There are few things more gut wrenching than lying on the court or field of play, writhing in pain from an injury just sustained during practice or a game; the swelling, the pain, an inability to get yourself off of the field. Most athletes, whether professional, collegiate, or recreational have been in this position at one point or another. Oftentimes we are able to bounce right back up, take a quick rest, and get right back to playing. However, what happens when we can’t get right back in the game?
The conventional approach has always been RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The reason for this is that in most acute injuries, the damage to soft tissue (ligaments, tendons, and muscles) as well as involved joints can create swelling and inflammation. By resting, we reduce the further strain put on the injured area. Icing assists with reducing the inflammatory response and creating vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels) to reduce swelling. Compression also reduces swelling by preventing the fluid in the affected area to pool and expand. Elevation allows for a natural flow of the fluid in the injured area to work its way back to the heart passively. Contraction of our muscles prevents pooling of fluid normally; however, in injured areas, our muscles often are too painful to contraction and creating that normal pumping effect to drive fluid out of the injured area.
Research has shown that acute treatment of injuries sustained on the field will lead to significantly less time on the sidelines. Take one of the most common on-field injuries, an ankle sprain. Generally speaking, a sprain of the ankle involves injury to both ligaments and tendons and can create significant swelling, pain, and difficulty with walking and certainly in performing sports related activities. Treatment of an acute ankle sprain to manage swelling and pain within the first 24-48 hours can lead to potential rehab time of 2-4 visits, whereas chronic treatment viewed at treatment began 72 hours or later post injury can lead to treatment time up to 3-5 weeks.
The results speak for themselves. While younger athletes always tend to rebound faster than those of us who still try to be weekend warriors, we all need acute treatment of our injuries in order to get back on that playing field quickly. Don’t let a simple sprain keep you off the field.
Kyle Branday, MSPT is a licensed physical therapist and partner at Amity Physical Therapy. He is a graduate of Quinnipiac University with years of experience treating a wide variety of injuries including orthopedics, sports related injuries, and neurological rehabilitation while working with patients of all ages and ability levels. Amity Physical Therapy is in its eleventh year as a practice and now maintains three offices: Woodbridge, Hamden and Branford. Kyle can be seen at the Woodbridge location at 1 Bradley Road and can be reached at (203) 389-4593.