Hundreds of athletes sustain acute injuries everyday which can be treated safely at home using the P.R.I.C.E treatment. An acute sports injury is one in which there is a specific mechanism of injury (hit by ball, plant and twist, collision with opponent) and an immediate onset of symptoms including swelling, pain, bleeding, and possible deformity.
A number of types of sports injuries can be considered acute including:
- Sprains (injury to ligaments)
- Strains (injury to muscles)
- Contusions (bruise)
- Subluxation (partial dislocation that reduces itself)
If there are signs or symptoms of a serious injury (deformity, severe swelling and/or pain), emergency first aid should be provided while keeping the athlete calm and still until emergency service personnel arrive on the scene.
However, most acute sports injuries can be treated safely at home using the P.R.I.C.E. principle. The acronym stands for:
The principles of P.R.I.C.E. should be used for the first 48 – 72 hours immediately after the injury. The goal during this time frame is to control the amount of swelling to the injured area, prevent further injury, and reduce pain. Following these principles can effectively reduce the amount of swelling in an injured area thereby reducing the amount of time required for rehabilitation.
- Protection: protect the affected area from further injury – for example, by using a support.
- Rest: avoid exercise and reduce your daily physical activity. Using crutches or a walking stick may help if you can’t put weight on your ankle or knee. A sling may help if you’ve injured your shoulder.
- Ice: apply an ice pack to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every two to three hours. A bag of frozen peas, or similar, will work well. Wrap the ice pack in a towel so that it doesn’t directly touch your skin and cause an ice burn.
- Compression: use elastic compression bandages during the day to limit swelling.
- Elevation: keep the injured body part raised above the level of your heart whenever possible. This may also help reduce swelling.