This may sound like a moronic article, but you would be surprised how many people out there (a) get injured, (b) have NO idea how to deal with it and what to do, and (c) do the WRONG thing. So, with the risk of sounding like your elementary school teacher or worse yet, your mother, here is what to do when you injure yourself.
- Assess It – Do a quick assessment on yourself and make sure it is not something serious that needs immediate medical attention. If you hurt your knee, ankle, or shoulder for example, and you cannot move it what so ever, or you notice some kind of deformity that is not normal, get it looked at right away. Use common sense. You would not believe how many people I talk to that do the dumbest things when they injure themselves and they always tend to make things worse by not going to a doctor even if there is a huge deformity at the site of the injury. It is always better to err on the side of caution with these things. It is better to know for sure and then move on, then to be guessing and make things worse.
- Get off of it – Whether it is your ankle, knee or even your elbow, wrist or shoulder, stay off of it for the time being. Once you figure out what is wrong or perform your initial assessment, don’t take chances. Keep off and keep it still.
- Ice!! – This is where many people make the big mistake. You should always ice your injury in the beginning. The rule of thumb is to use cold or ice for at least the first 3 days of the injury. After day 3 or 4, you may be able to use heat, but it should not be used before. This rule does not always apply when dealing with chronic injuries that keep flaring up (i.e. tendinosis, tendinitis.) For the most part, you really cant go wrong with ice or cold therapy. You can however make things worse if you apply heat too soon. 20 minutes with ice on that injured body part. Yes, you can put it on your skin regardless of what you school nurse has told you. It is much more effective without the paper towel in between. Another rule of thumb is to always ice after physical activity and heat before if you have one of those lingering injuries that you are just “dealing with.” Remember when in doubt, ice it.
- Support it. – In most cases (not all) wrapping or supporting the part can be a big help. If it is your wrist, ankle, or knee, use an ace wrap and wrap it up for support. This is also a great way to help reduce or minimize the swelling. If you have a back, or rib injury, ALWAYS consult your doctor before wrapping around the ribs or torso in any way. There can be possible complications in those areas. Never wrap too tight either. Just make it snug. If you feel the wrapped part tingling or “falling asleep”, loosen or take off the wrap. Finally, it is probably best NOT to sleep with the wrap on at night.
Things NOT to do (necessarily)
- Stretch it – Too many people are struck with an injury of some sort and think they need to “stretch it out” to make it better. This comes from the old time coaches mentality. You have probably heard one of your coaches yell to stretch it out (between the “rub dirt on it,” or the “suck it up” screams!) Stretching may very well make things worse. In most cases a ligament or tendon is over stretched in the first place causing the injury. Stretching would make it much worse with these scenarios. Leave it alone and let it heal down a few days before you stretch it. Muscle cramps, and spasms, which I don’t really consider injuries are times when stretching is probably indicated.
- Advil it- This is for the people that honestly think that an Advil is some magic little pill that will make everything OK. Taking Advil or any over the counter pain medication may help with the pain in a very small way, and even help to control some inflammation, but the reality is taking these meds wont do much of anything to heal your injury in the short term. I am not saying that you cant take these or that it is a bad idea to do so, but don’t rely on taking an Advil or 3 to cure your ills and get you back in the game immediately.
Injury happens and make sure you know the basics. This list is not complete in the least and is as basic as it can get, but by knowing the basics you can move in the right direction.