Life / Health

On the sidelines: Tips for dealing with a sports injury

Whether you're a beer league softball player or a marathon runner, sports injuries can be painful, debilitating and frustrating.

Although prevention is always the best medicine, there is some advice to keep in mind, in case you find yourself on the injury list.

"Stick to your physiotherapy," are words of wisdom from Lauren Bird, who plays baseball and dodge ball in Toronto year-round. After spending eight months in recovery from a torn ACL ligament (an important knee ligament), she said although it was frustrating, it won't stop her from playing sports.

It's this gritty attitude that motivates many athletes to keep enjoying their favourite sports, even after a physical set back. But knowing what to do when injury strikes can help you get back on the field quicker.

Lindsay Davey, a registered physiotherapist at Toronto Physiotherapy, says icing an acute injury will help, and warns not to rush back into your activities right away.

"Ice is the best remedy for any 'new' pain or swelling that occurs with injury," says Davey. "It's not wise to push through pain when rehabilitating from an injury."

Davey also says to remember the acronym R.I.C.E., which stands for "Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation." This standard set of injury rules will help with pain, swelling and further injury, until you can see a doctor.

After a medical assessment, it's a good idea to look into alternative measures to help speed the healing along. Physiotherapy, massage and acupuncture are great places to start the healing process.

Warming up before starting any physical activity is a good idea to avoid straining muscles.

"A light jog for five minutes is a good place to start," says Davey. "Stretching should only occur once muscles are sufficiently warmed up, and is most effective after the activity, during the cool-down phase."

Although an injury can be quite painful, sometimes the worst pain is mental. The frustration of sitting on the sidelines and working yourself back into the game can be tough.

After a torn ACL, Bird endured another injury, breaking her humerus bone while throwing a dodge ball, and will be taking the summer and winter seasons off until she's healed.

"I am cautious going forward," says Bird. "Especially in the beginning, until your mind realizes the injury isn't going to happen again. You have to work yourself back into it."

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