Injuries are apart of participating in sports, but luckily the body has the amazing ability to heal itself. The body’s innate ability to create chemical reactions and cellular metabolism are the back bone to our body’s healing ability. Science has allowed us to understand how this works and consequently how to manage injuries. This article will highlight the type of injuries that can occur, the phases of healing, and the basics on how to handle these type of injuries.
Injuries happen to all types of tissues. A muscle strain is when muscle fibers tear, usually due to forcibly stretching a muscle actively or passively. Tendinitis is inflammation of the tendon itself due to an acute irritation, whereas, tendonosis is inflammation of the tendon as a result of repetitive overuse.
To find out more about how injuries happen and how you can proactively prevent and treat both acute and chronic injury, like and Osteopath read more on the Breathe Blog. A sprained ligament is usually due to an acute incident which causes ligament fibers to tear. Bone fractures are when the bone tissue is compromised, which results in a simple or compound fracture.
When tissue is damaged, the body goes through a predictable sequence of healing – the 3 phases of healing are the inflammatory phase, the fibroblastic (repair) phase, and the long term process. The inflammatory phase is generally the first 3-4 days where the site of injury is red, hot, swollen, and there’s a loss of function. The inflammatory phase is a result of cellular injury, which leads to altered metabolism and chemical mediation. The fibroblastic phase begins around day 3 and takes up to 6 weeks. The fibroblastic phase is called the repair phase because it is the period where cells proliferate and regenerate, leading to a scar formation and the repair of the injury. The last phase is the long term process, which lasts 6 weeks to years and focuses on strengthening the injury by applying appropriate stress and strain on the scar. It’s critical that injured structures are exposed to loads progressively to increase strength, facilitate the remodelling and realignment of fibers and help with the range of motion.
When these injuries occur the athlete should look to “POLICE” their injury – an acronym that stands for Protection, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Protection can be broken down into examples like shielding the injury by using a cast, using a sling or crutches to take load off the joint, and preventing joint movement by using a splint or cast. It’s especially important to unload the injury site when dealing with acute soft tissue injury. Optimal loading is the stage when rest should be replaced with a balanced, incremental rehabilitation to encourage a fast recovery. Icing plays a vital role during the inflammatory stage because it freezes out nerve pain, decreases the metabolism and secondary injury, and prevents further swelling – ice does not reduce swelling! The best method of icing is to have a combination of ice and water in a plastic bag compressed on the injury site, and follow a regimen of “10 minutes on 10 minutes off”. Compression helps to limit the amount of blood flow to a region by up to 95% if tied tightly and 60% if loosely wrapped. Lastly, elevation can help reduce blood flow to the site of injury, but it must be at least 30cm above the heart. Elevation reduces blood flow up to 20% when it’s 50cm and 25% when the injury site is 70cm above the heart.
By understanding the type of injury and the phases of healing, health practitioners can help facilitate a healthy recovery. If you are dealing with any type of injury or pain, please seek professional advice.