Athletes know that, in many ways, their success is controlled by how much work they put into practice. However, it is often overlooked that every athlete is just one step, jump, or hit away from being sidelined. A sports injury can be a painful reminder that your body is only human. Every athlete goes through injuries, but it doesn’t have to be an obstacle to having fun or getting back in the game as soon as possible.
In fact, many sports injuries are just small cuts or bruises that require little more than an ice pack and some rest before they’re healed. Some injuries, however, are more serious and may even require surgery if not treated properly.
Here’s what you need to know about how to treat your injured body part following a sports injury so you can get back on track.
You should seek medical attention immediately if there is a lot of blood, if something feels broken, or if there is a head injury. These kind of injuries can be life threatening if not treated quickly. The good news is that these injuries account for only a small fraction of injuries.
For everything else, consider the following.
Ice and Heat
Use an ice pack for 20 minutes, remove for 20 minutes, and repeat as needed until your pain subsides and the swelling goes down. This is the most common treatment that is effective and easy to do.
Heat packs are also good options if you have them on hand—but only use them after getting rid of any residual swelling and inflammation by using ice first. Apply heat for 15 minutes followed by a cold pack for 15 minutes, repeating this cycle as often as needed until symptoms subside. If things get worse or don’t improve, seek medical attention.
Rest the Affected Area
If you have any injury, rest the hurt area. Avoid activities that might make your injury worse like trying to run, jump, or play through the pain. Athletes tend to try to pretend nothing is wrong, but it is better to sit out one day of practice than to further the injury and be out for the season.
You may need to wear a brace or use extra precaution. If the injured area is too painful to put weight on, be extra careful. Most of the time, the pain will start to subside after a few hours and you will be able to start to put weight on it. Again, a brace is able to help you recover and does not make you look weak, particularly if it means you can start to play sooner.
Consider a Professional
If the pain gets worse, or if the injury is unbearable immediately following the injury, see a doctor. The reason for this is pretty simple: your body will heal better if the right things happen in the right order.
Seeing your doctor is especially important if you’ve injured yourself recently but are not sure whether or not you should be seeing one. It is important to get checked out right away by someone who knows what they are doing if your symptoms include weakness or numbness that has been getting worse, or if symptoms are getting better but then suddenly get worse again. Both of these situations suggest that something serious might be going on inside your body, and you should see someone right away.
Similarly, if an injury seems like it should be healing faster than it actually is, see a doctor right away so that any potential complications can be identified early on and treated accordingly. If you’re not sure whether or not something needs medical attention urgently enough, err on the side of caution if waiting even one day could result in permanent or prolonged damage.
Most sports related injuries are not anything serious if treated correctly. The biggest mistake people make is ignoring the pain or trying to return to play too quickly. By taking time to assess the situation, and see a doctor if necessary, an athlete can be confident that they will be back on the court, field, or pitch very soon.