Sports Injury Management – Ready, steady, ouch? Sports injuries can happen to anyone, anytime. Here’s how to best deal with them for a speedy recovery.

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What You Should Know about Sports Injuries

Getting active has a lot of benefits for your health to offer.

Sometimes – particularly when people overdo it or don‘t properly train or warm up – these benefits can come at a price: sports injuries.

The term sports injury, in the broadest sense, refers to the kinds of injuries that most commonly occur during sports or exercise. Some sports injuries result from accidents; others are due to poor training practices, improper equipment, lack of conditioning, or insufficient warmup and stretching.

Although virtually any part of your body can be injured during sports or exercise, the term is usually reserved for injuries that involve the musculoskeletal system, which includes the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons.


Fortunately, even though there are acute or chronic cases, most sports injuries, especially those due to adaptational processes or instabilities, can be treated effectively, and mostly you will be able to return to your previous satisfying level of physical activity after an injury. Even better, many sports injuries can be prevented if you take the proper precautions.

Read more of our Tips for Preventing Sports Injures.

Common Ligament Injuries

Ligaments are the fibrous, slightly stretchy connective tissues that hold one bone to another in the body. Because their function is stabilising the joint so that the bones move in the proper alignment. They are highly susceptible to injury. They also control the range of motion of a joint. They are what prevents your elbow from bending backwards, but also help to perform the complex coordinated activities needed for sport.

Ligaments are made of dense connective tissue consisting of a protein substance called collagen. The organisation of collagen fibres gives the ligament its tensile strength.
Another function of ligaments is to provide proprioceptive input to the brain that allows a person to know what position the joints are in, without having to look.

How does ligament injury occur?
A great deal of force is required to damage ligaments. In a collision sport like football this is easily done by opposition players or when a player catches his foot in the turf and his whole body weight goes over one joint. This force then produces the structural damage to the joint capsule and ligaments, which is known as a ligament sprain.

Knee ligament injuries are the most common ligament injuries.


  • Twisting your knee
  • Getting hit on the knee
  • Extending the knee too far
  • Jumping and landing on a flexed knee
  • Stopping suddenly when running
  • Suddenly shifting weight from one leg to the other

Symptoms – in general: 

  • Pain, often sudden and severe
  • A loud pop or snap during the injury
  • Swelling
  • A feeling of looseness in the joint
  • Inability to put weight on the point without pain
Find out more about knee injuries here.

Common Ligament Injuries:

  • Ankle sprains
  • Anterior talofibular ligament injury (in the ankle joint).
  • Anterior cruciate ligament or ACL injury (located at the back of the knee).
  • Lateral collateral ligament or LCL injury (located on the outer side of the knee).

Ligament Injury Symptoms:

  • Tender or slightly painful joints when weight is placed on them
  • Swelling
  • Pain

Sprains are characterized as mild, moderate and severe. The severity of the injury will depend on the extent of the injury (whether a tear is partial or complete) and the number of ligaments involved. A mild sprain results when a ligament is stretched or slightly torn.



Risk Factors for Sports Injury

Several factors can make it more likely that you will have a muscle strain in your leg, including:

  1. Muscle tightness. Tight muscles are vulnerable to strain. Daily stretching exercises will reduce athletes’ risk of muscle tightness.
  2. You are not in shape. Unexercised, weak muscles are less able to withstand the stress of exercise - and are therefore more prone to injury. Do not go over your limit when running. Take it slow.
  3. Muscle imbalance. Is one muscle group much stronger than its opposing muscle group? Then this imbalance can lead to a strain. This frequently happens with the hamstring muscles, which may become fatigued faster than other stronger calf muscles.
  4. Muscle fatigue. Fatigue reduces the energy-absorbing capabilities of muscles, making them more susceptible to injury.

Sports Injury Management - RICER

Know-how: The R.I.C.E.R. Rule

Whether it’s a sprain or a twist, applying R.I.C.E.R. will help as a first aid measure.

The R.I.C.E.R. rule (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Referral) will help with sprains, minor bruises, muscle soreness, and painful movement.

What it is: R.I.C.E.R. is the golden standard and recommended formula for recovering from injury.

What it does: It prevents further injury to the damaged body part, immediately after the injury. If applied right away and correctly, R.I.C.E.R. can help to greatly reduce the recovery time.

Act fast: The most important time frame in treating acute sports injuries is in the first 24-48 hours after they have occurred. Soft tissue damage happens, for example, when a muscle tears, or blood vessels rupture which will lead to the injured body part beginning to swell. The increase in blood volume in the area can lead to more swelling and oedema, which should be prevented.

R.I.C.E.R. step by step:

R.I.C.E.R. works so well because each component functions to help limit swelling and decrease injury pain.

Rest. Rest is the first line of action for any sports injury. It prevents from hurting or damaging the joint or injured body part further. Avoid movement as much as possible to limit further injury. This does not only refer to resting immediately from activity after the injury, but also for a period of time following it. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about the recommended time frame.

