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Injury First Aid

Injury is the most common reason for runners “retiring” from the sport, especially as far too many will attempt to run through pain without thought for the consequences. Chronic injuries – that is, long-standing ones – are invariably more difficult to restore to full health, so it should go without saying that you need to take EARLY ACTIVE INTERVENTION.

Acute injury is associated with local bleeding and the object of first aid is to minimize this bleeding and reduce its consequences. The acronym “RICE” is commonly used as an aide memoire.

R stands for REST
Common sense, really, but a runner in the middle of a race or training session may not heed the symptoms of a less severe injury and just carry on. There may be some excuse as exercise-induced endorphins can reduce the brain’s ability to interpret symptoms of injury, though the more experienced you are as a runner, the more intuitive you should be in interpreting these. Continuing to run will force more blood to the site of the injury and maintain bleeding – more severe damage is the inevitable result.

I means ICE
The application of which should be carefully controlled. Simply putting ice on the site of an injury is going to produce blistering and ice burn, so it should be crushed and further wrapped in a damp tea towel. An ice pack is ideal as it can be wrapped on with a tensor bandage for ease of application. Time is an important factor. Fifteen minutes should be the upper limit for a single application, but this can be repeated hourly.

C stands for COMPRESSION
Or at least counter-pressure to the bleeding capillaries. The greater the pressure applied, the lower the amount of blood that can pass to the rest of the limb.  If the limb goes numb or turns blue or purple, the bandaging should be released. Compression bandages should never be used during the night while sleeping.

E means to ELEVATE the limb
Blood pressure reduces with height – it is lower in our brain than our toes – so the higher the limb is above the heart, the less force there is within the damaged blood vessel to cause bleeding and worsen the injury. While it may not always be practical to elevate the limb, any time doing so is well spent and will aid recovery.

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