Severe injuries should be attended to promptly; one can rush to an emergency hospital facility for immediate medical attention.
If the injury is not severe enough to be an emergency case, but is causing acute pain, swelling, a lack of sensation or loss of muscle strength, it is important to visit the GP.
Sprains and strains can be treated with RICE therapy at home. This includes:
Rest – for two days
Ice – apply ice packs for half an hour on the affected area. Ice should not be in contact with skin directly, so use a towel around the ice. This can prevent cold burns.
Compression – these are bandages used to restrict movement and swelling
Elevation – the affected limb should be elevated to a comfy height to control swelling.
RICE therapy should be done for 2 days, after which one should try to move the injured part of the body. Compression should discontinue and be replaced with hot packs and massage to enhance blood circulation in the area. Physiotherapy may be used to restore complete and free movement of the affected body part.
Severe injuries might require additional treatment to RICE. These are listed below:
Analgesics or painkillers – paracetamol and anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can relieve pain and swelling symptoms associated with fractures and sprains. However, ibuprofen should not be used for people suffering from asthma, kidney and liver diseases. Aspirin should not be given to children less than 16 years.
Cortisone injections – these are steroid injections given in the affected areas which suffer severe inflammation symptoms. These are quite successful decreasing swelling and giving relief from ligament and muscle damage.
Immobilization of the injured area – immobilization involves reducing mobility in the affected part to prevent additional damage and to relieve symptoms of pain, swelling and muscular spasms. It also directs the blood supply towards the affected area so healing process is quickened. A sling is used to immobilize shoulder or arm and a leg immobilizer (of rubber foam) keeps the knee in place without allowing it to bend. A splint (also called cast) made of fibre-glass or plastic is used to protect soft tissues and injured bones.
Some cases might require surgical repair, like tear in connective tissue or fractured bone.
The most important part of treatment is rehabilitation especially for severe injuries related to sports. The process of rehabilitation works with gradual increase in exercise and movement to finally achieve the normal level of functioning in the injured area. As time passes, pain alleviates and movement is acquired, strengthening and stretching exercises can help return the injured area back on track.
Sports injuries are difficult to prevent especially during intensive and repeated training, but certain important measures and guidelines can prevent accidents from occurring.
Warm up – an appropriate warm up of 5-10 minutes prior to an exercise regime or a sport activity can go a long way to prevent injuries. This normally involves gentle exercises (walking or jogging) for the muscles to make them flexible and prepare them for brisk activity that is to follow. Warm up also increases blood supply to the muscles thus reducing risks of sprains and strains. After a round of gradually increased exercise, one can do some muscle stretches to further get these ready for vigorous and strenuous activity.
Avoid overdoing it – if one has not been exercising for a long period of time, sudden strenuous activities should be avoided as they turn out to be harmful instead of being beneficial. You must follow realistic targets and increase your activity very gradually to get the best out of your efforts and to avoid unnecessary injuries which can only be an obstacle. It is advisable to see your GP to chalk out a fitness plan if you have not been exercising recently.
Avoid dehydration – exercise and sports activities can cause dehydration and decrease you fitness levels. So replenish your body with plenty of fluids.
Use proper techniques – learning and training is important before getting into a sport. This can greatly reduce risks of overuse injuries like stress fractures and tendonitis. Take expert and professional advice prior to beginning an exercise or a sport
Using proper equipment – protective equipment is imperative in certain sports. For an example, cricket requires cricket boxes, gloves and shin pads to prevent possible injuries. Footwear should be appropriate to give protection as well as support to the feet. Headwear, such as helmets and head guards, is most essential to avoid injuries to the brain and skull.
Cool down – at the end of an exercise session or a sport activity, one needs to have a cooling down period of 5-10 minutes. Gentle exercises like walking and jogging helps in bringing the heart rate back to normal. It also aids in removal of waste from the used muscles and fresh supply of oxygen and nutrients to them. The cool down period reduces risk of muscle soreness and stiffness after exercise.