So You’ve Suffered a Sports Injury—Now What?
Maybe it starts with a little twinge you feel in the back of your leg as you change directions on the tennis court. Or a giant yelp of pain after an awkward stumble on the soccer pitch twists and sprains your ankle.
Of course, it doesn’t have to happen in an instant. Some sports injuries emerge slowly over time. Every morning when you get out of bed, your heel hurts a little more. And although you used to be able to pack in a five-mile run before breakfast, now your feet are aching too much to continue just a few blocks from home.
Sports injuries come in all shapes and sizes, from nagging pain to serious trauma. How you deal with them not only determines how long you’ll be in pain and how much your athletic performance will be limited, but also how likely you are to face long-term complications like arthritis, ankle instability, or frequent re-injury.
Obviously, if your injury is an acute trauma—say, a broken ankle—you’re not going to be doing much walking, let alone playing, after the incident. Those with chronic and nagging pain, however, are frequently tempted to ignore it, keep playing, and hope it goes away.
Don’t make that mistake! If it hurts, or limiting what you can do on a field, it needs attention. Listen to your body.
The first order of business if there is a serious trauma—something like a broken bone or bad sprain—is to stop the bleeding and get to the emergency room as quickly as possible. For chronic injuries, you should follow the RICE protocol:
- Rest. Stop playing, or performing any activities that cause discomfort. You only risk worsening the injury.
- Ice. Cold therapy reduces swelling and internal bleeding and dulls pain. Just be sure that you aren’t applying ice directly to the skin (keep it wrapped in a thin cloth or towel), and you aren’t icing an injury for more than about 15 minutes at a time, no more than once per hour.
- Compression. As with ice, this reduces swelling and accelerates healing. Elastic bandages, compression sleeves, even wrapped cloth will do here. The injury should be wrapped firmly, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation.
- Elevation. Keep the injured foot elevated as much and as often as possible. This is another way to control swelling and make it easier for the blood to make its way back to the heart. Prop it up above heart level when you sleep.
There’s one other important component here—you should contact a foot specialist like Dr. Tom Truong for follow-up evaluation and care.
Treating Your Sports Injury
At the Kansas Foot Center, we have many treatment options at several levels of care. This allows us to develop an appropriate treatment plan that makes sense for you individually, whether you’re a recreational runner or competitive athlete.
We start with a thorough examination and diagnosis of your problem. This may include X-rays or other testing. It’s important to get this part right, because often very different types of sports injuries can present very similar symptoms, or even “hide” one another. For example, it isn’t always easy to tell whether an ankle is broken, or simply has a very bad sprain. But a broken ankle demands extra protection and attention.
Basic Care Options
Traditional care options for sports injuries may include the following. Obviously, the nature of your injury will determine which of these may be necessary or appropriate:
- Taking time off from physical activity and allowing the soft tissue swelling and pain to heal.
- Immobilizing an at-risk bone or ankle via a cast, walking boot, or special shoe for additional protection during the healing process.
- Stretches and exercises to relax a tight or swollen tendon or muscle, as well as for rehabilitation after the injury heals.
- Wearing a prefabricated or custom orthotic inside your shoes to cushion, support, and reposition your feet.
- Surgery may be necessary to repair or reset a broken bone or connective tissues that have sustained heavy damage—for example, an Achilles tendon tear.
Advanced Treatments for High Performance Athletes
For athletes looking to recover and return to their teams as quickly as possible, the prospect of waiting several weeks for a soft tissue injury to heal (or worse, getting shut down for several months after surgery) doesn’t sound very appealing.
Although these two technologies work in different ways (and feel free to learn more about them by clicking the links above), the key takeaway is that both are effective tools for stimulating circulation, cellular growth, and repair. In short, they help your body do a better job of repairing itself. Incorporating them into a treatment and/or rehab plan can drastically reduce the total recovery time.
We’ll say it again—while we know how much you love to play, delaying treatment is playing with fire. It’s better to get your injury checked out and treated properly, so you can get back in the game safely, quickly, and at full speed.
To schedule your appointment with the Kansas Foot Center in Wichita, give us a call today at (866) 222-5177.