Thursday, July 19, 2012


The Road Less Traveled: How to Properly Recover from Injury
   By Bob Wells

Death, taxes, and injury. 

We don’t normally associate injury as an inevitable, inescapable reality of life. However, as any athlete: professional, collegiate, or weekend warrior can attest, this is a simple, undeniable fact. If you train hard enough and long enough, you will get injured. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Granted, your training program should be well conceived, and well implemented, in order to prevent the gross biomechanical errors and inefficiencies that can inevitably lead to devastating injuries that can derail a career. However, you can’t prevent the inevitable sprains, strains, and pulls that will come as a result of prolonged physical activity.

One key to athletic success is how quickly you can recover from these injuries. The well-known, and unfortunately well practiced mantra of “No Pain, No Gain” is a ridiculous one that has no place in a proper training program. Instead, the R.I.C.E concept is a more apposite one.

R.I.C.E is an acronym for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest is important, because it gives the injured muscles, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues and opportunity to heal properly.

Do not ignore the pain! Pain is the body’s way of warning you that something is wrong. Take the time to heal now, whether it means taking the day or the week off from training. Rest now can prevent you from avoidable and painful procedures that can result in months of forced inactivity down the road.


Hope Solo icing / Courtesy Reuters
Ice is the second part of R.I.C.E. A bag of crushed ice, icepack, or even a bag of frozen vegetables can serve as a good way to get cold to the affected area in order to speed the recovery. Ice aids in the recovery process by reducing swelling and allowing the soft tissue to heal faster.

However, refrain from using ice for more than 20 minutes. Prolonged icing can promote frostbite, thus making the "cure worse than the disease."

The third component is compression. Typical compression devices include the standard ACE bandage or compression sleeves, like the one Kobe Bryant is wearing below. Like ice, compression helps reduces the swelling in the affected area, allowing the soft tissue recover to a pre-injured state.

Kobe Bryant / Courtesy NBA
The final part of R.I.C.E is elevation, raising the injured area to reduce swelling. Elevation is most effective when the injured area is raised above the heart. For example, if your knee is injured, try lying on your back and placing pillows under your knee.

The R.I.C.E strategies work because they give the injured area time to heal, as well as provide other mechanisms to ensure that the injury can heal properly and effectively. It is not be as ubiquitous as the "No Pain, No Gain" mantra, so it will take some time to adjust to this paradigm shift. 

However, it is absolutely vital to take a more thoughtful approach to dealing with injuries. If you follow the R.I.C.E method, you will recover faster from injury, perform better, and feel better physically and mentally. This is what you want, and what you need...

...the road less traveled. 

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