Athleticism, as many of us know, requires a dedication to caring for the body that most people never have to worry about. Athletes warm up, cool down, eat well, and generally live the healthiest possible lifestyle to propel their passion. But of course, at some point most every serious athlete will succumb to injury and setback.
Most often an injury will be minor and with the proper care will heal quite quickly, but for a long-term recovery to be successful, there are many different types of healing to take into consideration. Although it’s crucial to focus on physical recovery and rehabilitation, it’s also important to allow time and employ techniques to recover mentally and emotionally.
How athletes deal with the early stages of injury — both mentally and physically — is intrinsically linked to the overall recovery time that may be needed in order to heal fully. So what are the best ways to handle an immediate and minor injury, and what can athletes do for their health if the injury requires more time to heal?
Many athletes find that by using the RICE technique immediately after an injury occurs they can alleviate initial pain and long-term damage. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate.
Following an injury you should rest for at least 24-48 hours. Resting will not only help to prevent bruising, but continuing to put weight on an injury could potentially increase damage to the affected area.
An ice or cold pack should be applied to the affected area as soon as possible after the injury and held for 10-20 minutes. This helps to reduce pain, swelling, and bruising when repeated several times a day for the first few days after the injury.
An elastic bandage or compression sleeve used on the affected area can also help to reduce swelling. However, if any coolness, tingling, or numbness is experienced, this may indicate that the bandage or sleeve is wrapped too tightly. This could lead to lack of circulation and swelling in the area below the wrap, so it’s important to be conscious of how tightly it is wound.
Keeping the injured area elevated above the heart will help to drain any excess fluid and subsequently reduce swelling.
Hopefully with dedication, patience, and attention, the RICE technique will be enough to overcome minor injuries. But what about longer-term injuries that might require expert attention, longer periods away from athleticism, and mental stress and strain?
There are a number of techniques that can be employed to help support an athlete physically through a long term injury, and indeed many resources for providing emotional support through such a difficult time.
Following the initial aftercare of an injury it’s a good idea to book an appointment with a physiotherapist. They will help to ensure the best possible recovery by providing a holistic approach tailored to each athlete’s individual requirements.
There are many different approaches to treatment, and these can include:
A highly qualified physiotherapist will be able to advise the best approach for a dedicated recovery regime and the time needed to ensure this recovery happens fully. And while physiotherapists typically focus on physical rehab, it’s also important to include sports psychology techniques to help recover emotionally and mentally — especially if the physical recovery is long or encounters setbacks.
Athletes react to injuries with a range of emotions which can become more prominent depending on the length and complication of the injury, and can impact physical recovery time. These emotions could include denial, anger, sadness, and even depression.
And although the mental toll that can accompany physical injury is harder to peg down and identify, it’s still crucial to address and treat. Some techniques for doing so could include:
Being dedicated to mental well-being while dealing with an injury helps an athlete become happier, but also helps them to become more physically focused, flexible, and resilient. Recovering from an injury means caring for the physical, as well as the mental self.
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