New Zealand is a very active country with many people participating in a variety of sports. The most popular recreational activities are walking, swimming, cycling and jogging/running. The most popular sports are touch rugby, football, netball, cricket, tennis and golf. Staying fit and healthy is a key reason as to why a lot of New Zealanders take part in sport and recreational activities.
Unfortunately, one of the risks of playing sport is that injury can occur. When this happens, it is important that the sporting injury is treated adequately to help prevent further injury.
When an injury occurs, the soft tissues involved can be painful, bruised, or swollen. The healing process is then initiated, resulting in the laying down of new collagen (the substance that makes up your soft tissues) in the formation of scar tissue. In order to prevent the formation of excessive scar tissue it is important that sporting injuries are managed well in the acute stages. This is when rice, or The R.I.C.E. method is commonly used at the time of acute injury to effectively help reduce pain and swelling.
The R.I.C.E. Method
Rest: It is important to protect the injured soft tissue whether it may be muscle, tendon, ligament or even bone from further injury. Stopping play is the first step in ensuring this happens. It may also be necessary to use crutches or a sling to support the injured soft tissues. Resting the injured part will help promote a good healing response.
Ice: Ice may be used immediately after sustaining an injury to help provide pain relief, and it may also help reduce swelling by reducing blood flow to the affected area. This should be applied using a cold pack, ice cubes in a plastic bag, or even a bag of frozen peas. Ensure that the ice does not come into direct contact with the skin otherwise a burn may result. Do not apply ice for longer than 20 minutes at any one time. Application should then be repeated every 3-4 hours for the first 48 hours following injury.
Compression: Compression helps reduce excessive swelling, (excess swelling may delay healing). An easy way to compress an area of injury is to use a simple elastic or crêpe bandage. If you feel throbbing or pins and needles as a result of applying compression it may be that the bandage is too tight and will need to be reapplied.
Elevation: Elevation is another effective way of helping controlling the swelling that happens after an acute injury. It is most effective when the injured area is raised above the level of the heart. For an ankle, simply raising the ankle above the hip joint can be adequate to see a significant decrease in swelling. For the wrist, the use of a sling can help reduce swelling by simply having the wrist higher than the elbow.
It is also important that following a sporting injury that the environment is conducive for effective healing. There are a number of things that one should not do which will ensure an optimum environment for healing is maintained. Within the first 48-72 hours following a sporting injury you should do no H.A.R.M.
Heat: Heat should not be applied to the affected soft tissues during the first 48-72 hours following injury. This would have the effect of increasing blood flow within the soft tissues increasing the likelihood of further bruising, swelling.
Alcohol: Alcohol should be avoided as it leads to vasodilation (opening of the blood vessels) which can cause further bleeding and swelling around soft tissue injuries. It may also mask the pain of the injury.
Return to Activity: Return to activity should be avoided in the first 48-72 hours to enable the body to begin the healing process. If the injury is not too severe, a diagnosis from a physiotherapist may help to determine when a return to sport/activity is likely.
Massage: Massage be avoided within the first 48 to 72 hours, as this can increase blood flow to the injury site causing further pain and swelling.
At Roslyn Physio we see a wide range of sporting injuries, from simple ankle sprains through to joint reconstructions following orthopaedic surgery. Our physiotherapists have all been involved with sports teams throughout their time with Roslyn Physio, so they have a good understanding when it comes to designing an optimal treatment plan to get you back on the sports field as soon as possible.