When you injure yourself at practice, there are a million things going on for you mentally, physically, and emotionally. We can’t do much about whether it was a bad day gone worse, or whether this is the 3rd time you’ve reinjured this spot, or whether you got knocked down on an illegal hit… but we CAN help you figure out what to do in the first few hours and days after a minor injury.
Minor or Major? A very basic questionnaire:
did you hear a snap, a crackle, or a pop? did the pain make you feel nauseated or weak? did you lose consciousness? are you unable to put weight on / resist a force with the injured area? is there immediate obvious swelling? If any of these are “yesses, ” this sounds like a potentially major injury. Get your derby wife or first aid attendant to haul your ass to the hospital for some professional treatment.
can you walk? can you use the joint or area in question and apply a bit of resistance against someone pushing against you? is it a bruise from falling hard? Sounds like what we’re going to call a minor injury here. Read on, minorly-injured skater!
Heat or Ice?
Easy: Ice first! If this is a new injury, and there is swelling, or sharp pain, you want to reduce inflammation. Get the ice on there as soon as you can. Never apply an ice pack directly to skin. Don’t leave the ice on for more than about 10 minutes. Give yourself 10 minutes off, then reapply for 10, and so on. If it’s a lower limb injury, try to elevate it on a pillow while your derby wife/widow feeds you ice cream and dries your tears.
When you wake up the next day, see how you feel. Still some swelling and sharpness to the pain? feel free to ice some more. Is it more like stiffness now? try moist heat for 10 minutes.
We like to put heat on our soft tissue injuries every evening at bedtime, and every morning while eating breakfast for several days after a ‘ding’ to minimize healing time. For lingering soft tissue injuries, heat will keep things limber. You might find some comfort in icing after practice, or switching from cold to hot and back for a “flushing” effect.
Stretch or Not?
Is this a pulled muscle? Then DON’T FREAKIN’ STRETCH IT! We know… it’s so tempting. It just feels like a little stretch will work that suddenly-tight muscle out… but actually you risk increasing the muscle fiber tear. Do the ice protocol described above.
When the pain has subsided a bit (12 hours, maybe 24?) then switch to heat. Only stretch after applying heat for 10 minutes or so. Stretch *lightly* please! Give your body some breathing room to heal.
What about drugs?
Everyone has an opinion on this one. We here at RDA have no qualms about popping some ibuprofen, naproxen, or other NSAIDS as soon as we get home from the rink after an injury, or when something is inflamed. It will help with pain and help to reduce swelling. Especially if you’ve really done it – sprained an ankle or (eek!) twisted a knee, this is valuable.
However, the other school of thought says if you can’t feel the full extent of your injury, it will be easier for you to try to come back too hard, too soon, failing to give your body enough time to properly heal.
You’ll make your own call on this one. We just don’t recommend medicating before a bout. You’ll have so much adrenaline you won’t feel but the worst pain anyway, and if it’s THAT kind of pain, you should bench yourself.