Injury management

June 2, 2016

From the attic: This article was first published in CURL #24 in 2009


Kiwi surfer and sports remedial therapist Angie Koops tells us the importance of injury management.





The amount of force and strain put on our bodies doing the sports we love can be seriously damaging. For example running puts approximately three times our own body weight on our joints, and if precautions aren’t taken such as conditioning the body, warming up before activity, correct stretching and body mechanics, remedial massage, correct shoes,  injuries could be waiting to happen.  It is important to include a balanced training program so that the least possible stress is placed on the body. For example running along the sand is much better for your joints than on the hard surfaced road. Biking is a great way of still getting a great cardiovascular workout whilst taking most of the strain off the joints. Simple changes like this can help prevent injuries. 


For the first 48-72 hours following an acute injury the acronym R.I.C.E.D treatment is important to perform. Rest the injury, ice the injury, use a compression bandage, elevate the injury and get diagnosis from doctor. These are all important steps for soft tissue injuries such as a sprain or strain. 

A lot of people don’t realise the significance of immediate ice application; I’m talking within 2 minutes of initial injury.  Applying ice can stop most of the collateral damage that happens from a muscle tear. 

When a muscle is torn the cells involved ruptures and dies which release toxins that actually start to kill the surrounding healthy cells, hence collateral damage. By icing the area immediately you can cut recovery time down by approximately 50% as this helps stop a lot of the bleeding and swelling.  Swelling can actually stop the healing process and it is important to try and get rid of all the swelling from an injury.  When icing remember:

1.     Never put the ice pack directly on the skin, as ice burn (frost bite) can occur. A damp towel or bandage should be applied to skin first
2.     Cold minimises bleeding, as it causes vasoconstriction of the blood vessel but as long as it is not applied for too long.  After an initial period of 10-15 minutes, the hunting response (a protective mechanism of the body to prevent any part of the body being deprived of blood for a long period of time) kicks in. Therefore you should NOT ice an injury for any longer than 10 minutes at any one time. Ice the injury for up to 10 minutes let the area warm back up on its own (approximately 20mins) and continue the ice routine until you feel you have got a lot of the heat out of the injury. Heat in an injury is a sign of bleeding and inflammation.   


An effective technique to get rid of swelling from an injured area that doesn’t go away is to use a foot stocking filled with Epsom salts, it is then placed onto inflamed area, held in place with glad wrap. The glad wrap is important to use so the Epsom salts only absorb the fluid from the injured area not from the moisture in the air.  As little as a teaspoon of fluid can cause pain and problems within a joint capsule!

Swelling that is not dealt with can end up becoming chronic, where the area becomes thicker, harder less mobile with scar tissue build up. If this happens the injured area will never completely repair. This is where massage can work wonders with breaking down scar tissue fibre and assisting in fibre realignments. It’s always best to treat the injured area way before this starts to happen (prevention is better than cure)  approximately 72hrs after initial injury, light massage by an experienced massage therapist is very beneficial to reduce the scar tissue build up. Scar tissue is one of the biggest ongoing problems in injuries. If you don’t rehab your injury it many never be the same again. 

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