Immediate Action Following an Injury

In this article we will consider what to do when our training goes wrong and we suffer an injury.

In the event of any injury, such as a muscle or tendon strain or a joint sprain, there is a simple procedure which should be followed for the first 24-48 hours. The amount of time needed to ensure the quickest and most complete recovery possible will depend on the severity of the injury, but adherence to this procedure is crucial. It can be remembered by the pneumonic “RICE”: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Rest. As soon as pain is felt it is vital that the activity stops. Further use of that body part will make the injury worse and delay recovery. It is better to over-react and rest too much, than to try and “work through” the pain and cause further damage.

Ice. As soon as possible, ice must be applied to the injury. This is vital to slow down the circulation and control inflammation. It is also has an excellent pain-killing effect. The ice should usually be wrapped in a wet cloth, but may be applied directly to the skin so long as it is kept moving. As a general rule, ice should be applied until the skin looks pale – usually around 5-10 minutes for a small area such as the wrist, but possibly around 20 minutes for a large muscle, such as the thigh. If the area turns red, the ice has been applied for too long. Immediate ice treatment should be followed by further applications every 2 waking hours for 24-48 hours. (Ice taken internally, as an accompaniment to a large glass of your favourite tipple, should most definitely be avoided!)

Compression. Compression will constrict the blood vessels, thereby reducing swelling. Compression should be applied by firmly fixing a bandage or other dressing over the injury site. Care should be taken to ensure that the circulation to other parts of the body is not restricted.

Elevation. An injured limb should be supported in a position higher than the heart. This will slow down the circulation and may help to further reduce swelling.

It is important to note that ice, compression and elevation must not be applied together. Done properly, this immediate treatment can help to ensure a return to activity with the least possible delay, and may even be all that is required in the event of a minor injury. However, should swelling persist after 48 hours, the injury should be medically assessed.

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