How to treat a sports injury? Initial treatment and sports physiotherapy (physio advice included!)

A sports physiotherapist specializes in the rehabilitation and treatment of injuries such as sprains and fractures, and helps athletes recover from surgery. A good sports physio will assess your injury, diagnose the cause and prepare a rehabilitation program to get you back into the game as safely and quickly as possible.

sports injuries

Sports injuries can range from acute injuries such as sprains and fractures to chronic overuse injuries such as tendinitis and muscle fiber damage (muscle tear). Most injuries are caused by sudden impact, like a tackle in football, or chronic wear and tear, like running on the same track day after day.

The most common sports injuries are sprains, tendonitis, muscle strains and fractures.

Description of the most common injuries

A fracture is a break in the bone. They are more serious and may require surgery. The initial treatment for a fracture is to immobilize the injured limb, ice for 20 mins and go to the hospital. An X-ray of the fracture is necessary in order to know exactly the situation of the bone, to be able to decide which contention to apply and if a surgical operation is necessary.

Muscle tear : pathology where one or more muscle fibers are torn, causing pain and muscle weakness during contraction. A bruise will often appear at the location of the tear. The most common symptoms are sudden, sharp pain, followed by weakness.

tendinitis: pathology or the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed, causing pain and stiffness at the site of the tendonitis. It is often due to repetitive use, overuse or a micro-tear of the tendon. The main symptoms of tendonitis are swelling, pain and stiffness.

Sprain : usually caused by a sudden impact and the overstretching of a ligament. The ligament is then stretched, relaxed and can no longer fulfill its role of keeping the joint stable. Symptoms of a sprain are swelling of the affected joint, tenderness when moving, and pain.

What is the treatment to apply immediately after a sports injury?

For the 3 sports pathologies above, the treatment that you can and must apply as soon as possible will be the RGCE approach (rest, ice, compression, elevation):

Repos : Stop movements that increase or trigger pain (even minimal) or increased swelling.

Glace : Freeze immediately. You can use a cold pack, frozen peas, always putting a cloth or towel between your skin and the ice. You can also soak the injured limb in an ice and water bath for 15 to 20 minutes. (very effective). Repeat every two to three hours for the first few days after the injury.

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Compression : To reduce swelling, compress the area with an elastic bandage until the swelling stops. Be careful not to overtighten in order to avoid any stoppage of blood flow. You can use compression socks or stockings for the first 3 days to avoid the risk of phlebitis.

Elevation : Elevate the injured limb above the level of your heart, primarily at night, this allows gravity to decrease swelling and drain lymphatic fluid to the nodes and remove toxins.

The physio trick : In order to reduce inflammation quickly and effectively, I always suggest that my patients who have had a trauma make a poultice with Arnica gel or with Voltaren gel for the first 3 nights. To do this, take a good amount of arnica gel, rub it lightly on your wound, leaving a thick layer on your skin. Wrap the gel with cling film and keep it until the next morning. This “homemade” poultice is very effective in reducing pain and swelling directly after an injury.

Rehabilitation after a sports injury with a sports physiotherapist

After 2 to 3 days of RGCE treatment, it’s time to start your sports rehabilitation as soon as possible.

Assessment of your injury

Le « sports physiotherapist will always begin with an assessment of the injured limb, measuring swelling and pain. He will then test mobility and muscle strength (if this is possible without triggering pain). He will also test the stability of the joint and check any exams you may have had in the past (X-rays, MRI…)

Once your sports physio has a clear vision of your ” sports injury he will be able to decide the best way to treat you and will prepare a treatment plan tailored to your needs and goals.

The physio tip: At no time should you do exercises that trigger pain more than 3/10, it is important not to trigger pain so that the body and muscles around the trauma can begin to relax and release mobility from your joint.

The main objective of rehabilitation is to achieve complete and functional recovery. It is important to start small, with small goals and gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercises.

What are the stages of a good rehabilitation with a sports physiotherapist?

Step 1: Relieve pain: Massage, cryotherapy, anti-inflammatory if necessary.

Step 2: Restore function to the injured limb. By working on mobility, the sports physio will start with a passive mobilization of the joint. Then he will work on the active mobility of the joint.

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Step 3: Restore strength and stability. Once your pain is reduced and the amplitudes are restored, at least partially, the physiotherapist will begin to increase the intensity of the contractions in order to increase the strength of your muscles using a wide range of strengthening exercises. He will increase the intensity of the exercises more and more over time and give you a program to do at home, until your range and strength are back to normal.

Step 4: The most important step in rehabilitation after a sports injury is to work on your proprioception, to prevent your trauma from repeating itself.

Why is it necessary to complete my rehabilitation by working on proprioception?

Proprioception is the ability of our muscles to detect the position of parts of our body in relation to each other and in space. When we move, our joint receptors constantly send information about the length of our muscles and the position of our joints to our brain. These impulses help our brain to keep our joints in the correct position during movement. Without proprioception, our joints would be at risk and could dislocate at the slightest “false movement”, which would lead to a new injury.

It is very important to regain normal proprioception at the end of the rehabilitation process with your sports physiotherapist. During proprioception rehabilitation, you will work on your balance and do destabilization exercises by working on an unstable position, eyes open, eyes closed, on two or one leg, on the floor or on a foam or balance board. By increasing the difficulty of these exercises, your muscles and joints will become faster and more effective in protecting your joints and protecting you from possible trauma.

The physio trick: This step is often overlooked by patients who no longer feel pain, have good strength, feel strong again and want to stop physio as soon as possible. Unfortunately, not doing this part of rehabilitation is often the cause of a relapse.

Be strong until the end and do your proprioception correctly, this will prevent you from getting hurt again!

You now know what to do in the event of a sports injury! So, if a sports injury occurs, you can reopen this article on your favorite French online magazine and you will know exactly what to do and how to act in the first instance to give your injury the best chance of recovery.

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