5 Tips for Faster Sports Injury Recovery
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5 Tips for Making a Stronger Comeback after Sports Injury

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As an athlete, the last thing you want is an injury to end your season early. From lost time at the gym to sitting on the sidelines, suffering from an injury can cause a number of frustrating “time-outs” in your athletic career. But believe it or not, the road to recovery presents opportunities to not only heal from injury, but to return to the game both physically and mentally stronger than ever. Read on to learn five tips for safely and effectively making a winning comeback after sports injury.

1. Follow the "RICE" Method

In the event of soft tissue injury, such as a sprain, muscle pull or tear, immediate first aid treatment can reduce pain, prevent complications and help you heal faster. The most popular acronym in sports recovery to remember is “RICE,” which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation:

  • Rest – If you show signs of injury, resting and refraining from further physical activity is important to prevent further stress or more serious injury.
  • Ice – Ice the injured area for 20 to 30 minutes between four and eight times a day to reduce bleeding, swelling, pain and muscle spasms.
  • Compression – Apply compression to the injured area in the initial 48 hours after injury to prevent excessive swelling.
  • Elevation – Elevate the injured limb to reduce swelling.  In the case of lower limb injuries, keep the ankle above the hip. For upper limb injuries, use a pillow or sling to elevate the area.

2. Get Treated Immediately

While the "RICE" method for recovery is effective for minor injuries, it won’t treat the underlying issues for more serious conditions. Only a doctor can help you identify the difference between being hurt and suffering from an injury.  For non-emergent injuries, be sure to speak with your primary care provider immediately if you have concerns or your conditions worsen. If your physician is unavailable, visit the nearest urgent care clinic to receive after hour, weekend and holiday care. Getting treated immediately can prevent further injury and help you heal faster.

3. Rehabilitate with Supervision

Even if your pain is gone and your swelling is down, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are fully recovered. Choosing sports physical therapy to rehabilitate after injury will provide you with the guidance and supervision from trained sports medicine professionals to evaluate and treat your condition. Once your rehabilitation is complete, your team of sports physical therapists can continue to work with you on performance enhancement through strengthening and endurance exercises specific to your sport.

4. Understand What Happened

The key to preventing injury in the future is to understand how or why your injury occurred in the first place. A Sports Movement Analysis is a new technology that allows specifically-trained clinicians to use video equipment to capture your movement, evaluate the video frame by frame, measure joint angles and provide detailed feedback instantly. Scheduling a video analysis can help you see the problem in your technique and provide valuable information to correct it. You’ll return to competition sooner and reduce your risk for further injury.

5. Ease Back Into the Game

Once you have successfully recovered from injury, it is important to ease back into your normal training routine. Scale back all forms of vigorous physical activity that could put further strain on the injury, instead focusing on strengthening, stretching and range of motion. With the approval from a doctor, when you are ready to fully return to the game, be sure to implement any technique changes you may have discussed with your rehabilitation team, and wear the appropriate protective gear during practice and game time.

Don't Let Sports Injuries Hold You Back!

Whether you are a competitive athlete or someone who exercises regularly to stay in shape, you understand that accidents and injuries happen. From broken bones to sprains and strains, Sports Medicine of Iowa at UnityPoint Health – Des Moines is here to help athletes, like you, improve performance, recover from injury and prevent future injuries from coming in the way of a winning season ahead.

Use our Find a Doctor tool to locate a sports physical therapist in your area, or call (515) 241-4499 for more information on scheduling a Sports Movement Analysis.