You can wear all the right equipment to keep you safe. You can follow an innocent training program and have proper form. You can do everything right. But sometimes “stuff happens.” Things go wrong. And you can still get injured.
So, if that does happen and you do get hurt, it's important that you respond quickly and appropriately so you can safely return to your sport (and grow older with as little pain as possible).
Here are 3 steps to follow if you get injured:
Step #1: Listen to your body and stop the activity.
Pushing through the pain may sound like a good idea, but it's one of the worst mistakes you can make. If you're truly injured and in pain, stop what you're doing and move onto Step #2!
Step #2: Assess the injury and either care for the injury yourself or seek professional help.
If you're in severe pain, your body is disabled in any way, or you experience numbness – consult a doctor immediately.
Or, if you've injured an eye, you experience bleeding, immediate swelling, or immediate bruising, have an extremity that appears to be shorter than usual or in an “unnatural position”, or if you have a bone that is now exposed – immobilize the injured area and seek professional help immediately.
If you seek medical attention, then please follow their advice from here.
If you are not experiencing any of the above and you believe your injury is mild enough not to seek medical attention, then we recommend you:
1. Immediately put an ice pack (or a bag of frozen vegetables) on the injured area. Doing so helps reduce pain and decrease blood flow and swelling. Ice should not be left on for extended periods of time. Instead, keep the ice on your injury for 10-20 minutes and then remove it. For better results, ice your injury this way several times a day for two to three days.
Whatever you do, DO NOT APPLY HEAT during the first 72 hours following an injury! This includes hot pads, hot baths and warming liniments. Heat increases pain, blood flow, and swelling, slowing recovery and making things worse.
You'll also want to elevate the injured area above the level of your heart to help reduce blood flow and swelling.
NOTE: Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory pain medications, such as ibuprofen, can be useful in treating a sports injury. Like icing and elevating the area, these medications decrease inflammation and reduce pain. Please use as directed and seek medical attention if pain persists for more than a few days.
2. Rest and let yourself heal. When you're hurt, resting the injured area is extremely important. Do not continue to exercise and put undue stress and strain on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Believe it or not, resting your body allows it to heal faster than the “no pain, no gain” mentality.
This rest period could take as little as a couple of days, or it could require weeks or months to recover. If you're injury doesn't heal within 3 weeks, you may consider seeking medical help.
Step #3: Start the rehabilitation process and slowly get back into action.
If you follow the above protocol and your pain level and swelling have diminished, then you can slowly return to your previous level of activity.
Do not push too hard as you may reinjure yourself. We encourage you to slowly return with some gentle stretching and careful movements to help you prevent scar tissue from forming.
In addition, since scar tissue can interfere with movement and cause pain down the road, you may consider seeking a physical therapist or massage therapist to assist you in this recovery process.
Last, to maintain your overall fitness level during your rehabilitation period, you may consider choosing a training routine that compliments your sport's movement but doesn't use the same muscles in the same way.
For example, instead of running, you can swim to rehab an ankle injury. Swimming allows you to keep up your cardio-conditioning, while alleviating any undue stress on your recuperating ankle.