Help! - I'm injured

Injury management, recovery and future protection

There can be few things more annoying than suffering a training injury that curtails your activity. An injury can occur at any time and usually when you least expect it. So, if you are fully prepared on how to deal with it should it happen, your training downtime will be minimised.

Being laid up through injury is certainly a testing time but there are many positive steps that you can take from the outset to help your condition, with benefits that include:

  • Reducing tissue damage
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Accelerating healing
  • Maintaining fitness
  • Improving strength at the site of the injury
  • Speeding your return to training

Strike while the iron is hot!
The best treatment for any injury is rapid treatment, as soon as the injury occurs and by acting quickly, you are giving your body the best chance of a quick recovery. The majority of sports or sports-related injuries are classified as ‘soft tissue injuries’, for which the immediate post-injury protocol should be accurate diagnosis and PRICE.

PRICE is an acronym for:

As far as possible, avoid any activity that uses the injured muscle or muscles. If necessary, the injured limb should be immobilised so that there is no opportunity for the injured muscle to be used at all.

Rest is crucial to your recovery. By resting the injured area, you allow the first stages of repair to begin but if you continue to load the injured muscle, further damage may occur to an already weakened structure.

Application of ice to the area will limit blood flow to the injury site, help reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process. A protocol of applying an ice-pack for five minutes on and ten minutes off should be followed as regularly as possible during the first 24 hours after injury. Prompt action post injury can significantly reduce recovery and healing time.

By compressing the area surrounding the injury, swelling is reduced, further accelerating the healing process. This can take the form of an elastic type bandage or compressing an ice pack around the affected area.

Elevating the injured limb will assist in reducing blood flow and fluid to the area, so that inflammation is further reduced and waste fluids within the tissues can flow away.

Avoid the temptation of trying to return to training too early because the No. 1 goal of recovering from injury is to make the injured muscle stronger and more flexible than before the injury occurred. If this goal isn’t achieved, the chance of the injury striking again is very high.

What happens next?
Depending on the severity of the injury, you should initially allow a minimum period of three days recovery for the inflammation to subside. After three days, rehabilitation can begin, following a programme which will include:

Stretching exercises
Stretching should begin gradually, carried out ‘little and often’ on warm muscles, which will gradually stretch the repairing muscle fibres and return the muscle to better then pre-injury levels of flexibility.

Sports massage
A valuable tool to employ with your recovery, a sports therapist will be able to specifically target the damaged tissues, flush out waste products, remove knots and adhesions and align the repairing muscle fibres.

Fitness maintenance training
Whilst the original activity is suspended, alternative sports should be tried to maintain fitness.

For example: to maintain cardiovascular fitness whilst injured, a runner might train in the swimming pool.

Conditioning training
A structured programme of rehabilitation exercises should be followed to strengthen the weakened muscle. The target should be to end the programme with the muscle stronger than before the injury occurred, so that the problem will not recur.

Activity replication training
As recovery continues, the gradual introduction of activities that mimic the movements and loading in the chosen sport can be progressively introduced until the original activity can be resumed.

Return to full activity
The final stage in the recovery process involves building up to pre-injury levels through actually carrying out the activity itself.

For example: a runner running 40 miles per week before injury would gradually build their mileage back to this level, rather than going from nil to full mileage in a single week.

And on and on and on . . .
Finally, once you have returned to full training, it is vitally important that you continue with the conditioning and flexibility exercises that you carried out as part of your rehabilitation. That is your best insurance policy against the injury recurring and ‘Help! – I’m injured’ will be a thing of the past.