First Aid for Sports Injuries: Immediate Treatment Techniques

Sports injuries are a common occurrence in the world of athletics and physical activity. Whether you're a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, knowing how to provide effective first aid for sports injuries is essential. During sporting activities, organizers should have a response team and well-stocked first aid kits to act first when someone has sports injuries. Immediate and proper care can make a significant difference in the recovery process and help prevent further complications. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover various sports injuries and the corresponding first aid techniques to address them.

There are different types of sports injuries, and the initial treatment given is dependent on the type and severity of the damage. People engaging in sporting activities, even regular physical exercises, must be aware of the common types of injuries with sports activities and their first aid treatment. Here are the 6 common Sports injuries and their first aid treatment:


  1. Dislocation: Dislocations are widespread in sports injuries and mostly occur within the shoulders.
  2. Fractures: Bone Fractures are common sports injuries that occur due to acute traumas.
  3. Knee Injuries: The most common acute knee injuries include tendons, ligaments, and meniscus injuries.
  4. Strains and Sprains: These are soft tissue injuries, and they can occur in different body parts. Sprains and strains affect elbows, ankles, and knees.
  5. Rotator Cuff Injuries: These injuries are common with older persons and may be acute and chronic.
  6. Cuts and Abrasions: These are very common in both major and minor sporting activities. The severity of the injuries varies from minor scrapes to significant artery injuries that can be life-threatening.

sports injuries

1. Dislocation

Dislocations are widespread in sports injuries and mostly occur within the shoulders. In this type of sports injury, the joint moves out of its socket. For such victims, you can see the joint dislocation. The symptoms are pain, inability to move the joint, swelling, and bruising.

If you suspect the victim to be having a dislocation, you should keep the organ immobile by avoiding unnecessary movement. You should also not make any attempt to replace the joint as it may result in further injuries. Instead, place ice on the injured part and take some painkiller drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. The victim should seek specialized care immediately.

2. Fractures

Bone Fractures are common sports injuries that occur due to acute traumas. When providing first aid for fractures, it's important to differentiate between the types of fractures and apply appropriate care. Here are three common types of fractures and their corresponding first aid measures:


Closed Fracture (Simple Fracture)

In a closed fracture, the broken bone does not pierce the skin. The primary goal is to immobilize the injured area to prevent further damage. Here's what you can do:

  • Keep the injured limb as still as possible to minimize pain and prevent the fracture from worsening.
  • Apply a splint or a rigid support to immobilize the injured area. This can be a rolled-up newspaper, a padded board, or any sturdy object.
  • Secure the splint in place with bandages or strips of cloth.
  • Elevate the injured limb if possible to reduce swelling.
  • Seek medical attention promptly to confirm the fracture type and for further medical treatment.


Open Fracture (Compound Fracture)

In an open fracture, the broken bone pierces through the skin, creating an open wound. The primary concern is to control bleeding and prevent infection. Here's what you can do:

  • Prioritize stopping any bleeding. Use a clean cloth or sterile dressing to apply gentle pressure on the wound without pushing the bone back inside.
  • Cover the open wound with a sterile dressing or a clean cloth to minimize the risk of infection.
  • Immobilize the injured limb with a splint as described above.
  • Do not attempt to push the bone back into place.
  • Seek immediate medical attention, as open fractures require surgery and antibiotics to prevent infection.


Stress Fracture

Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone caused by repetitive stress and are common in athletes. They typically don't require the same immediate first aid measures as acute fractures. However, they still need proper care to promote healing:

  • Rest: Immediately stop the activity that caused the stress fracture and rest the affected limb.
  • Ice: Apply ice to the injured area for 15-20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Compression: Use a compression bandage or wrap to provide support and reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Elevate the injured limb to reduce swelling.
  • Seek medical evaluation: While stress fractures don't typically require emergency care, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and guidance on treatment and rehabilitation.


In all cases of fractures, it's crucial to keep the injured person as comfortable as possible and minimize movement of the affected area until they receive appropriate medical care. Properly assessing the injury, immobilizing the limb, and seeking professional medical evaluation are key steps in providing effective first aid for fractures.

sports injuries

3. Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are common in sports, and they can be acute, chronic, or both. The most common acute knee injuries include tendons, ligaments, and meniscus injuries. Some of the signs of knee injuries are buckling sensation, clicking/ popping noise, pain, and weakness feelings.


First aid procedure for managing knee injuries:
  • Stop the activity immediately to protect the victim from incurring further injuries.
  • The victim should allow the injury to heal by taking rest.
  • Cold therapy Icing the injured (the cold prevents inflammation that causes swelling and bruising. Wrap an ice pack in a thin towel and apply it to the injury. Ice causes blood vessels around the injured part to vaso-constrict, reducing the inflammation effect.
  • Apply ice for 20 minutes at two-hour intervals. After every application, allow time for the injured part to warm. Acute injuries require Icing several times a day.
  • Compression will also help minimize swelling and inflammation. You achieve this by wrapping the injured part with an elastic bandage. You can apply cold therapy over the bandaging.
  • Elevate the injured organ by placing it higher than the rest of the body. It reduces swelling by limiting blood flow to the injured part.


