P.R.I.C.E – First Aid For Sports Injuries
Accidents can happen while participating in sports. Although safety management strategies are implemented to prevent occurrence and severity of these injuries, one wrong step can lead to sudden injury. Usually, sports related injuries involve damage to soft tissues and muscles such as strains, sprains and torn muscles. When this happens, you should be ready to respond promptly for an optimal outcome. Musculoskeletal injuries require appropriate treatment during the first 72 hours after the injury. Skills gained from effective first aid training can help manage and prevent more injuries.
What is P.R.I.C.E?
P.R.I.C.E stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. It is the principle used for the first aid treatment of soft tissue injuries and some chronic injuries that lead to inflammation. Take note, however, that severe or serious musculoskeletal injuries and suspected fractures should be seen by a healthcare provider.
Ideally, the initial goal of first aid treatment for sports injury is to stop activity and prevent further damage or injury to the affected body parts. Some of the most common sports related injuries happen suddenly and are known as acute injury. They often present symptoms that include pain, inflammation and immobility of the affected area.
The injured body part should be put to complete rest for the following 24 to 48 hours after the injury. Depending on the type and severity of the injury, the area may be immobilized using splint, brace or cast. This will not only avoid further injury, it also helps slow down bleeding and hasten healing of injured tissues.
Immediately apply ice pack over the injured body part. Keep a thin cloth or plastic bag between the skin and the ice to prevent burning the skin. Cold compress helps minimize swelling and pain. If there are no ice packs available, cold water or frozen vegetables may be used instead.
Never leave the ice pack over the victim’s skin for a prolonged period of time (no longer than 20 minutes at a time). Keep checking the skin while the ice pack is on to avoid causing burns. Continue applying ice at regular intervals during the next 24 to 48 hours (10-20 minutes at a time for every 2 hours).
For the succeeding days to weeks, alternating warm and cold compress may be used. Gradually reduce the amount of time for cold compress while increasing the time for warm compress.
Apply bandage or strapping/taping immediately after the injury or after the initial application of ice. Compression bandage helps restrict movement of the area at the same time constricting it to reduce swelling. The compression should fit snugly but not too tight that it constricts the blood vessels. It should allow some swelling, so be sure to check the tightness of the bandage frequently.
Compression can be applied during the first few days after injury, with positive results in preventing inflammation and hastening recovery.
Elevate the injured area above the level of the heart. Gravity helps pull down the blood thereby reducing swelling. Elevation is an essential first aid for acute muscular injuries and should be continued for the succeeding days for optimal effects.
Regardless of the injury you have sustained, it is important that you see a healthcare provider for appropriate medical treatment.