This post is sponsored by Bluefin Sport, a specialist team at Bluefin Insurance Services offering sports insurance solutions and risk management advice.
One of the most annoying things about a sports injury is its potential to knock your well-laid plans off course. That training regime you’ve been working on, the triathlon marked on your calendar, the upcoming promotion play-offs: out of the blue, you pick up a strain, sprain or knock and your hard work suddenly seems like a waste of time.
There are two reactions to injury that you should try and avoid: throwing in the towel completely or else trying to do too much, too soon. Yes, you want to get back in the game; but you also want to come back strong, fit and at the time that’s right. With this in mind, here are 5 tips for getting back on track.
For most athletes, muscle strains and tendon or ligament sprains are occupational hazards. But just because they are common, it doesn’t mean that they should be ignored or brushed aside. The starting point for swift, strong recovery from minor soft tissue injuries is to follow the PRICE therapy:
Protect the site of injury with a support.
Rest by stepping away from the game and from training. Avoid activity for the first two to three days after injury.
Ice should be wrapped in a damp towel and applied to the injured area for 15-20 minutes at a time, every two to three hours throughout the day.
Compression: an elasticated bandage applied snugly (but not too tightly) to the injured area can help to reduce the chances of further swelling.
Elevation: keeping a sprained joint elevated and supported above heart level can also help to reduce swelling.
Recognise when it’s time to seek a medical opinion
If the injury is causing moderate to severe pain or if you are not seeing any improvement from a seemingly minor knock after a couple of days, it’s time to consult with your GP. Trying to ‘run off the pain’, masking it with painkillers or relying on self-diagnosis could prolong your recovery or cause you to follow a wrong course of treatment and rehabilitation.
With a joint sprain, for instance, keeping it moving with a range of exercises can aid the healing process for minor injuries. For more severe sprains however, a period of immobilisation may be the best way forward. Your doctor should be able to offer the most appropriate course of action for your particular injury and will refer you for further investigations where needed.
Nutrition: keep up the good work
Assuming you were following a healthy, balanced diet before the injury, then it’s a case of keeping up the good work while you recover. While team training sessions and matches may be off the agenda, it’s obviously important not to replace them with junk food binge sessions. But neither is this the right time for a crash diet for fear of gaining weight: a steady supply of nutrients is vital for healing.
Protein from lean meats, nuts and low fat dairy can aid with tissue repair, as can Vitamin C. Omega-3 fish oils have an anti-inflammatory effect, as do the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables. Research also suggests that alcohol may slow recovery from soft tissue damage so is best avoided.
Focus on tailored rehab
For exercise-based rehab routines, it’s almost always a case of little and often. Your doctor or physio should be able to give you a step-by-step rehab programme suitable for your particular injury, typically consisting of a combination of stretches and exercises. Pace yourself and do not be tempted to suddenly ramp up the routine in an attempt to speed up recovery.
Learn from what happened
Was the injury sheer bad luck – or was there something behind it? Underlying causes could include an unsuitable training regime or simple over-exertion, both of which can make you more prone to injury. It helps your confidence if you can identify the factors that led to the accident and address them. This way, you can return to your sport knowing that the chances of the same thing happening again have been reduced.
Are your club and athletes getting the protection they deserve in the event of injury? Check out the resources available from Bluefin Sport for cover, support and tips on risk management geared to clubs of all sizes.