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What Do You Do After An Injury?

Most people have probably heard the term R.I.C.E. when associated with an injury. What does R.I.C.E. mean?

R = Rest

Resting is one of the most important things things a person can do after an injury because an athlete simply cannot function the way they did before the injury. Rest is also very good for the affected part, to help the body's efforts to heal and clean up the area. When you rest, the body will be able to effectively manage the area usually without complications. In other words, when you are at rest, you are not moving the affected part that could cause further tissue damage in the area. If you create more tissue damage, you create more work for the body to clean up and fix at the injury site. The amount of rest depends on how much damage is present. This is where the an orthopedic provider or an athletic trainer can help.

I = Ice

Ice is also a very important treatment after an injury. Many athletes will automatically use ice, however some do not. Ice provides many physiological changes at an injury site that will help to enhance the healing process. Among these changes are decreased blood flow, decreased swelling, and decreased pain perception. After injury occurs, blood vessels are damaged as well as the cells themselves. When ice is applied, blood vessels will constrict their flow of blood to an area. When this occurs, less fluid is allowed to accumulate, which in turn will decrease the swelling to an area. Finally, the ice will slow the transmission of nerve impulses that would report pain. This means less impulses will reach the body's pain centers and therefore less pain will be felt.

A common practice after injury is for an athlete to put heat on an area. Heat is appropriate at certain times, but not after a new injury. Heat will have the opposite effect as ice--an increase of blood flow. When this occurs it will lead to more bleeding and swelling in the tissue. It is important to use ice for about 72 hours after a new injury occurs. This is typically how long the bleeding will last in the initial healing phases.

C = Compression

Compression is often forgotten about after an injury. However, it is important to prevent or help prevent additional fluid from escaping into tissue spaces. If you sprain your ankle and apply mild compression, it will help to prevent the swelling to move into other areas and keep it more localized. If swelling is allowed to dissipate and move, it will often have an a negative effect on the range of motion of the injured area. When range of motion is limited, the muscles will eventually get weaker and will delay the return to play. Additionally, compression helps with pain control. Compression is easily achieved by loosely placing an elastic bandage around the area. If "pins and needles" or numbness are felt after compression is applied, it is probably too tight. You should re-apply more loosely, but if it still remains tight, keep it off and seek medical advice as soon as possible.

E = Elevation

Last but not least, elevation is used to keep the affected body part above the heart. Elevation will help to avoid some of the negative affects of gravity on the body. Less blood flow will be allowed to accumulate when this occurs. In the long run, using elevation will allow you to regain range of motion more easily. If you suspect a fracture or a broken bone, you should not elevate until you are seen by a provider.

If you have any questions about the information provided above, feel free to contact the athletic trainer or your local provider.

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