If you suffer an injury such as a sprain, strain or muscle tear, immediate first
aid can prevent complications and help you heal faster.
When an injury
occurs, the damaged area may bruise, swell or bleed – externally or internally –
and become inflamed. Healing occurs as the damaged tissue is replaced by
collagen, better known as scar tissue. In most cases, the tissue must be
completely repaired before you can return to sports.
One of the most
important acronyms to remember if you suffer a sports injury is PRICE-M:
Protect, rest, ice, compression, elevation and medication.
six immediate first-aid measures can relieve pain, limit swelling and protect
the injured tissue, all of which speed up the healing process.P
Protect the area from further injury
. Leave the field using an appropriate
method of transport to prevent further damage. Seek medical
If you move the injured body part, it will increase blood
flow to the injury site, which may cause the blood clot to dislodge, and too
much bleeding may cause even more tissue damage.R
– Rest only from
activities that aggravate the condition
. The first 24- 48 hours after the injury
is considered a critical treatment period, and activities must to be curtailed.
Resting is important immediately after injury for two reasons. First, it is
vital to protect the injured muscle, tendon, ligament or other tissue from
further injury. Second, your body needs to rest so it has the energy to heal
But total rest is poor treatment! Rest means continuing
physical activity that does not aggravate the pathological condition, but at the
same time ensures that you maintain general physiological conditioning while
your injury heals.I
– Ice packs to limit pain and swelling
. Cold packs,
a plastic bag filled with crushed ice in a towel or even a bag of frozen peas
should be applied to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight
times per day. An ice massage is another extremely effective way to direct cold
to the injured tissue.
Cold provides short-term pain relief.
also limits swelling by reducing blood flow to the injured area. Keep in mind,
though, that you should never leave ice on an injury for more than 20 minutes at
a time. Longer exposure can damage your skin.C
– Compression of the
injured body part
. Compression helps limit and reduce swelling, which speeds up
the healing process. Some people also experience pain relief from
An easy way to compress the area of the injury is to wrap an
ACE bandage, air cast or splint around the swollen part. The wrap should be
snug, but should not cut off circulation to the extremity. If the wrap feels too
tight, remove the bandage and re-wrap the area so the bandage is a little
– Elevation at or above your heart
. For lower extremity
injuries – such as a knee or ankle – elevating the injured body part reduces
swelling. This is most effective when elevated at or above the level of your
heart. For example, if you injure an ankle, try lying on your bed with your foot
propped on one or two pillows.M
– Medication and anti-inflammatory
. Medication should be administered by an expert due to possible
contraindications or side effects.
In the first 48-72 hours following an
injury, the following should be avoided: H
– Heat: Saunas, spas, hot water
bottles, hot showers and baths can increase bleeding.A
Alcoholic drinks can increase swelling.R
– Running: Running or
exercising too soon can make the injury worse.M
– Massage: Massages or
heat rubs increase swelling and bleeding, if they’re given within two to three
days after the injury was sustained.
After a day or two of PRICE-M, many
sprains, strains or other injuries will begin to heal. If your pain or swelling
does not decrease after 48 hours, make an appointment to see your primary care
physician or local sports physical therapist, depending upon the severity of
Once the healing process has begun, very light massage may
improve the function of forming scar tissue, cut healing time and reduce the
possibility of injury recurrence.
Gentle stretching can begin once all
swelling has subsided. Try to work the entire range of motion of the injured
joint or muscle, but be extremely careful not to force a stretch, or you may
re-injure the area. Remember that a stretch should never cause pain.
may be helpful once the injury moves out of the acute phase and swelling and
bleeding has stopped.
Moist heat will increase blood supply to the
damaged area and promote healing.
Finally, after the injury has healed,
strengthening exercises can begin. Start with easy weights and use good
form.Yonatan Kaplan, PT PhD (Candidate), is the director of the
Jerusalem Sports Medicine Institute at the Hebrew University’s Lerner Sports
Center. He can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or at (054) 463-9463.