Robert Blease, M.D.
My family enjoys playing basketball and skiing. So many injuries happen with both of these sports, how do I know when home care is enough and when we should see a medical professional?
While it is never a bad idea to get a professional opinion on a traumatic injury, there are a few symptoms that mean you definitely should. Immediate, profound swelling is a good indication serious damage has occurred. Significant bruising or a loss of range-of-motion are two other signs to be taken seriously. If the injury occurred in the lower body, such as to a hip, knee or ankle, an inability to put weight on the injury is another sign that it is something you should take seriously.
If none of those symptoms are present, or if they are mild, for example only minor swelling, you can practice the RICE protocol; Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Using the RICE protocol as soon as possible after an injury, can help relieve pain and swelling and promote healing.
- Rest. Rest and protect the injured area. Stop any activity that causes pain, such as walking on an injured knee.
- Ice. Cold helps reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack right away to prevent or minimize swelling. Use a thin towel or cloth over the pack if it is uncomfortably cold, and only apply the pack for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Do not apply ice or heat directly to the skin.
- Compression. Compression, or wrapping the injured or sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), can help decrease swelling. Don’t wrap it too tightly; pain, tingling, numbness or swelling around the wrap are indications it is too tight and should be loosened.
- Elevation. Elevate the injured or sore area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area above or at the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.
It is also helpful to use a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen (Motrin, or Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve). Different people, especially children, tolerate these medications differently, so if you have questions about the safety of any medication, ask your doctor. Topical menthol gels such as Biofreeze and Icy Hot may also be used for additional pain relief.
The first 24-hours following the injury will give you more information. If symptoms have not improved after 24 hours of good home care, it’s time to seek medical advice.
Think an injury is serious? Here’s help:
- Kootenai Urgent Care: (208) 625-3600
- Kootenai Clinic Orthopedics Same Day Care: (208) 625-6636
- Kootenai Health Emergency Department: 2003 Kootenai Health Way, Coeur d’Alene, ID
- For information, visit KH.org.