Treating sports and exercise injuries

Special to the Herald-Leader,Dr. Brennan RoyaltyMarch 15, 2013 

Dr. Brennan Royalty of Saint Joseph Primary Care Associates, part of KentuckyOne Health. Photo provided


The warmer temperatures of spring bring the start of a new sports season for many local children and adults. It's also a perfect time for all of us to get more active.

With any sport or physical activity, injuries can occur. While most are minor, it can be difficult to know when to seek immediate medical attention, such as an emergency room visit, and when your physician can treat you during a regular office visit.

Injuries, such as a strain or sprain, may be minor and can be evaluated and treated by your primary care physician. Some injuries, however, are more severe and require immediate medical attention. Here are some tips to help you know when you should head to the nearest emergency room:

■ If there is a deformity in a joint or bone, if it is crooked or feels out of place.

■ If a fracture is open, often called a compound fracture, where the skin is broken and bone is visible. These types of fractures are generally severe and have an increased risk for infection.

■ For lower-body injuries, if you cannot bear weight on the injured bone or joint.

■ If you felt a pop, or others near you at the time of the injury heard a pop. That "pop" can be a sign of a significant soft tissue or bone injury.

Among the most common sports injuries are sprains to the ankle or knee. A sprain is a stretch or tear of the ligament. If you have bruising, swelling and pain, but can put weight on the bone or joint, you may have a sprain. Make an appointment with your physician for further examination and begin treating the injury with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE):

Rest: Reduce exercise and activities as needed.

Ice: Apply an ice pack to the injured area for no more than 20 minutes, about four to eight times a day.

Compression: Compression using elastic wraps, air casts or splints may help reduce swelling. Ask your health care provider for advice on which one to use.

Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling.

Follow these four steps after injury and continue for about 48 hours. After a sprain, the injured joint should be exercised again soon to avoid stiffness or muscle atrophy.

To prevent injuries, warm up before exercising, use good equipment and be wary of playing multiple games in a row — fatigue causes individuals to be at a higher risk for injuries. To avoid re-injury, follow the advice of your care provider. Don't return to activity before recommended.

There can be an unfortunate emphasis to tough it out or endure pain in order to minimize time away from sports or exercise. However, the sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can heal and get back to doing what you love.

Dr. Brennan Royalty is with Saint Joseph Primary Care Associates, part of KentuckyOne Health.

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