When you are in pain from an exercise- or sports-related injury, you may or may not need to professional medical care.
According to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH), you should see your physician if you have:
An area on which you can’t put any weight
An injury that causes severe pain, swelling or numbness
Pain or achiness form an old injury, this now also has swelling or causes instability
If you are not experiencing these symptoms, you can are most likely fine to treat yourself at home. The NIH recommends following the “RICE” method to ease pain and swelling and help speed healing.
Rest – Limit your regular exercise and cut back on your daily routine.
Ice – Use an ice pack on the injury for at least 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day. Do not use the ice for more than 20 minutes to avoid frostbite or other injuries from the cold.
Compression – Compression by using wraps, special boots, air casts or splints can help keep the area of the injury from swelling.
Elevation – Try to keep your injured area elevated above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling.
If after 24 to 48 hours your pain continues, gets worse, or you want a medical opinion about your care, visit your doctor, according to the NIH.
There are 3 types of conditions in which an athlete may need to see a doctor: acute injuries, overuse injuries, and medical illnesses or conditions.
Also, any athlete with a chronic injury or medical condition should see a doctor and be approved to participate in sports. Even if a pre-sport physical is not required, it is a good idea for all athletes to have an annual medical checkup before the sports season begins. This is especially true if there is any history of medical problems, injury, or regular use of medicines, or if there are questions about training.
In most cases, someone with a sports injury can begin their recovery by stopping whatever activity they were doing, going home, and getting rest. But in some rare but serious cases, an injury is severe enough that it needs to be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible.
These are signs that someone with an injury needs immediate medical care in the ER:
A joint or bone that is clearly broken, deformed, or dislocated
Inability to support any weight or pressure on the affected area
Extreme pain that is progressively getting worse
Paralysis, tingling, or numbness
Unsteady breathing or pulse
Disorientation or confusion