4. Strains and Sprains

These are soft tissue injuries, and they can occur in different body parts. Sprains and strains affect elbows, ankles, and knees. Although they involve the same organs, the damage affects other tissues. Sprains affect ligaments, which are tissues connecting two bones to a joint. In sprains, the ligament can overstretch from excessive pressure and, in other cases, tear. Strains occur in muscles and tendons. Injuries can result from the overstretching of muscles and tendons. In some cases, these tissues tear. Both sprains and strains present similar symptoms. Sprains’ symptoms are the inability to use the injured organ, severe pain, and swelling. In addition, these strains result in muscle spasms and cramping.

When you suspect the victim of having incurred a sprain or strain, stop the activity. The procedure of attending to strains and sprains is similar to the one above for treating knee injuries:

  • Put a stop to the activity.
  • Compress the injured part with a bandage and then apply ice for a maximum of 20 minutes, letting the injured part warm up for two-hour intervals before Icing again.
  • Elevate the injured part to reduce swelling and see a doctor and have the injury assessed.


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5. Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuffs are tendons and muscles in the shoulder. These injuries are common in older persons and may be acute and chronic. In acute injuries, the victim experiences a snapping sensation with intense pain and may feel weakness in the arm. Whenever this occurs, it is critical to take a rest and avoid engaging the injured arm in any form of activity. The medical checkup should follow immediately to assess the extent of the injury.


6. Cuts and Abrasions

Cuts and abrasions are very common in both major and minor sporting activities. The severity of the injuries varies from minor scrapes to significant artery injuries that can be life-threatening. Minor injuries free from contamination are washed with clean water and soap and then bandaged. When bandaged, you should apply ice on the wound to prevent inflammation and swelling.

Contaminated abrasions, in which foreign particles are stuck, require specialized treatment in a medical facility. The wound needs cleaning by irrigation to remove any foreign matter. Upon washing, bandage the injury and apply ice.

Deep cuts require prompt medical attention. When offering first aid, it is critical to control the bleeding. Excessive bleeding can result in shock. To treat the external bleeding, put on gloves and apply pressure on the wound by using a clean piece of cotton cloth or gauze. When blood soaks through the fabric, place a new material on top of the first. If you cannot stop the bleeding, rush the victim to the hospital.


sports injuries

What's the Difference Between an Acute Injury and Chronic Injury?

An acute injury occurs abruptly, while chronic injury presents over prolonged periods of overuse. For chronic injuries, athletes or the injured can seek medical care wherever the symptoms start to show and may require physical therapy after a doctor's diagnosis. However, an acute injury requires immediate first aid administration. Participants in sports should always be prepared to attend to injuries as soon as they occur. It is critical to be able to provide early care to the injured until specialized help arrives.

When any sports injuries occur, you should stop the sport immediately to avoid worsening the injury. The first aid procedures aim to manage the condition until professional help arrives. The symptoms of acute sports injury include sudden swelling and pain, inability to mobilize an organ or place weight on it, visible dislocations, and visible cuts on the skin.


What is the first step of the stop procedure for assessing acute sports injuries?

The first step in the STOP procedure for assessing acute sports injuries is "Stop the activity." When an injury occurs during sports or physical activity, it is essential to immediately halt the activity or exercise that the injured person is engaged in. Stopping the activity helps prevent further damage or exacerbation of the injury. After stopping the activity, you can then proceed with a more detailed assessment of the injury and provide appropriate first aid as necessary. The STOP acronym stands for:

  • Stop the activity: Cease the physical activity immediately.
  • Talk to the athlete: Communicate with the injured person to understand the nature and severity of the injury.
  • Observe the injury: Carefully observe the injured area for any visible signs of trauma or deformity.
  • Prevent further injury: Take measures to prevent further harm to the injured person or the affected area. This may include immobilization or supporting the injured limb.

Following the STOP procedure helps ensure a systematic and safe approach to assessing and responding to acute sports injuries.


Performing CPR

At times, injuries during sporting activities can result in the victim going unconscious. CPR skills are crucial for victims with difficulty breathing and without a heartbeat. Therefore, it is essential to have a person who holds a first aid certification within the emergency responders in any sporting event. The procedure for performing CPR involves chest compressions, rescue breathing, and automated external defibrillators (AED)


CPR should start immediately when a victim falls unconscious and shows no signs of life, such as breathing and a pulse. Also, contact emergency medical response services within the shortest time possible. For these victims, every minute counts, and without CPR, they can die within minutes.


Which trauma requires immediate first aid?

Trauma that requires immediate first aid includes injuries that pose an immediate threat to an individual's life or long-term health if not addressed promptly. These life-threatening situations encompass severe bleeding, such as arterial bleeding, that can result in rapid blood loss and shock. Additionally, trauma involving the airway, breathing, or circulation, such as choking, cardiac arrest, or severe respiratory distress, necessitates immediate intervention.

Head injuries with signs of altered consciousness or severe head trauma should also be addressed urgently, as they may indicate potentially serious brain injuries. In cases of suspected spinal injuries, maintaining spinal immobilization and preventing further damage is crucial.


What is the first step in responding to any sports injury?

The first step in responding to any sports injury is to prioritize safety. Ensuring the safety of the injured individual and those around them should always be the immediate concern. Before providing any first aid or attempting to address the injury itself, assess the situation to make sure there are no ongoing dangers or hazards. This includes checking for any potential risks such as traffic, environmental hazards, or unstable surroundings. Once safety is assured, you can proceed with a systematic evaluation of the injury and provide appropriate first aid as needed.


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