When sports lead to injuries

Exercise-Injury_ThinkstockPhotos-517749515Dr Paul Bailey, Director of St John of God Murdoch Private Emergency Department, gives us his tips on what to do when you have a sports-related injury.

“Our love of sport in Australia is a defining characteristic of our culture – and it’s not just elite level sport – Aussies are great participators!

From our early primary school years until we’re elderly, our local sporting fields are full of cricketers, hockey players, netball players, footballers and tennis players on an almost continuous basis.

We’re also often found to be taking it to extremes with skydiving, surfing, canoeing and cycling.

While all this activity is great for our health, it can lead to unexpected injuries which range from near trivial to very serious. I’m the “Team Medic” for my son’s Grade 6 AFL team, and my dominant role is to convince the boys they have not “done a hammy” and are just fine to carry on playing.

Picking the essentially uninjured but tearful young footballer is just one aspect of managing sports injuries.”

So, what do we do if someone gets injured?

Here are a few tips to get you started:
Have the right equipment and training
It’s worth having a first aid kit on hand that will address the most commonly encountered injuries. They usually include bandaids, dressings, tape, water for irrigating dirty wounds and grazes and in Australia, emergency sunscreen is a great
idea! It’s also worth doing a first aid course to enable you to approach these situations with confidence.

Treating sprains and strains

Whether it’s rolling your ankle at netball or falling on an outstretched hand at basketball, it’s not uncommon to feel a bit sore and beaten up at the end of a game. The mnemonic RICE is the one to remember here – Rest, Ice, Compression
and Elevation of the affected joint. If it feels like it could be a bit worse than a normal sprain or strain, this is a situation where you might consider the need for an x-ray to ensure that nothing is broken.

Treating cuts and grazes
Most abrasions can be dealt with in the community by cleaning the wound and ensuring it’s kept covered until healing is well underway. When the skin has been lacerated, for example, a hockey stick to the chin, the key question is “does this
need stitching”?

Generally, if the wound is clean, in a nonconcerning location and the wound edges are close together (well-aligned), there is no need for anything other than good first aid. If the wound is large, edges are gaping,
it’s dirty or in a location where a scar would be problematic, such as on the face, then it’s probably worth having it looked at by a doctor or nurse practitioner to determine the most appropriate wound closure technique.

Options include steristrips, glue and sutures (stitches). It’s also worth ensuring that your tetanus injections are up-to-date in the presence of a dirty wound – every 5-10 years is a good rule of thumb for tetanus vaccination.

When do I go to the Emergency Department (ED)?

In general, ED is the right place to go if you think that a wound needs a “closer look”. A bone could possibly be broken and needs an x-ray or something is wrong with a major joint (eg knee injury) and needs an MRI.

St John of God Murdoch Hospital’s Private Emergency Department is a great “one stop shop” for all sporting injuries – ranging from relatively minor to the most serious.

It has excellent clinical staff – nurses, nurse practitioners and doctors, short waiting times, great access to onsite imaging such as x-rays, ultrasound, CT and MRI, and the backup of a comprehensive group of surgical specialists in
the event that things have gone seriously wrong.

You can access the ED directly or request St John Ambulance paramedics take you there.

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