How do I treat a sports injury?

R.I.C.E.: Good for What Ails You

Everything was going great--the team was ahead, the championship was in the bag, a great meal was waiting at home. Then your foot found an opponent's shoe and next thing you know you're on your rear with a throbbing ankle. What should you do now?

Treating sports injuries begins and ends with the acronym R.I.C.E., which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Here are the steps:

  1. Rest- Stop whatever it was you were doing immediately. Try to stay off the involved area and avoid using it for the first day or so after injury.
  2. Ice- Put an ice pack, towel or t-shirt filled with ice, cold compress, or bag of frozen peas (they work great and the pieces are small, so they conform to any body part easily) on the injured area for at least 15 or 20 minutes. Avoid getting it too cold (and potentially causing frostbite) by placing a thin layer of towel or cloth between the ice and the skin
  3. Compression- Wrap the ice on, and when the ice is off keep an elastic wrap on the area, binding it from the far end toward the body (helping any swelling get pumped back into the circulatory system). The compression wrap should be snug, but not so tight that the farthest points in the extremity (for example, the fingers or toes) get cold or numb.
  4. Elevation- Try to keep the injured area up above the level of the heart. This will also help reduce swelling and assist in getting excess fluid pumped back to the heart.
This home-spun approach can begin as soon as the injury occurs, right on the court or field, and should continue at home for the first 2-48 hours after injury. The idea is to slow down the inflammatory process. After the first day or two of using R.I.C.E., see a doctor if the situation doesn't start to resolve on its own.

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