Taking care of a Sports Injury
Personalities in the sports world , be it cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar or Golf wonder Tiger Woods , all worked hard to get to where they are today .However , even with intense training , their bodies have limitations , and they get injured . But they bounce back , often remarkably fast . How?
The answer in most cases is the administration of effective injury care and proper structured rehabilitation . Many of us have experienced the agony of a muscle pull , perhaps during a friendly football match , a mishap with the shoulder in the local gym , or a sprained ankle during badminton practice .What’s worse than the initial intense pain is the fact that although it finally recedes , some pain often lingers for a long time or becomes chronic .It is then easily aggravated each time you play , or merely engage in any physical exertion to the affected area .
Fortunately , sports injuries like serious broken bones or life threatening emergency cases are rare among amateur athletes . However , sprained ligaments and strained muscles are common . Ironically , these common soft tissue injuries are the ones that have the greatest potential to become chronic if not properly treated .
Symptoms , diagnosis and initial treatment .
Frequently , a “snap” or “pop” is heard at the time of the injury . Other signs and symptoms of a soft tissue injury are severe onset of pain , tenderness , swelling , bruising and loss of normal function .A complete examination of the athlete and equipment by a Sports Medicine Specialist is ideal to assess the cause and severity of the injury . Xrays are done if necessary . Protocol for proper treatment and rehabilitation of the injury will then be determined .
Managing a sporting injury is not simply a matter of treating the injured part . If you are a runner who returns to pounding the roads in the same pair of old , worn shoes after your achilles inflammation has settled , you will relapse without fail . Always remember that the AIM of treatment is a return to sport .
Initial treatment includes rest , ice , compression and elevation which is easily remembered as the acronym RICE .
Rest : no weight bearing for the first 24 hours after the injury , and possibly longer depending on the severity . It implies rest to the injured part and not the rest of the athlete
Ice : Apply icepacks on the injury for 15-20 minutes every one to two hours for the first 24 to 48 hours .
Compression : A crepe bandage or elastic wrap should be applied to the injured part to prevent the accumulation of edema ( swelling ) .
Elevation : Elevating the injured area helps in removing the edema . Placing the injury higher than the hip or heart is a good rule of the thumb .
Important factors in managing a sporting injury
Management of a sporting injury requires an assessment of why the injury occured , treating the injury itself while maintaining fitness , and a gradual structured rehabilitation programme through to competition .Breakdown can occur at any stage along the path of return to sport .
PREVENTION is the key word in management of a sporting injury
- Adequate warmup before participation
- Correct stretching techniques
- Strengthening exercises to achieve a balance of muscle power
- Fitness for sport that is , cardiovascular and respiratory fitness , muscle power and sports specific fitness
- Good nutritional status
- Correct use of equipment especially footwear and safety equipment
- Avoiding abrupt changes in training methods , effort and intensity
- Paying due attention to the climate
- Playing within the rules of the sport
With many sports injuries , there is a mechanical alteration of the bones/joints and a weakening of the muscles , tendons , and ligaments .Basically , the tissue gets stretched and bruised , and the joints get stuck and out of alignment , which in turn affects how the nervous system provides feedback to the brain.Time and rest will generally help the damaged tissue to heal , but the immobilised part is not necessarily fixed , ultimately compromising optimum recovery , proper nervous system control , and a return to previous levels of performance.
The most important component of treatment of a sporting injury is the physiotherapy programme .Physiotherapists use massage , friction , faradism , strapping , stretching , and strengthening techniques with manipulation and mobilisations . They also employ various electrical treatments such as interferential therapy , laser , ultrasonics ,and shortwave therapy .This helps restore the body’s natural structural balance , and improves the neurological feedback to and from the brain . This also supports the body’s innate ability to repair itself , making healing more efficient and effective .Physiotherapists also teach athletes to be in tune with their body . If you have an injury , whether big or small , covering up the pain with painkillers can prolong the injury .This is because you are turning off the body’s alarm system , and are more prone to inflicting further injury .This becomes evident when it takes more and more painkillers to relieve the pain.
A complete programme that monitors the progress of recovery along with stretching , exercises and nutritional instructions can make the difference between success and failure .Exercises are the most important aspect of recovering full function of the injury . Stages of the rehabilitation are
- Maintainance of cardiovascular and respiratory fitness while resting the injured part
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Functional and proprioceptive exercises
- Sports specific exercises
- Attention to technique , equipment ,etc.
- Competition-staged return by setting targets to achieve simulation of potential areas of risk
With this , most injuries will heal completely within a few weeks . The more severe the injury , the longer time it will take to heal , and eight to ten weeks recovery time is not unusual even with rehabilitation .Often it is necessary to continue rehabilitation exercises for a month or two following the elimination of pain.
When to return to sports or activity
It is important that you don’t return to your sport or activity too quickly . By returning too soon , you may worsen your injury , which could lead to permanent damage .(called the Second Injury Syndrome ). Everyone heals at different rates . Once recovery seems to be reasonably secure , light testing should be employed before returning to sports.
Some indications for return to play after a common ankle sprain are :
- YOUR injured ankle can be fully straightened and bent without pain
- NORMAL strength compared to the uninjured ankle .
- SWELLING has resolved itself.
- ABLE to jog in a straight line without pain .
- ABLE to sprint in a straight line.
- ABLE to jump on both legs without pain and jump on the injured leg without pain .
- Remember, injuries may not be always as simple as they seem . So , with the exception of the mildest sport injuries , it is best to be checked by a sports medicine expert to determine the severity of the damage , and how best to treat it and more important PREVENT its recurrence .