Participation in sports and physically activity has many benefits to our health and well being; however, accidents and injuries during these activities occur all too frequently. Finding the right help to understand how to limit, prevent, or heal from sports injuries is an essential part of staying in the game. Chiropractic, through such specialized educational resources as the Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (C.C.S.P.) Program, has one of the most modern and effective non drug and non surgical sports rehabilitation programs available today.
Sports injuries can occur due to an accident or from the repeated overuse of muscles, tendons, and joints. In organized sports, over fifty percent of these injuries occur in practice, rather than during an actual game. The sports that rank among the highest of reported injuries are basketball, football, and soccer. The type of injury received from participation in these sports is referred to as an acute injury.
With an acute injury, the initial response of the body is to create swelling around the site of impact. The swelling is the result of your immune system rushing chemicals to the injury site. This immune response is meant to protect against infection and occurs whether or not the skin was broken. The price we pay for this absolute protection is in swelling. This is because immune system chemicals naturally attract fluid.
Initial action to reduce the amount of swelling was one of the greatest discovers in the initial management of sports injuries. Experts in this field have estimated that an injured athlete treated with the RICE approach (documented below) will recover 50% faster and have less chance of re injury than an athlete who does not follow this approach.
The Rice Method:
Rest. Reduce your activities and take weight off the injured area. Crutches, a cane or other supportive devices are often used. A cane should be used on the opposite side of a hip, leg, knee, ankle, or foot injury, (e.g., if your right foot or ankle is injured, use the cane on your left side.)
Ice. Alternate an Ice pack to the injured area for 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off and repeat this two or three times. This routine should be used four to eight times a day for a period of 72 hours. You can use a cold pack, an ice bag, or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a thin towel. (IMPORTANT: To avoid cold damage, use less time with the ice pack on if the injured area has little padding, see remarks below.)
To avoid cold injury, frostbite, do not leave ice on the skin for more than 20 minutes. Also, smaller areas, like the toes, and areas with little padding, like the sides of the knee, elbow, and foot, require much less time on ice. A good rule of thumb is to check the area under the ice. A feeling of pins and needles, numbness, pale skin, hard or waxy skin are signs of early frostbite. Never go to sleep when using ice. It is also a good idea to set a timer to alert you when it is time to remove the ice.
Compression. Apply even compression (pressure) to the injured area to help reduce swelling. Some devices that can be used are bandage wraps, like an Ace bandage, sports tape, or an air cast. Be sure to check to area to make sure the compression is not too tight. The compression wrap should not cause pins and needles (tingling) or numbness.
Elevation. Place the injured area on a pillow or similar soft surface, at or above the level of your heart. This will help to reduce swelling. Remember that the elevation is only effective if the level of the injured area is at or above the level of the heart. Sitting in a chair with your leg on a short footstool does not do enough to return the fluid to the heart.
The RICE method may also be applied to a chronic re injury, or overuse condition. The use of ice will help reduce the swelling and pain when a flare up occurs. After the swelling has been reduced, the proper management of any chronic condition requires an understanding of why the affected area continues to be problematic. One of the most common reasons is weakened support tissue or damaged muscle. Chronic re injuries can therefore be reduced by limiting or removing the repetitive or exaggerated forces to the injured area while at the same time improving the strength, flexibility, and integrity to the surrounding tissue.
It is always best to seek the advice of a qualified professional who is knowledgeable in both the treatment and prevention of sports injuries. Chiropractors diagnose, evaluate, and administer rehabilitative treatment for many types of sports injuries, especially those involving sprains to tendons and joints, strains to muscles, and non paralyzing injuries to the spine. A chiropractor with specialized training in the treatment of sports injuries can help you to recover from your injury and can also help you avoid future re injury.
Chiropractors diagnose and evaluate sports injury by use of history (how, when, and why it happened) examination, and (if needed) x ray. After the diagnosis and the severity of the injury are determined, an appropriate treatment program will be recommended. This program may involve the use of adjustive procedures and physiotherapy to help reduce swelling and improve the integrity in and around the site of the injury.
In the initial stage of care, your chiropractor may use certain modalities such as ice massage, ultrasound, or galvanic stimulation to reduce the swelling around a joint or in a muscle. Techniques such as passive range of motion may also be applied (a modern technique proven through research studies to decrease swelling and initiate as well as improve healing to an injured area.)
In the later stages of care, the emphasis is generally placed on improving the integrity of the injured tissue through heat, massage, careful mobilization, and stretching. All of these therapies help to remove the chemicals and waste products from within the injured, which would lead to arthritis if left untreated. A strengthening plan, to help you prevent re injuries in the future, may be recommended when the injury is well healed.
Early detection of problems, which could lead to an injury are important to recognize. If you have any of the warning signs below, you should consider contacting a Doctor of Chiropractic for an evaluation.
- Tenderness or swelling in a joint or muscle before or after an activity.
- Numbness or tingling in an extremity.
- Pain during range of motion.
- Reduced range of motion or stiffness in a joint or unusual looseness from a prior injury.
- Weakness in a muscle.
What to do to Help Prevent Sports Injuries:
Stretching. Recent studies suggest that excessive stretching prior to an event is unnecessary; however, stretching the muscles to insure ease of use through the expected range of motion and as a way to warm up the muscle is still highly recommended.
Warm up. Take some time to duplicate parts of the activity, such as a brief jog before a race, rotating the shoulders before pitching a ball, etc.
Ice before use. Recent studies have shown that icing a muscle or joint before warm up actually increases the blood supply to that muscle and joint during the warm up exercises.
Cool down when finished. Take 5 10 minutes to cool down, walk, jog, or do some light exercise before leaving the activity. A properly done cool down will provide your body with the following benefits:
- Remove waste products such as lactic acid from your body.
- Gradually lower your heart rate and respiration.
- Help prevent muscle soreness.
Eating right not only helps you manage your weight but it can also help you to control your cholesterol level as well as help maintain your joints and build healthy muscles. Talk to your chiropractor about a diet program especially suited to your high activity needs.
Although sports injuries will always be inevitable, the proper care and management of both the injury and the athlete can get the athlete back to doing what he or she loves in less time and with less chance of future re injury. Always remember to talk with your Chiropractor before starting any sports or exercise program and if an injury does occur, use the RICE recommendations and call your chiropractor immediately.