Ask the Expert: Cindy Murray, PT, CEAS on First Aid for Sports Injuries

First Aid for Sports Injuries

The first 72 hours after an injury, the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) method is the place to start. However, it is rarely discussed what to do on the field when a player is injured. The following information is designed to educate parents and coaches to prevent further damage, and determine when to seek medical attention since the first few moments are critical to the player.

In a situation where a player is injured, the first action should be to see if the player is in any further danger. If so, control it by removing the danger (i.e. stopping the game) or removing the player if necessary. Keep in mind that an injured player should never be moved until it is determined that movement will not place them at a greater risk for injury. Once the situation is under control, you need to determine if you can get a response from the player. Can they hear you, can they open their eyes, and do they know where they are and what their name is? If there is no response, immediately call 911. DO NOT MOVE THE PLAYER!

If you can get a response, apply the STOP method (Stop, Talk, Observe, and Prevent further damage).

STOP: You will need to assess the injury and ask the player to be as still as possible.

TALK: Get some vital information that will help you determine what to do next. How did it happen? Where does it hurt? Can you move the injured area? Have you ever been injured there before? Is there any numbness?

OBSERVE: Is there any swelling, bleeding, bones exposed or obvious deformity? Does it look the same as the other side? Is it painful to touch? Are they moving it?

PREVENT FURTHER DAMAGE: The following are guidelines to use in assessing the seriousness of an injury.

  • If it is a very minor injury (bump or bruise) that does not affect the ability to play, then the player can continue in the game. Once they are off the field, apply the RICE method. Remember to keep monitoring the injury for any changes during the game.
  • If it is not a minor injury, but not severe, treat it as a sprain or strain and have the player leave the field and immediately apply the RICE method. A visit to a physician who specializes in sports injuries would be recommended.
  • A severe injury (possible fractures, head, neck, excessive bleeding, shock, face or spinal cord injury) needs to be treated by a professional immediately. If necessary, call 911 if you feel it is unsafe to transport the player to the emergency room.

Keep in mind every player and every situation is individualized, and when there is any question in your mind, it is best to seek professional help immediately. The main goals are always player safety, preventing further damage, and most importantly have fun! Play safe!

Cindy S. Murray, PT, CEAS

OrthoTexas - Plano and Frisco

Director of Rehabilitation