The summer is fast approaching and sports players will soon fill the courts, fields, greens, and trails looking to get back in shape and practice their game. However, this also means plenty of opportunities for cuts and bruises, ankle sprains, muscle strains, and knee injuries, to name a few.
William Levine, MD, chief of sports medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and director of sports medicine in CUMC’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery, recommends RICE, a first-aid technique that can be applied to most sprains, strains, and joint injuries.
- Rest: If you are injured during an activity, stop the activity immediately and rest the injured area. Do not try to work through the pain.
- Ice: For the first 24 to 48 hours, apply ice packs to the injured area every two hours for 15 minutes. Make sure that the ice is not in direct contact with the skin; a cotton handkerchief covering is helpful.
- Compress: Bandage the area firmly, extending the wrapping above and below the injury. The pressure will stop any bleeding and reduce swelling of the injured area.
- Elevate: Whenever possible, elevate the injured area above the level of your heart. Elevation and compression are typically used for acute injuries such as a twisted ankle.
Once an injury has occurred it is best to consult a physician to ensure proper rehabilitation. However, prevention is always better than cure. Dr. Levine offers these simple tips for preventing sports injuries:
- Start slow. You are probably not in the same condition that you were in at the end of last summer; new activities require muscles and joints to respond in new ways. This may result in minor soreness that could develop into something more serious if you push yourself too hard.
- Warm up. Get your blood pumping to those underused muscles and joints before you begin, and do some gentle stretching once you are done. This will help you to retain and improve flexibility.
- Take breaks. Every so often you should rest the body parts that are working hard and are susceptible to injury—even tennis pros rest between sets.
- Listen to your body. Don’t ignore the little aches and pains you feel in your joints and muscles; paying attention to them may help you prevent serious injuries later on.