What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you suffer an injury in a fall, or sustain one of the most common sports injuries? It may take some time before you can visit a physiotherapist, so the immediate post-injury period is important.
Anyone who suffers one of the most common sports injuries, will probably first think of Rest. Then, they’ll think about icing the injury, compressing it, and then elevating it. These are the principles of the RICE regime—Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation. But RICE has been superseded by the POLICE approach.
POLICE is informed by the most up to date research into musculoskeletal injuries. It doesn’t replace RICE, but enhances it. It will help alleviate discomfort following injury until you can visit a practitioner. So let’s look at POLICE’s 5 components, letter by letter.
1. P for Protect
The main priority when you suffer an injury is to protect the area of injury from further damage. You should leave the pitch or arena. If you’re running, take a taxi home or call someone to pick you up.
2. OL for Optimum Loading
Research has shown that, even immediately suffering a sprain or strain, most injuries can benefit from some movement. The complete rest that was recommended under RICE to combat excess flow of blood and fluid to the injured area, has been found to slow down to the healing process, especially with less serious injuries. Even for severe injuries, joints and muscles away from the injury should be exercised. So if the shoulder is injured, while the shoulder itself should be rested, it’s important to keep the elbow and hand moving. Optimum Loading is progressive and gradual loading that helps to combat the tightness or atrophy that can arise through lack of activity.
3. I for Ice
Whether ice directly reduces swelling is no longer certain, according to research. What is known is that ice helps to reduce the sensation of pain by partly numbing the area of the injury. It’s an effective quick if short-term pain-relief fix until you can make an appointment with your physiotherapist.
4. C for Compression
Compression, using a tight bandage or compress, forcibly prevents excessive flow of blood and fluid from accumulating in the area of injury. It’s more effective for injuries that occur around the joints or bony areas such as the knee or the ankle; less so for muscular strains and sprains, which are more difficult to prevent fluid from travelling to.
5. E for Elevation
Elevation of the injury is all about raising the injured area to a higher level than that of the heart. Elevation reduces the effect of gravity on blood flow, and helps to prevent an accumulation of excess blood and fluid around the injury.
POLICE is not a substitution for the best treatment of the most common sports injuries or other acute sprains or strains, but it is certainly an ideal guide to follow for anyone who suffers an injury, on the sports field or through another sudden mishap. Use the POLICE tips and you should notice positive changes within hours.