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May 7, 2020 - TCO

5 Ways to Manage Your Sports Injury at Home

This is for the many athletes who, especially during this time of social distancing, may need to manage their sports injury without the usual support of their trusted high school or collegiate certified athletic trainer (ATC).

Overuse Injuries

A high percentage of athletic injuries are due to overuse-repetitive microtrauma without adequate recovery. These are often due to training errors such as simply doing too much. Sports injuries can also be due to ramping up the volume of training or the intensity of workouts over a short period of time, thereby not giving the body enough time to adjust. Sometimes it can be due to lack of variety in training or inadequate nutrition. Whatever the cause, it can put the athlete on the sideline.

High school and collegiate certified athletic trainers are often the first specialists seen when athletes have aches and pains. These highly-trained sports medicine providers can help diagnose and treat injuries. With many schools and universities closed, below are a few tips to help you start to manage an overuse injury at home.

Below are 5 ways to manage your injury at home, just like a certified athletic trainer.

1. Identify a Potential Training Error

 Trying to figure out the cause of the injury is helpful in treating the injury. Too much running or High-impact activity? Decrease or stop. Too many reps on any one skill? Decrease the number or frequency. Lack of appropriate variety and rest can also contribute to injury. The idea here is both to prevent further injury and to begin the recovery process.

2. R.I.C.E. Therapy

Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation are the most commonly utilized methods to treat both overuse and acute injuries.

Rest: Avoid aggravating activities.

Ice: Ice the area of injury several times daily for 10-15 minutes. This can be done with ice, cold compresses, or frozen vegetables.

Compression: Light compression is often helpful at providing some support and can help minimize swelling.

Elevation: Elevation is most helpful if there is a component of swelling to the injury and is most effective when the injured body part is elevated ABOVE the heart.

Try not to ice the injury for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, as leaving the ice on too long may cause further tissue damage.

3. Modify Your Workouts and Training

Because of injury, modifications are often necessary to continue to train. There are often activities or adjustments that can be made to allow continuation of practice and/or play.

Easy things to adjust include:

  • Decreasing the amount and/or frequency of the workouts.
  • Altering the intensity of the workouts. Intensity in training refers to the having “hard” days and “recovery” days. Muscles, bones and tendons all need time to adjust to the workload and break down if there is no training dedicated to rest and recovery.
  • Sometimes changing the focus of training can also help; for example, soccer players can work more on endurance and speed training instead of just foot/ball skills or shooting.

4. Focus on Recovery (Sleep and Nutrition)

Recovery is as important to an athlete’s health as the training and adaption that takes place.


  • Be sure to alter light and hard days.
  • Make an effort to get adequate sleep; the amount of sleep an athlete needs depends on age, general health, and training.


  • Nutrition is another very important aspect of injury prevention and recovery. The body needs adequate nutrients and minerals to build strong bones and aid in muscle recovery.
  • Avoid high sugar content, caffeine and nicotine, and be sure to get adequate hydration, vitamin D and calcium.

5. Cross Training

Cross training can have a huge benefit on maintaining general fitness while injured. It can also be of critical importance in injury prevention. Both aspects are important and can decrease time away from sport with injury. Yoga and weight lifting can often be done with injury, and are not only helpful with recovery, but can be an integral component of training to prevent injuries.

  • A good rule of thumb when managing your sports injury is try to stay in a pain free zone of activity. This will limit further aggravation of the injury and promotes recovery.
  • One of the most important steps to recovery is also the re-entry back to sport. Here is where most mistakes get made, which can set the injury back or make it worse.
  • Gradual reintroduction is key. Try to avoid common training mistakes and remember to let pain be the guide.

Always know that your sports medicine team at TCO is just a virtual visit away if you need us. If you are suffering from an acute or more severe injury, you can walk in to a TCO Orthopedic Urgent Care location, or call to schedule an appointment.

-Dr. Christie Heikes