This post was last updated on March 12th, 2020 at 07:49 am
The first 24 hours after a sports injury is the most critical time for an athlete. How you react and treat a sprain, tear, pull or any other muscle or joint damage in the first day can set the tone for the entire period of recovery after injury. It can determine whether you make a speedy return to the field or endure a lengthy stint on the sidelines. If you are looking for some essential advice on these key few hours immediately after an injury, we have outlined four important steps that you should always remember.
Apply Ice To Speed Recovery After Injury
The benefits of applying ice are greatest within the first day after sustaining an injury. The cold therapy will help reduce pain and swelling by decreasing blood flow to the area, thus shortening the period of recovery after injury
Indirectly apply an ice pack or a bag of ice to the injured area by wrapping the pack or bag in a towel or cloth or applying the cold therapy through clothes. Never apply the ice directly to the skin as this may lead to irritated or frostbitten skin and will do more harm than good. Apply ice for periods of 15 to 20 minutes and allow your skin to recover its usual temperature in between applications.
Utilizing compression in the area around your injury can minimize swelling and pain by slowing the accumulation of fluid. It also helps ease pain by immobilizing and supporting the injured area, giving the injury a head start on healing. Lastly, compression can provide you with both a mental reminder to take it easy and a can help give you peace of mind while dealing managing an unsure situation.
Compression can come in the form of athletic tape, bandages or orthopaedic braces. Compression should not feel tight to the point at which you experience discomfort, tingling, numbness or any situation that inhibits the normal flow of blood in your body. Remember, even a small amount of compression can prevent the accumulation of fluid around the injury and therefore reduce pain and swelling.
Stay Off Of It
This step may seem like a no-brainer, but when you are an athlete, your competitive nature may take over and drive you to ignore an injury. Resist the urge to continue playing through pain, soreness, tightness or swelling. Even if the injury starts to feel better and the pain begins to dull, be cautious and get it checked by a sports medicine professional, physiotherapist or doctor. It’s easy to aggravate an injury or make it worse just by jumping back into the fray, especially an overuse injury or a muscle tear.
For many injuries, strengthening the surrounding area is part of the recovery process. However, during the first 24 hours after the injury, refrain from doing any sort of vigorous or weight-bearing activities. If a doctor says it is okay (and only then), do some light stretching to keep the joint or muscle from stiffening and to relieve pain.
Get A Professional Opinion
One of the most common downfalls athletes face immediately after an injury is arrogance. Do not assume that you know what kind of injury you have sustained and therefore, how you should treat it. Visit a medical professional as soon as possible, ideally within the first 24 hours of recovery after injury, to get an opinion on the kind of injury you have, the severity and what kind of recovery process is best.
Seeing a medical professional within the first 24 hours can help you both mentally and physically. Knowing your precise diagnosis can relieve stress, helping your body to focus on recovery. A medical professional can also begin to treat the injury immediately and can provide stretching exercises, pain medication and recommendations for rehab equipment, such as orthopaedic braces, that can help you as an athlete get a jump on getting 100 per cent healthy again.