Moving your body feels good. Exercise causes the body to release endorphins, which triggers the pleasure centres of your brain. It also reduces your cortisol or stress hormone levels, so it’s not surprising that many people turn to physical activity as a productive way to defuse and manage their stress. Doing sports is an especially popular option, as meeting with other enthusiasts can encourage you to pursue your hobby and sustain your energy. However, as with any other activity, playing sports carries the risk of incurring an injury.
It’s not so unusual to hear of professional athletes getting injured while playing in a game or a tournament. They might collide with another player or have a similar accident happen. But you don’t have to be a professional athlete or engage in competition to experience a sports injury. Something as simple as a misstep or not having the right body form can cause a sprain, a strain, or a tear. Visiting a physiotherapy clinic is necessary to have these injuries properly diagnosed and treated but you can also support your recovery by following these tips:
Acknowledge How You Feel
It happens all too often that people downplay how they really feel, and there’s nothing worse for your recovery than trying to rush it. You may be eager to get back on your feet and resume your normal activities, even if you still feel some pain. It is especially important to be honest with your doctor if you are still experiencing any symptoms like swelling or pain so that they can assess your progress and make changes to your treatment plan if needed.
You can worsen the injury if you attempt to “play through the pain” or resume activity before your body has had the chance to completely heal itself. So listen to your body and your doctor.
Follow the RICE Protocol
The first thing you should do upon getting a sports injury is to administer the RICE treatment protocol. RICE is a mnemonic that stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This is done immediately after soft tissue injuries to the muscles, joints, ligaments or tendons occur. In most cases, you can continue to practice RICE up to 72 hours after your injury to support its recovery.
- Rest - Minimise your movements as much as possible so that the body can start healing and you don’t cause additional damage to the traumatised area. If the injury is on your foot or leg, avoid putting weight on it and walking too much. Conserving your energy can also allow the body to focus its efforts on doing the necessary repairs.
- Ice - Injury triggers an inflammatory response in the body, which presents as swelling in the affected area. Applying ice immediately after an injury occurs will cause the blood vessels to constrict and minimise the swelling. The cold can also help relieve some of the pain. Wrap a towel around the ice (or you can even use frozen peas) and hold it against the injury for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not apply ice directly to the skin or use it for too long as it may cause an ice burn.
- Compression - Wrapping an elastic bandage on your injury can also help to subdue the swelling and prevent fluid buildup. It can also be applied in such a way that limits movement so that you can avoid flexing the muscles in that area. Apply the bandage snugly, but if you begin to feel numb or tingly, undo the bandage and wrap it more loosely.
- Elevation - Ideally, the injured area should remain raised above your heart to help minimise the pain and swelling. This can be a bit challenging if the injury occurred in your lower extremities but you can lie on your back and prop your legs and buttocks on a pillow to elevate them above your chest. Even having your injury at the same level as your heart can be helpful.
Slowly Reintroduce Activity
Most of the swelling should have gone away by the third day after the injury, so you can carefully start to resume moving the injured area. Do a few light stretches and simple motions, but don’t attempt engaging in rigorous physical activity just yet as pushing yourself too hard can easily undo all the progress you’ve made so far with your recovery. Depending on the extent of your injury, full recovery may take anywhere from a week to a month, so be patient with working yourself back up to playing your sport again.
Sports injuries can put a damper on your activities but not giving them the proper medical care and attention that they deserve can cause them to worsen and take longer to heal. The fastest way to recuperate is to focus on your recovery and not attempt to rush it. Be patient as your body heals itself.
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