
Reduced range of motion or stiffness in a joint or unusual looseness
from a prior injury.
Weakness in a muscle.
What to do to Help Prevent Sports Injuries:
Stretching. Recent studies suggest that excessive stretching prior to
an event is unnecessary; however, stretching the muscles to insure ease
of use through the expected range of motion and as a way to warm up the
muscle is still highly recommended.
Warm up: Take some time to duplicate parts of the activity, such as a
brief jog before a race, rotating the shoulders before pitching a ball,
Ice before use. Recent studies have shown that icing a muscle or joint
before warm up actually increases the blood supply to that muscle and
joint during the warm up exercises.
Cool down when finished. Take 5-10 minutes to cool down, walk, jog, or
do some light exercise before leaving the activity. A properly done
cool down will provide your body with the following benefits:
* Remove waste products such as lactic acid from your body.
* Gradually lower your heart rate and respiration.
* Help prevent muscle soreness.
Proper Nutrition. Eating right not only helps you manage your weight
but it can also help you to control your cholesterol level as well as
help maintain your joints and build healthy muscles. Talk to your
chiropractor about a diet program especially suited to your
Although sports injuries will always be inevitable, the proper care and
management of both the injury and the athlete can get the athlete back
to doing what he or she loves in less time and with less chance of
future re-injury. Always remember to talk with your Chiropractor before
starting any sports or exercise program and if an injury does occur,
use the RICE recommendations and call your chiropractor immediately.
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