Treating Sports Injuries
Sports can provide a great workout, but they are also a major source of injuries, ranging from sprains and strains to fractures, abrasions and concussions.
Some sports injuries are the result of accidents, while others are caused by over-use, poor training practices, improper equipment or use of equipment, lack of conditioning, or inadequate warming and stretching.
Common types of sports-related injuries include:
Sprains and strains. These can occur from overstretching, tearing, twisting, or pulling a muscle or tendon. Sprains and strains can cause pain, bruising, swelling, inflammation, and/or instability of the limb or joint. Rest the injured area, and use ice packs and a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
Elevate the injured area on a pillow, and use over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen if needed. If your pain is severe, or if you have severe swelling or numbness, see a doctor.
Fractures and broken bones. There are two types of acute fractures: a simple fracture, which is a clean break with little damage to surrounding tissue, or a compound fracture, where a piece of the bone pierces the skin. These fractures occur from a quick, one-time injury. Another type of fracture known as a stress fracture occurs from repetitive stress on the bone. These fractures most often occur in the feet and legs.
All fractures require medical attention. While you are waiting for medical help, use a sterile bandage or clean cloth to stop bleeding. Immobilize the area where the fracture has occurred. Apply ice packs to limit swelling and reduce pain. A person with a broken bone who is short of breath or feeling faint should lie down with their legs elevated if possible, so the head is slightly lower than the trunk.
Abrasion. These can occur when a person’s skin rubs against the playing surface or other rough object, scraping the skin. Treat an abrasion by flushing the area with water, and gently clean the area with a mild detergent cleanser. Apply an antibiotic ointment and a dry nonstick dressing. If needed, use direct pressure over the area to reduce bleeding.
Avoid rubbing the area or using hydrogen peroxide, which can harm the tissue and interfere with healing. Seek medical assistance if the injured area is very large and affects deep layers of skin; if embedded debris is in the wound; or if it’s difficult to control the bleeding.
Contusion. A contusion, also known as a bruise, can occur when a person experiences a blow to the skin. If the bruise is unusually large or painful, consult a medical professional. To treat a contusion, keep the affected area elevated above the heart, if possible. Place an ice pack or cold pack on the injured area several times a day for one or two days after the injury occurs. To help minimize pain and swelling, use an over-the-counter pain relieve such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Laceration. This is a type of jagged wound or cut that goes all the way through the skin. Use a clean bandage or cloth to apply firm and steady pressure on the wound while holding it above the heart for 10 minutes. If the wound continues to bleed, seek immediate medical attention. Larger and/or deeper cuts may require sutures (stitches).
Once the bleeding stops, clean the wound with warm water and mild soap. Use an antibiotic ointment on the wound, and apply a bandage to protect it from infection. If the person has not had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years, one may be required.
Dislocation. A dislocation is a separation of two bones where they meet at a joint. Joints are areas where two bones come together. A dislocated bone is no longer in its normal position, and can be extremely painful. This is a medical emergency that should be treated by a health care professional, who will realign the joint. Until you receive treatment, immobilize the injury above and below the injured joint, and use ice packs to help reduce the pain.
Concussion. This is a form of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow or jolt to the head or body, which causes the brain to shake inside the skull. Concussions most commonly occur in ice hockey, football, basketball and soccer. Symptoms of a concussion may include dizziness, headache, confusion, nausea, vomiting, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, loss of consciousness, clumsy movements, and/or mood changes.
A person who has had a concussion must be removed from play and allowed to rest. An ice pack should be applied to the affected area. An appropriate health care professional should evaluate the player and determine when he or she can return to play.