First Aid Care for Sports Injuries


First Aid Care for Sports Injuries

Injuries are everyday occurrences in sports. Most of these injuries are minor and can be treated with simple first aid. While at other times it could be serious injuries that could result in death. 

Sports competitions often result in injury to muscles, tendons or ligaments.

In this post, you will learn how to manage some of these injuries.

By the end of the post, you should be able to describe how to manage fainting and drowning, explain how to render first aid in cases of fractures, dislocation, strains and sprain emergencies and state the meaning of this acronym RICEM


How to Manage Fainting

Fainting is a brief, sudden period of unconsciousness occurring when blood pressure falls to the point where the brain does not receive enough oxygen. 

In most cases, fainting occurs when a person is standing. The person falls to the ground with or without warning as he/she loses consciousness. 

It is usually preceded or accompanied by extreme paleness, sweating, coldness of the skin, dizziness, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, nausea, and sometimes disturbance or distortion of vision. 

To prevent a fainting attack, a person who feels weak and dizzy should lie down, sit or bend over with his head between his knees.

After a fainting attack has occurred:

1. Keep the victim lying down.

2. Loosen any tight clothing and keep crowds away.

3. Raise his feet slightly to allow blood to flow back to his head.

4. If the victim vomits, roll him onto his side or turn his head to the side and, if necessary, clean his mouth with your fingers, preferably wrapped in cloth.

5. Hold his chin up to keep his tongue from obstructing his airway.

6. Water should not be poured over the victim's face to avoid aspiration, rather, bathe his face gently with cold water.

7. No liquid should be given to the victim until he has recovered.

8. Examine the victim to determine whether he has suffered injury from falling.

9. Unless recovery is prompt, consult a physician.


Managing Drowning or Near-Drowning

Drowning or near-drowning is experienced in aquatic sports, such as swimming, water polo, diving, etc. Drowning or near-drowning requires prompt attention to restore adequate breathing and keep the victim warm after getting him/her onto dry land.

1. It is advisable to apply the fastest way to rescue the victim of near drowning or drowning. It is safer to Reach and Throw and not to go into the water by oneself to avoid double casualty.

2. For a safer rescue, one should stay on land and reach out with one's hand after firmly supporting oneself; a stick or branch, or a rope or float should be thrown to the casualty.

3. A trained life-saver can get into the water for rescue operations. If the casualty is unconscious, a good swimmer/lifesaver may have to swim to the casualty and tow him/her to dry land.

4. Rescue from drowning or near-drowning will also require placing the casualty on land in a recovery position and allow water to drain out of him/her without force.

5. Treat the casualty for drowning by applying the "ABC" of emergency treatment  and preventing the person from wind-chill or losing more body heat.

6. Give a conscious casualty warm drinks, if available.

7. Never leave the casualty alone by ensuring that someone remains with him or her all the time.

8. Send for help and arrange to take or send the casualty to hospital, even if he or she seems to have recovered well or, if necessary.


Managing of Sports Injuries that are not grouped under Life-threatening

First Aid Care for Sports Injuries

The following are sports injuries that are not categorized as "under life-threatening". Such injuries include:

1. Fractures

2. Dislocation

3. Strains

4. Sprains


First Aid Care for Fractures

A fracture is a break or cracks in the continuity of a bone. Fractures result from either direct force causing a break or crack at the site of the force, indirect force leading to bone damage at a distance from the site at which the force was applied, or muscular contraction when there is a sudden violent muscular action.

The first aid objectives in fractures are to provide all necessary first aid care to keep the broken bone ends and adjacent joints from moving, and to give care for shock.

The general principles include:

1. Asphyxia, unconsciousness and severe bleeding must be taken proper care of first.

2. The Victim should be warned to lie still and should be treated on the site of the accident and not moved until the injured part has been immobilized (unless there is immediate danger to life such as fire, the victim can be skillfully moved away from the site). 

The injured limb should be steadied and supported by holding it with one hand above and the other hand holding below the site of fracture.

3. Splints should be applied if modern ambulance service is not available; there is a delay in transportation, or in less serious injuries before seeking medical assistance for diagnosis and treatment. 

4. If an ambulance is expected to arrive within 10 - 15 minutes, it is preferable to support the injured part in the most comfortable position by use of rolled-up blankets or other materials.

In managing an open fracture the following additional aid should apply:

1. The limb should be steadied, elevated and supported by making use of bystanders.

2. Dressing of wound should be done.

3. Direct pressure should be applied to control bleeding

4. If a foreign body is present, sufficiently pad the wound and squeeze the edges of the wound together alongside the foreign body.

5. The dressing and pads should be secured to avoid the danger of pressure over protruding bone.

6. Immobilize fracture and elevate injured limb, if possible. Arrange removal of the victim to the hospital. It should be remembered that different parts of the body (e.g. spine, lower jaw, and skull) require peculiar diagnosis and treatment procedures.


