The primary goal of sports injury first aid is to stop activity and prevent further injury or damage. Most sports injuries that require immediate treatment are called "acute injuries." These injuries occur suddenly and generally cause the following symptoms or conditions:
The first treatment for most acute soft tissue injuries (bruises, strains, springs, tears) is to prevent, stop and reduce swelling. When soft tissue is damaged, it swells or possibly bleeds internally. This swelling causes pain and loss of motion, which limits use of the muscles.
Injury First Aid with PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, ElevationThe primary treatment to stop swelling of injured soft tissue is with the PRICE method.
- Protection. In this case, protection means stopping activity immediately and protect the injured part fro additional damage.
- Rest. Rest the area to allow the tissues time to heal.
- Ice. Applying cold therapy (ice or an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel) to an acute injury reduces swelling and pain. Ice is a vaso-constrictor. It causes the blood vessels to narrow and limits internal bleeding at the injury site. Apply cold to the affected area every two hours for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Allow the skin temperature to return to normal before icing a again. You can ice an acute injury several times a day for up to three days.
Also see: Should I Ice or Heat My Injury?
- Compression. Compression of an acute injury is perhaps the next most important immediate treatment tip. By quickly wrapping the injured body part with an elastic bandage or wrap (compare prices), you help keep swelling to a minimum. If possible, it's helpful to apply ice to the injured area over the compression wrap to limit the swelling.
- Elevation. Elevating the injured area is another way to reduce the blood flow and swelling to the area.
Soft Tissue Injury Step-By-StepIn summary, here is what you should do immediately when you sustain any soft tissue injury:
- Stop the activity immediately.
- Wrap the injured part in a compression bandage.
- Apply ice to the injured part (use a bag of crushed ice or a bag of frozen vegetables) for 10 minutes to 15 minutes. Let the area warm completely before applying ice again (to prevent frostbite).
- Elevate the injured part to reduce swelling.
- Get to a physician for a proper diagnosis of any serious injury.
Treating overuse injuries requires rest, reducing exercise intensity, frequency and duration. Icing an overuse injury can also help reduce inflammation and pain. For more serious overuse injuries, physical therapy, over-the-counter medications and complete rest may be necessary.
Treating Other Sports InjuriesThere are many possible types of injuries that may occur while playing sports. Here is information about first aid treatment for some of the more common sports injuries:
- First Aid for Possible Neck Injuries
- Ankle Sprains
- Fractured Shoulder
- Hamstring Tear or Pull
- Muscle Cramps
- Common Running Injuries
- Calf Muscle Pull or Strain
- Groin Pull
Read more: When Is It Safe to Play Sports After an Injury?
The Use of Ice in the Treatment of Acute Soft-Tissue Injury. A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials; Chris Bleakley, et al, The American Journal of Sports Medicine
2004, Volume 32.
The Use of Ice in the Treatment of Acute Soft-Tissue Injury. A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials; Chris Bleakley, et al, The American Journal of Sports Medicine 2004, Volume 32.