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First Aid FAQ

Sprains and Treatment

A sprain is an injury to a ligament, and typically involves stretching a ligament too far from its normal position. A ligament is a thick, tough, fibrous tissue that connects bones together. Most commonly injured ligaments include the ankle, knee and wrist. The severity of a sprain is divided into three grades:

  • Grade 1: Involves some stretching or minor tearing of a ligament. In this case, the joint remains stable. Symptoms include mild joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Some athletes may find it difficult to apply pressure to the joint.
  • Grade 2: Involves moderate tearing of a ligament. In this case, the joint is somewhat unstable. Symptoms include moderate to severe pain, difficulty applying pressure to the joint, joint swelling, joint stiffness and minor bruising.
  • Grade 3: Involves a total rupture of a ligament and gross instability of the joint. Symptoms include severe pain, joint swelling and extensive bruising.

Treatment of sprains varies by the severity and location of the sprain. Typically, grade 1 and low-grade 2 sprains are treated by using the R.I.C.E. treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). For grade 2 and grade 3 sprains, seek professional medical attention.

Strains and Treatment

A strain is an injury, most commonly overstretching or tearing, to a muscle or tendon. Muscles attach on each side of a joint by thick bands of fibrous tissue called tendons. Muscles allow movement throughout the body. Damage may occur in three ways:

  • Muscle can tear
  • Muscle and tendon blend can tear
  • Tendon can partially tear or completely rupture

Treatment of strains varies by the severity of the strain. Ice treatment is most commonly used for acute strains. Ice can help minimize swelling around the injury. If pain, loss of function or lack of strength in the joint continue, seek professional medical attention.

Heat Illness/Stroke and Prevention

Exertional heat illness, even heat stroke, can be life-threatening for athletes. Yet it is totally preventable. To prevent heat illness:

  • Drink 12 — 16 ounces of water one half to one hour before physical activity
  • Drink eight ounces of water for every half hour exposed to hot sun. If possible, drink eight to 12 ounces of beverages high in electrolytes each hour (i.e., Gatorade)
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, as these worsen the effects heat has on your body
  • Heat loss is greatest from the head. Allow time to cool down by removing head gear when not engaged in physical activity
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity on hot days (or opt for an air conditioned environment)
  • ear weather-appropriate clothing

Muscle spasms/cramps, headache, upset stomach or vomiting and dizziness are all early warning signs of heat illness. At the first signs of heat illness, remove headgear (if applicable), drink fluids and find shade from the sun. If symptoms continue, seek professional medical attention.

Muscle Injury Prevention

Stretching and warm-ups before any type of exercise can significantly decrease the risk of muscle injuries:

  • Jog for five minutes to increase blood flow to muscles
  • Stretch each major muscle group for one to two minutes
  • Complete a few body weight exercises (i.e., push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, etc.)

Note: Neck rolls and double leg raises are NOT recommended as these can cause neck and/or lower back injuries.

First Aid for Acute Injuries

Immediately after a sports-related injury, it is essential to check that there is no immediate environmental danger that could potentially harm the injured athlete. Then determine the following:

  • Is the patient conscious and responsive?
  • Can the patient breathe adequately? Are airways clear and unobstructed?
  • Is the patient’s circulation adequate?

Administering the R.I.C.E. treatment can help comfort the patient, lessen pain and reduce swelling:

  • Rest — provide crutches or slings, if necessary
  • Ice — apply an ice pack on the injury for 20 to 30 minutes, three times per day for the first 72 hours
  • Compression — wrap the injury, if possible, with an ace wrap
  • Elevation — arm injuries should be elevated above the heart; leg injuries should be elevated above the hips

As needed for pain, and to further reduce swelling or inflammation, take ibuprofen or naproxen as directed. If pain or swelling increases, or if injured area is not functional, seek professional medical attention.

Concussions and Diagnosis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a concussion as a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head that can change the way a brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Immediately following a head injury:

  • Check athlete’s memory for details on how the injury happened
  • Ask about headache, light headedness and orientation (ask such questions as, “What day is it?”, “Where are you?” and “Who are you?”)
  • Give the athlete three simple things to remember (i.e., a single-digit number, a basic object and a primary color). Ask the athlete to repeat these items to you after five minutes

Upper Extremity Injuries and Evaluations

Immediately after an injury to an athlete’s upper body, arm(s) or shoulder(s), use the following tips to evaluate whether or not professional medical attention is needed:

  • Determine if there is any numbness, tingling and/or changes in sensation in the injured joint
  • Check grip strength; check for pain and strength when pulling up and pushing down on hands or arms
  • Hold arms straight in front and to the side; check for pain or discomfort when pushing down on arms
  • For wrist injuries, rotate the wrist from palm facing down to palm facing up (if the athlete experience increased pain, there is a possibility of a wrist fracture)

Lower Joint Injuries and Evaluations

Immediately after an injury to an athlete’s lower body, conduct the following physical test. If the athlete can perform these activities with minimal or no pain, the athlete has a very minor injury and can continue playing. If these activities cause any pain or discomfort, seek professional medical attention.

  • Determine if there is any numbness, tingling and/or changes in sensation in the injured joint
  • Stand on the injured leg only, maintain balance and complete a single-legged squat
  • Standing again on the injured leg alone, complete three toe raises
  • If the above activities don’t cause pain or discomfort, jog 30 yards and sprint back
  • If jogging doesn’t cause pain or discomfort, complete three zig zags (three steps then cut left or right)

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact us.


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