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Injured? The Good, the Bad and the Must-Do

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 07:  Joline Henry of the Mystics falls down injured during the round nine ANZ Championship match between the Tactix and the Mystics at Vector Arena on April 7, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)

The bad news: injuries are often an unfortunate byproduct of an active lifestyle. The good news: there are ways to avoid them. The biggest cause of sports and fitness-related injuries is not paying attention to your body. The people who get into trouble try to ignore the body’s signals to let up. Although some problems can't be avoided, there are three basic rules to follow to minimize your injury risk:

If something hurts, don't do it.
If you're feeling sick, stop.
If you are injured, take time to recover.

There's a balance when it comes to your sports and fitness regimen. Be proactive and remember the following guidelines:

Always warm-up and cool-down before and after your game or workout.
Build your fitness level gradually.
Use the right equipment for your sport or activity, including shoes and protective gear.
Know your limits.

R-I-C-E.
For many injuries, including strains and sprains, the recommended first-aid during the first 72 hours is known by the acronym RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Rest – Rest is necessary to prevent further damage to the injured part of the body. Because athletes are taught to push themselves past their physical limits on a daily basis, this is always the hardest aspect of an injury. It’s also the most important.

Ice – Using ice reduces inflammation, slows down swelling and promotes faster healing. Kick back, turn on the TV and ice up! Don’t have ice in the freezer? Try a bag of frozen peas or carrots – it will have the same effect as a bag of ice.

Compression – Compression, usually with an elastic wrap, is often used when applying ice to help reduce swelling. Try an ACE bandage or similar. Wrap your ice bag around your injury with it. It should be tight, but not tight enough to cause discomfort.

Elevation – By elevating the injured body part above the level of the heart, gravity can assist moving fluid away from the injured area. Elevation can be done while icing and compressing.

If you do find yourself on the injured list, see your doctor to assess the severity of your condition and to determine if any special treatment is necessary. Be sure to follow up and complete all treatment prescribed by your doctor. Sports injuries don’t just simply go away forever – they might hide themselves, but if left untreated…they can come back with a vengeance.