How a sports injury is cared for will ultimately determine how well it heals. The correct sports injury treatment is absolutely necessary, or else the player risks their injury not healing properly. It is important that athletes know when to see a doctor and what to expect when they are there.
When To See a Doctor
Whenever an athlete is injured, they should be evaluated. If they are having pain that gets worse with activity, referred to as an upward crescendo, that is accompanied by limping, swelling, or range of motion loss, they need to see a doctor as soon as they are able. The injury symptoms all athletes should be on the lookout for include, swelling, intense pain, stiffness, numbness, intense tenderness, and loss of flexibility. These symptoms should be taken seriously and evaluated as soon as possible.
The Difference Between Chronic Pain and Soreness
Many athletes are not aware of the difference between chronic pain and soreness, but it is crucial to know this difference. Soreness is temporary. It often lasts a few days to up to a week. Chronic pain is long-lasting. It lasts for at least a few months, but most often longer. Chronic pain is also more difficult to effectively treat. If an athlete has a sore shoulder, seeing a doctor right away is not always necessary, but if the pain does not go away, does not lessen, or gets worse, seeing a doctor is necessary. A good general rule of thumb is if the pain lasts for more than a week and/or gets worse, the athlete needs to have a doctor evaluate the pain. Another reason to have pain evaluated is when it is not only worse after activity, but when the pain is noticeable when doing daily activities and waking up as well.
What to do After Suspecting an Injury
Immediately after suspecting an injury, the athlete must stop playing. They must stop playing and be evaluated by a doctor. When injuries are particularly complicated or severe, a doctor who specializes in sports medicine should be seen.
What to Expect When Seeing a Doctor
The doctor will first ask the patient about how the injury occurred so they can get an idea of what type of injury exists and the extent of it. They will then perform some tests to confirm their diagnosis. They will use MRI and x-rays to see how bad the injury is. MRI’s are also useful for diagnosing and evaluating soft tissue injuries.
Once the injury is diagnosed and its extent is determined, conservative treatment methods will be done to help decrease swelling, such as icing the injured area and rest. Anti-inflammatory medications and pain medications can be prescribed for pain. Casts, splints, bandage wraps, and surgery may also be necessary depending on the injury and how bad it is.
Athletes will then be told to do one of three things:
- Refrain from playing until their doctor clears them so that they can fully heal and recover.
- Go through physical therapy.
- Use a protective device if allowed to play.
In many cases, two out of these three things are used. Injured athletes who are at risk for another injury or further injury will not be allowed to play while they are recovering. Once their doctor determines they have recovered, they will often be permitted to get back into the game, however, some athletes will have restrictions.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2010). Sports Injuries. Retrieved on July 10, 2010 from the National Institute of Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/sports_injuries/
Sports Injury Clinic. (2010). Virtual Sports Injury Clinic. Retrieved on July 10, 2010 from the Sports Injury Clinic: https://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/
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