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24 Hours After Sports Injury

A sports injury is an injury occurring to a sports person/athlete, or during a sporting activity.

There are many reasons for sports injuries:

  • Poor fitness / lack of training
  • Overtraining
  • Uneven ground / altered surfaces
  • Poor protective clothing or footwear
  • Poor equipment
  • Poor technique
  • Poor nutrition / fluid intake

The most common injuries are ligament tears (sprains), muscle tears (strains), and cartilage tears.

Following an injury, there is an internal inflammatory reaction. This is necessary for the healing process to commence. Bleeding occurs in the damaged structures, but there is also an increase in the blood flow in the surrounding blood vessels. This results in fluid being forced out of the vessels into the surrounding tissue. This is the swelling or oedema that accompanies most injuries and will form within the first 24 hours after injury, sometimes immediately, depending on the structures involved and the severity of the injury.

This initial inflammation is actually beneficial. The increased fluid dilutes the toxins produced by the damage. The increased blood flow allows for the toxins to be removed from the site quickly, and for the healing nutrients and oxygen to reach the site in order to start the next phase, which is healing and repair.

It is vital that any injury is managed correctly within the initial 24 hours, in order that the above processes can occur with maximum efficiency and speed. The following is a guideline to take. However, if there is any doubt as to what the injury is, it should be checked out in casualty.

P Protect the injury ASAP. Try not to move it.

R Rest – avoid weightbearing on the injury or using the injured part.

I Ice – apply cold to the injury for the first 24-72 hours. This limits the excess bleeding into the area, and subsequently reduces the swelling. Ice packs / gel packs / frozen veg should be wrapped in a damp towel to avoid ice burns to the skin. The pack to stay on for no more than 15 minutes at a time, but can be applied regularly throughout the day.

C Compression – an evenly wrapped bandage/tubigrip will restrict the swelling. It may be required for longer than 24 hours, but the initial period is the crucial stage.

E Elevation – the injured part should be raised in order to help drain the excess fluid back into the vessels. For lower limb injuries, elevation should be more than the hip; for upper limb, it should be above the heart.

Medical advice should be sought following injury. This is to ensure that normal movement, strength and function are restored ASAP, and to avoid further damage and weakness through neglect.

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