What to do When You Get Injured

There is a lot of advice available on how to recover from injuries and cross-train. But I haven't see a lot about what to do from the moment you're injured. To some it may be common sense, but sometimes when you're upset or in denial about your body failing you, common sense does not occur naturally!

Stop running. This may seem very obvious, but I've seen and heard this happen plenty of times. If you think you've been injured and you experience intense, sharp, unusual or weird pain, stop moving! At this point you have control over whether you make your injury worse or not. Don't be tempted to "test" it by running a little more, especially if you still feel pain after you've stopped. Always carry at least a $20 bill, your ID, you cell phone and if possible a credit card on your runs. In case of something serious where you lose consciousness, or you need to call 911 or a cab or someone to pick you up, you're covered. If you require stitches or have a broken bone or anything else serious, head to the nearest emergency room.

Protect. If your injury does not require immediate professional medical attention, follow the self-treatment principles of PRICE: Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Bandages, elastic wraps and tape can sometimes help protect against further injury, depending on the issue.

Rest. Tissues need time to heal. While you may be eager to jump into an alternative workout routine, give yourself at least few days of rest first to let the healing begin. Be sure to get plenty of sleep.ip

Ice. One of the most effective ways of reducing swelling and pain, ice is nature's cheap and natural anti-inflammatory. Apply an ice pack as soon as possible after your injury for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat each hour for the first four hours, and four times a day for two to three days. Use a thin cloth such as a hankerchief to protect your skin from irritatoin. Do not apply heat until after the first 48 to 72 hours. It is a common mistake to skip ice treatment and go to heat too soon, which can make it worse.

Compression. Pressure helps reduce swelling and inflammation. An elastic bandage often works, but should not be too tight. And be sure to loosen it to allow for swelling that occurs right after an injury. A strategically placed piece of foam can also help without being too restricting.

Elevation. Using gravity to drain fluid from the injured area also helps reduce swelling, inflammation and pain, and speed recovery. Propping up on the couch or a pillow may seem like not much, but might help significantly.

It can be tempting to either risk further injury by training to exercise again before your ready, or the opposite in which you feel sorry for yourself and don't do anything to treat yourself. I am familiar with the frustration. I have suffered from two collapsed lungs, achilles tendonitis and tendonosis, multiple calf strains, hamstring strains, a broken ankle, and just this week I strained one of my quads for the first time. I felt like I did everything right, I worked up gradually to my workout of 5 x 60 second lactate sessions at 5:10-5:30 pace. It was to be my last hard workout before the PAWS Run For Their Lives 8K four days later that I was already signed up for. I warmed up a mile and a half, did active stretching and six strides. It was a warm 88 degrees and I was thoroughly loose and was feeling no pain. Yet at the very beginning of my fifth interval, I felt a violent "boing" in my upper thigh and it hurt a lot to walk. I hobbled from the path to where I could catch a cab near the Shedd Aquarium. Luckily I had followed my own advice and had money on me. I applied a bag of ice when I got back. It will probably take 6 weeks to heal properly. Aside from easy walking and some weights, I'm taking time off for about 5 days. I'll then research what I might be able to do without hurting it -- a stair machine or possibly biking. I'll likely share what I learn in the future!

What are some of your injury stories?

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: This Week in Runners, Y, YMCA, Running, injuries

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