The Management of Dislocation

First Aid Care for Sports Injuries

A dislocation is the displacement or separation of one or more bones at a joint. It may result from a blow, fall, or violent muscular contraction. Depending on the degree of severity, a dislocation may be simple, involve a fracture, or become a compound and complicated type.

Signs and symptoms that show the presence of dislocation include:

a. Pain, severe sickening in characters at or near joint.

b. Immobility of joint.

c. Deformity and abnormal appearance of joint.

d. Swelling, tenderness and bruising are usually present.

The body parts (joints) mostly dislocated includes shoulder, elbow, thumb, fingers and toes and lower jaw. Hip and patella (kneecap) sometimes dislocate as well.

First aid for dislocation includes:

1. Immobilize the joint by splinting or applying a sling if appropriate, using pillows, cushions or bandages so that further movement does not contribute to pain.

2. Apply ice or cold packs to assist in controlling internal bleeding.

3. Care for shock, since pain is usually severe and shock will frequently occur.

4. Refer to medical aid quickly.

5. If in doubt as to whether the dislocation involves fracture first aider should rather treat the fracture. 

6. The first aider MUST NOT attempt to replace the displaced bone(s).


Management of Strains

A strain is one of the sports injuries affecting muscles. It is a stretching and/or tearing of muscle and tendon fibres. It often results from overexertion, such as lifting an object too heavy or working a muscle beyond the point of fatigue.

An uncoordinated movement produced by a sudden uneven contraction of muscle and lack of balance of the group of muscles concerned in a specific movement may also cause a strain. It is muscle strain that most laymen call "Muscle pull". A "pulled" muscle is in reality a strained muscle that constitutes a painful condition at the site of an injury.

Localized tenderness and swelling are invariably present. A strain goes with an immediate and almost complete loss of function of the muscle involved. 

As a result of the rupture there is an injury to the minute blood vessels (capillaries) in the area, resulting in a hemorrhage within the substance of the muscle, leading to the formation of a blood clot (hematoma) the larger the hematoma the greater the period of disability.

The muscle group most commonly strained is as follows:

a. The sacrospinalis (erector spinae), at the back which extends the vertebral column.

b. The hamstrings, at the back of the thigh, which flex the knee.

c. The quadriceps, on the front of the thigh, which extend the knee.

d. The posterior tibia group or calf muscles, which pull the heel upwards.

e. The biceps muscle of the upper arm, which flexes the elbow and the shoulder joint.

f. The supraspinatus muscle on the top of the shoulder, which aids in lifting the arm from the side of the body, conditioning which helps to put a muscle group through its fullest range of movement during training and warn up are key processes of preventing muscle strain.

The first aider should follow RICEM steps for the first aid for strains:

R: Rest- injured part in a most comfortable position.

I: Ice - apply ice (ice pack) or cold water compress for about 30 minutes if the strain is of recent origin. 

In the case of stale strain, hot compresses, hot bottles or electric heating pads can be applied over the affected muscle to help for the dispersal of hematoma.

C: Compress - injured part by surrounding it with thick padding and securing it with a firm bandage.

E: Elevate - the injured part (particularly limb). 

First aid for a strained back will in addition involve bed rest -and use of a board under the mattress for firm support. The victim should be moved to the hospital for further medical care.

M: Medical attention.


The Management of Sprains

A sprain is an injury to a joint ligament or a muscle-tendon in the region of a joint; it involves the partial tearing or stretching of these structures, injuries to blood vessels, and contusions of the surrounding soft tissue without dislocation or fracture, It usually results from indirect violent or sudden twisting or wrenching of bones forming the joint or from motion forced beyond the normal range at a joint. 

Depending on the severity of the sprain, the ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels or any other soft tissue surrounding the joint are stretched and occasionally torn or partially torn which normally limit movement. Insufficient treatment or neglect may lead to permanent disability.

The symptoms and signs, indicating that a sprain has occurred include:

a. Pain at the joint

b. Swelling and later bruising and discoloration, depending on how recent the injury has occurred

c. Inability to use joint without increasing pain.

The ankle and the wrist are the two joints that are commonly sprained.

Treatment of a sprain involves a RICEM procedure.

R - Rest

I - Ice

C - Compression

E - Elevation

M - Medical attention


Also read: What are the 6 importance of first aid?

Conclusion on First Aid Care for Sports Injuries

Sporting activities present occasions where emergencies are unavoidable. It is pertinent to note that these emergencies present themselves in the form of injuries. 

In this post, you have learnt how to manage these emergencies.

In this post, you have learnt how to manage fainting and drowning. How to render first aid in cases of fractures, dislocation, strains and sprain emergencies, and the meaning of this acronym RICEM.

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