Sport is a great way to keep fit and healthy, but occasionally we can become injured. Sometimes, playing our favourite sport can result in damage to bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Identifying the type of injury you have is key to knowing how it might best be treated. Fractures and sprains can be difficult to tell apart because the symptoms are similar. They include tenderness, pain, swelling and bruising. In both cases – fracture or sprain – you may be unable to bear weight or strain on the affected area.
If in doubt, you should consult your Doctor. However, if you're worried you may have a serious injury such as a broken bone, visit your nearest A&E department straightaway.
What are the treatment options for sports injuries?
Fractures need to be immobilised in order to heal, using a cast, sling, splint or boot, depending on where the injury is. For more minor sports injuries, the most common non-medical treatment is the so-called PRICE approach. This comprises:
Protect the area from further injury, by using a support.
Reduce weight or strain on the injury, to prevent further damage and to aid recovery. This means avoiding exercise until it's healed.
Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling and inflammation. Always place the ice pack in a cloth to protect the skin.
Add support, from an elasticated bandage, or a joint support, for the ankle, knee, wrist or elbow.
Raise the injured area so that gravity can draw fluid from it. This will reduce swelling. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you on products that will help you follow the PRICE method.
What are the pain relief options for sports injuries?
If you're in pain, you can consider taking a painkiller, such as paracetamol, or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), like ibuprofen. NSAIDs aren't suitable for everyone, so you should ask your pharmacist if you're uncertain, and make sure you always read the patient information leaflet.
If your pain persists for more than a few days, consult your Doctor as you may require further treatment.
Will therapy help with a sports injury?
Most tendon and muscle injuries respond well to massage therapy or physiotherapy, or a combination of both.
Massaging the damaged area can help to improve blood supply, which may promote healing and help prevents further damage.
Physiotherapy, meanwhile, involves stretching and strengthening exercises to aid healing and to help prevent further injury. Your Doctor may be able to refer you to a physiotherapist.
Will I need surgery for a sports injury?
Sometimes, tendon damage can be serious enough to require reconstructive surgery. This is designed to provide the affected joint with sufficient stability to cope not only with sport, but also day-to-day life. A severely broken bone may also require corrective surgery.
If you're experiencing joint instability following a sports injury, consult your Doctor.
• If you're not sure whether it's a strain or fracture, go to your Doctor. If the pain is very severe, you may need to go to your local Accident and Emergency department
• Use the PRICE approach as soon as possible following your injury
• Make sure you rest and allow your body to heal before returning to your previous level of activity