I’m writing this post from my couch as per usual, however this time my left leg is wrapped in an elastic bandage and propped up on a stack of pillows. Yes kids, yesterday afternoon I suffered a minor injury, a self-diagnosed Level 1 tear of the medial gastrocnemius, AKA Tennis Leg. What better time than now to talk about injury management!
This is my first training injury. I’ve been fortunate/lucky for a long time, and I suppose I still am because as far as injuries go this one is more of a nuisance than anything. I can’t fully flex or extend my leg, can’t put any weight on my foot.
Yesterday the pain was intense. Today, not so much. I credit this speedy turnaround to following Injury Management 101 — the PRICE principle, formerly the RICE principle. They’re both pretty much the same thing, think of that P as additional insurance. Next time you injure yourself, in the gym or anywhere, take these steps ASAP and you’ll be on the road to recovery before you know it.
P is for Protect
First thing’s first: protect the injury! If you’ve hurt your arm, wrap it in a sling. If it’s a damaged digit, put a splint on it. Open wounds get bandaged up.
R is for Rest
The first 24 hours are crucial. As hard as it may be, you’ve got to rest so your body can channel its resources towards healing. For me this meant a day spent on the couch catching up on episodes of Game of Thrones and Bosch. I also borrowed a pair of crutches from a friend (props to you, Bruce!) to help me hobble around the apartment. As important as rest is at this stage, so too is a degree of movement. Don’t get too bold too soon, though. It doesn’t take much to aggravate an injury.
I is for Ice
When a muscle is torn, inflammation sets in fast. Icing the injury for 10-20 minutes every hour or so will reduce swelling and bruising. Frozen peas are my preference as the bag contours to the shape of the injured area. Whatever you use, never apply ice directly to the skin. Use a towel to prevent ice burns.
C is for Compress
This is the step most people overlook, which is a shame because it’s arguably the most beneficial. Wrapping my calf with an elastic bandage kept the swelling and inflammation at bay and also provided added protection against jarring movements. You can also buy special compression sleeves for the arms, elbows, legs, and knees though they’re not cheap. A simple elastic bandage with clip closures will get the job done at a fraction of the price. Just make sure you don’t wrap the area too tightly, and don’t wear the wrap to bed.
E is for Elevation
You may have noticed a common theme in this protocol — the fight against inflammation. Elevating the injury above the heart allows blood to drain away, preventing swelling and reducing pain. And while this step sounds basic enough, it’s possible to get it wrong. The most common mistake is not raising the injury high enough. For me, I had to stack six pillows in total, three on top of three, so my entire leg would get the support it needed. Also, it’s a bad idea to support an injured limb in a locked-out position. Allow your arm or leg to stay relaxed rather than stiff.
And there you have it! Five simple steps to make injury management easier so you can get back to the gym ASAP. Remember, the first 24 hours are the most important so don’t delay!