Inspired by the World Cup to play some sport? Watch out for injuries

 Knee injury

With the 2014 World Cup underway, have you been inspired to get into the sporting spirit? We all know exercise is good for us, but like many everyday situations, it poses its own risks to watch out for.

What causes sports injuries

Different parts of your body can be affected by a sports injury, from your muscles, bones and ligaments to your tendons, joints and cartilage.

Usually, sports injuries are caused by:

  • not warming up properly
  • using inadequate equipment or poor technique
  • pushing yourself too hard
  • old injuries re-emerging
  • an accident
  • exercising too much.

How to prevent sports injuries

It’s important to take care when exercising, here are some tips to help prevent against getting hurt:

  • Always warm up before playing, warm muscles are less susceptible to injuries.
  • Wear protective pads, mouth guards, helmets, gloves and other equipment suitable for your chosen sport. Never play without your safety gear.
  • Know and follow the rules, this is extremely important for anyone who participates in a contact sport. Rules of conduct are enforced to keep everyone safe and healthy.
  • Avoid playing when very tired or in pain. Pain indicates a problem.
  • Rest is important - athletes with high consecutive days of training, have more injuries.

How to treat sports injuries

If you do feel any pain, stop exercising immediately, regardless of whether your sports injury happened suddenly or you’ve had the pain for a while. Continuing to exercise may cause further damage.

You can treat most minor sports injuries, such as cuts and grazes, bruises and blisters yourself.  If your muscles are sore, rest and over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (if no heart problems, kidney disease and illnesses that cause digestive bleeding are present), will help.

Treating more serious injuries

The PRICE technique is a useful way of remembering how to treat more serious sports injuries, such as ankle sprains or strains:

  • 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 cannot put weight on your ankle or knee.
  • Ice – apply an ice pack to the affected area for 10–30 minutes. A bag of frozen peas, or similar, will work well. Wrap the ice pack in a towel to avoid it directly touching your skin and causing ice burn.
  • Get into a comfortable position. If a healthcare professional is available they may be able to assist with applying bandaging for compression.
  • Elevation – keep the injured leg, knee, arm, elbow or wrist raised above the level of the heart. This may also help to reduce swelling.

If you are still uncomfortable after 48 hours, or you suspect that (due to extreme pain, swelling or difficulty walking) your injury is more serious, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Where to go for medical attention

You can call the NHS by dialling 111 free of charge from any phone for non-immediate emergencies. There are also urgent care or walk in centres which offer assessment and treatment for minor injuries such as sprains and strains. For serious accidents and emergencies, go to A&E.