woman holding calf and ankle sprain after running

How to prevent and manage sports injuries

Sports-related injuries affect both elite athletes as well as amateur and youth competitors. These injuries tend to stem from minor trauma to muscles, ligaments, and/or tendons during or after athletic events.

Sports injuries are unpredictable, but assessment and treatment are important to recovery and getting back in the game. Here’s a look at how athletic/sports-related injuries should be treated when they occur:

Use the “ABCDE” method for addressing an injured person’s conditions

At the time of the injury, a nearby medical team should assess for consciousness and extremity motion. An evaluation of the athlete should start with a standard “ABCDE” protocol for whomever can provide first aid or similar treatment:

  • AIR: The first step in this process is the checking if air is moving in and out stabilizing the neck and spine in the neutral position.
  • BREATHING: Check the injured person’s breathing for obstruction, respiratory rate, labored breathing, and uneven chest rise.
  • CIRCULATION: Evaluate a person’s ability to circulate blood by finding a pulse or by checking a different location.
  • DISABILITY: Determine the person’s neurological ability including consciousness and alertness.
  • EXPOSURE and ENVIRONMENT: Finally, check the injury as well as the current location and assess if the environment is a danger to the injured athlete’s condition. Also make sure to limit exposure to elements like the cold or wind.

How atheletes and patients can perform self-care for their injuries:

Self-treatment: For some minor injuries, an athlete can perform self-treatment to lower pain and manage an injured limb.

Injured athletes could try the P.R.I.C.E method (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to self-treat an injury ASAP. An athlete should also try and protect injured tissues by applying a brace, for example, and by resting the injured limb frequently. Compression and gentle pressure can help to decrease swelling. Elevation limits blood flow to the injured area, helping to minimize swelling, pain, and discomfort.

Medication: Certain forms of medication can help to alleviate symptoms of athletic/sport injuries. Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen can be used to reduce pain and inflammation if taken as directed.

Rehabilitation: An important part of treating sports injury is rehabilitation. It can involve  routine reconditioning treatment and personalized, targeted exercises to help you return to pre-injury or normal function.

How athletic/sports injuries are assessed and treated is key to recovery and getting back to top performance. Initial assessment and the course of treatment should not be short-changed if an athlete is to return to top form.