Ice. Cooling the tissue can help reduce pain, swelling and internal bleeding. You can conveniently cool the injured body part using a cold pack or Elastoplast Sport Cold Spray. Do not apply the cold pack directly to the skin, especially if the skin is grazed (also, do not use the spray in that case), but wrap it into a towel and place it onto the injured area. Leave it in place for approximately 15-20 minutes, not more. Then reapply it after a few hours.

Compression. Wearing a stabilising brace, tape or bandage will prevent additional swelling. Make sure that the bandage is not too tight.

Elastoplast’s Crepe Bandage can provide support following strains and sprains, with light compression to reduce swelling.

Elevation. Elevating the injured body part, i.e. with a pillow, will help to reduce bleeding and swelling, as gravity will help to draw the fluid away from the injured area. Decreasing the swelling can also decrease pain. In lower limb injuries, you should try to keep the ankle above the level of the hip. Upper limb injuries can be elevated by use of a pillow or sling. For the first 48 hours try to elevate the injured limb for as long as possible.

Referral. This stands for consulting your doctor or a physiotherapist. Only a specialist can make a precise diagnosis and arrange for ongoing care and treatment.

Also, if you are unsure about the type of injury you might have, go and see a doctor!

Please keep in mind that the advice given on this page is no substitute for a medical examination and diagnosis.

Tips to Prevent Sports Injuries

How to prevent re-injury:

Anyone who has been injured before will know that the best cure is prevention. There is some general advice that you can follow in order to eliminate some risk factors.

Also, make sure an old injury has completely recovered before working out again. If needed, consult your doctor or physiotherapist first before you start again.

Tips for prevention

  1. Warm up properly. Do not start “cold”. Do some simple muscular exercises after you have been running or exercising for a while (see our video library) and stretch your arms and legs until you loosen up.
  2. Use the right equipment. Make sure your shoes are comfortable, fit well and you are wearing warm, dry clothing and well fitting socks. If you need protection, or if you have weak bones, make sure ankles and knees are well protected by strapping tape or bandages.
  3. After an injury or during recovery: Do not do too much too soon. Pace yourself and build up your strength again slowly. If you feel a twinge of pain where you have been injured before, take a break.
  4. Always give your muscles a chance to recover between workout sessions. Don‘t pack a week‘s worth of activity into a day or two. Try to maintain a moderate level of activity throughout the week.
  5. Increase your exercise level gradually. Don’t overdo it when starting. Check out the concept of graded activity. Accept and respect your body‘s limits. You may not be able to perform at the same level you did 10 or 20 years ago. Modify your activities as necessary.
  6. Remember to wear safety gear. Depending on the sport, this may mean knee or wrist pads or a helmet.
  7. Strive for a total body workout of cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Cross-training, for example, reduces injury while promoting total fitness.

Hot or cold? The temperature treatment

Cold packs and heat pads are among the most commonly used for sports injury management, even in orthopaedics in general. So which one is the right one to use for your sports injury, ice or heat? And for how long should the ice or heat treatments last?

Cold Treatment

Cold packs are often used after injuries such as ankle sprains have occured. Applying a cold pack early and often for the first 48 hours will help minimize swelling. Decreasing swelling around an injury will help to control the pain.

Cold treatments may also be used for chronic conditions, such as overuse injuries in athletes. In this case, cool the injured area after activity to help control inflammation. Never cool a chronic injury before activity.

Elastoplast Sport Cold Spray can both be used to cool the injured area to reduce pain and swelling.

Heat Treatment

Heat treatments are used for chronic conditions to help relax and loosen tissues, and to stimulate blood flow to the area. Use heat treatments for chronic conditions, such as overuse injuries, before participating in activities.

Heating tissues can easily be accomplished using a heat pad, which will relieve pain and stiffness, help decrease muscle spasms and increase mobility. Heat pads are a convenient way to achieve this.

Ice or heat?

Ice Heat
When to use it Use ice after an acute injury, such as an ankle sprain, or after activities that irritate a chronic injury, such as shin splints. Use heat before activities that irritate chronic injuries such as muscle strains. Heat can help loosen tissues and relax injured areas.
How to do it There are several ways to ice an injury. Cooling packs are one of the most convenient methods. Also, a cold spray which you can easily put into your locker or sports bag will do the same job. Heat packs are a convenient method.
For how long Apply ice treatments for no longer than 20 minutes at a time. Too much ice can do harm, even cause frostbite; more ice application does not mean more relief. It is not necessary to apply a heat treatment for more than about 20 minutes at a time. Never apply heat while sleeping.

Expert Tip to Avoid Sports Injury

Making sure you take the right preventive measures is key in avoiding further sports injuries. Find out what you can do.

Balancing between stretching and strengthening in your workout is the best you can do for your musculoskeletal system. Do not only train the things that come easily, as these are your predisposed strengths.


Counteract: A person who is slender and very mobile should include strengthening exercises in their routines, and vice versa.”