If you get injured on the field, the steps you take immediately afterwards can have a big impact on how quickly and how well you recover.
Do things right and you can minimise the injury’s effect, and boost your chances of a quick recovery.
Here are some guidelines on what to do if you come out of that ruck or tackle a bit worse for wear. The guidelines come from the ‘RugbySmart’ website – a great resource for players and coaches that can help you play better and play safer. Check it out at www.rugbysmart.co.nz.
When you’re online, also check out ‘SmartTips’. These are wallet cards containing a range of training and safety information that you can print out for the whole team. Go to www.acc.co.nz/injury-prevention/sport-safety/smart-tips.
Assess an injury before carrying on
If someone appears to be injured, it’s important to assess their injury to help decide whether they can return to play or should leave the field. To do this, follow the ‘TOTAPS’ steps below.
Ask the player what happened, where it hurts and what kind of pain they have.
Look at the affected area for redness or swelling. Comparing the injured side/body part with its opposite can also help you detect an injury.
Touch the injured area to see if it hurts/there’s any inflammation.
Ask the player to move the injured body part by themselves.
If the player has trouble moving the injured part, carefully try to move it yourself through its full range of motion.
If active and passive movement aren’t painful, have the player carry out some on-field skills/moves. If they have any pain/difficulty doing this, they shouldn’t return to play.
Treating soft tissue injuries
Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains and bruises, are the most common on the rugby field.
This type of injury should be treated immediately with the RICED procedure:
Avoid movement of the injured part as much as possible to reduce further damage. Don’t put any weight on it.
Place ice wrapped in a damp towel onto the injured area. Ice cools body tissue and can help reduce pain, swelling and bleeding. For the first 24 hours, try to apply ice for 20 minutes every two hours.
Firm bandaging can also help reduce bleeding and swelling. Be careful not to bandage the area so tightly that it cuts off circulation. Ideally, keep the injury bandaged between ice treatments.
Elevate the injured area (ie, keep it raised on a pillow, etc). This will help keep swelling down.
If you’re worried about the injury, it seems to be getting worse, or the pain and swelling haven’t gone down within 24 hours, see a health professional such as a GP or physio.
Avoiding further HARM during recovery
Once the injury has been diagnosed and treated, avoid the following HARMful factors for at least 72 hours:
Avoid hot baths, showers, saunas, heat packs etc, as heat can increase bleeding in injured tissue.
Avoid alcohol – it can increase bleeding and swelling and delay healing. It can also mask the effects of your injury, so you treat it less seriously than you should.
Running, or exercising the injured part too soon after injury, could cause further damage.
Massage isn’t advised during the first 72 hours as it can increase bleeding and swelling. However, after 72 hours it can help your recovery.
Get urgent help for serious injuries
The tips above will help you manage most minor tissue injuries.
For more serious injuries, urgent medical help may be needed. This is especially the case for:
• Concussion – Anyone showing signs of concussion should stop play immediately. Cards showing how to manage concussion can be ordered by coaches through the ‘RugbySmart’ website.
• Spinal injury – If you suspect someone has suffered a spinal injury, keep them still and dial 111 for an ambulance immediately.
Finally, don’t think about playing again until you’re sure your injury has healed. That may mean some time on the sideline for the short-term, but in the long-run it will be worth it.
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