Healthy people, healthy planet
Soccer player with a knee injury

First Aid for Sports Injuries

“Break a leg” means good luck only in the theater. Take care to avoid injury when exercising.

Prevention

Common sense can prevent many sports injuries. Some typical injuries and ways to prevent them
are listed below. The top six are:

Knee injury – knees are very prone to injury.

  • Don’t look at your knees when you stand or move.
  • Do not bend knees past 90ø when you do half knee bends.
  • Do not twist your knees. Keep your feet flat as much as possible during stretches.
  • Use the softest surface available when you exercise.
  • Wear proper shoes with soft, flexible soles.
  • When you jump, land with knees bent.

Muscle soreness – a symptom of having worked out too hard or too long

  • Do warm-up exercises such as those that stretch the muscles before your activity, not only for
    vigorous activities such as running, but even for less vigorous ones such as golf.
  • Don’t overdo it.
  • In vigorous activities, go through a cool-down period. Spend five minutes doing the activity at
    a slower pace. For example, after a run, walk or walk/jog for five minutes so your pulse comes
    down gradually.

Blisters – from poor fitting shoes or socks

  • Wear shoes and socks that fit well. The widest area of your foot should match the widest area of
    the shoe. You should also be able to wiggle your toes with the shoe on in both a sitting and
    standing position. The inner seams of the shoe should not rub against areas of your feet.
  • Wear preventive taping, if necessary.

Side stitch – a sharp pain felt underneath the rib cage

  • Don’t eat or drink two hours before you exercise.
  • Do proper breathing by raising abdominal muscles as you breathe in.
  • Don’t “work through pain”. Stop activity, then walk slowly.

Shin splints – mild to severe ache in front of the lower leg

  • Strengthen muscles in this region.
  • Keep calves well stretched.
  • When using an indoor track, don’t always run in the same direction.

Achilles tendon pain – caused by a stretch, tear or irritation to the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel

  • Do warm-up stretching exercises before the activity. Stretch the Achilles tendon area and hold
    that position. Don’t bounce.
  • Wear proper fitting shoes that provide shock absorption and stability.
  • Avoid running shoes with a heel counter that is “too” high.
  • Run on flat surfaces instead of up hill. Running up hill aggravates the stress put on the Achilles
    tendon.

Less common, but more severe injuries can occur during sports, especially contact sports like football. These include:

  • Broken bones
  • Joint dislocations
  • Strains and sprains
  • Head injury
  • Neck/spine injury

Take measures to prevent serious injuries during contact sports.

  • Wear the right protective gear and clothing for the sport. Items to wear include a helmet,
    shoulder, knee and wrist pads, a mouth guard, a personal flotation device, etc.
  • Train in the sport so you learn how to avoid injury.
  • Follow the rules that apply to the sport.

First Aid

At the first sign of serious discomfort or pain, stop what you’re doing and apply R.I.C.E. – rest, ice, compression and elevation. By following this easy-to-remember formula, you can avoid further injury and speed recovery.

  • R Rest the injured area for 24 to 48 hours.
  • I Ice the area for 5 to 20 minutes every hour for the first 48 to 72 hours or until the area no longer
    looks or feels hot.
  • CCompress the area by wrapping it tightly with an elastic bandage for 30 minutes, then unwrap
    it for 15 minutes. Begin wrapping from the point farthest from the heart and wrap toward the
    center of the body. Repeat several times.
  • E Elevate the area to reduce swelling. Prop it up to keep it elevated while you sleep.

Take aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to reduce inflammation and pain. (Take these with food or milk to prevent stomach irritation.) [Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication that has salicylates to anyone 19 years of age or younger unless a doctor tells you to.] Acetaminophen will help the pain, but not the inflammation. Once the injured area begins to heal, do M.S.A. techniques. M.S.A. stands for movement, strength and alternate activities.

  • M Movement – Work at establishing a full range of motion as soon as possible after an injury.
    This will help maintain flexibility during healing and prevent the scar tissue formed by the injury
    from limiting future performance.
  • S Strength – Gradually strengthen the injured area once the inflammation is controlled and a
    range of motion is re-established.
  • A Alternate Activities – Do regular exercise using activities that do not strain the injured part.
    This should be started a few days after the injury, even though the injured part is still healing.
Avatar Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine