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When You Shouldn’t Just Walk It Off

If you play sports or are physically active, you have probably had your fair share of aches and pains. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, “the most common sports-related injuries are sprains, strains, swollen muscles, fractures, dislocations, knee injuries, and shoulder injuries such as those to rotator cuffs.” After being injured, have you ever told yourself to “just walk it off” and keep going?

According to Steven Erickson, MD, a sports medicine specialist with Banner – University Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, “injuries are inevitable during sports and many athletes assume that their injuries are minor.” We spoke with Dr. Erickson to find out when you really need to get assessed by a physician.

When to Seek Medical Advice

“While it’s true that some injuries are minor and self-limiting – confined to a specific period and severity – all injuries should be initially treated as potentially serious,” said Dr. Erickson. Some injuries, in particular, should always be assessed by a sports medicine specialist:

  • Head injuries, especially if you get knocked unconscious or experience a severe headache or vomiting
  • Dislocated joints
  • Those that result in immediate swelling or bruising
  • Obvious deformities that could suggest a fracture, like protruding or misaligned bone
  • When your joint or limb cannot be moved or used without significant pain

“If you don’t seek medical attention for an injury, you risk compensating for that injury with another part of your body which can create more pain or disability,” said Dr. Erickson. He also noted that one of the advantages of being evaluated early by a sports medicine specialist is that your doctor can order the appropriate medical imaging, like an x-ray, to find out your exact injury and its severity. Professionals can also put together an individualized treatment plan that may include physical therapy, aquatic therapy, medications or surgery.

Treatment Options for Minor Injuries

If your injury doesn’t meet the criteria for a visit to the doctor, there are steps you can take at home to help ease your pain and start the healing process.

Dr. Erickson said that most acute joint and muscle sprains should be treated with R-I-C-E:

  • Resting the affected area
  • Icing it
  • Compression and elevation for the first 24-48 hours

For pain relief, consider using an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. However, “if pain is not adequately controlled by taking these measures, that’s another sign that you should seek medical advice,” explained Dr. Erickson.

Whether you’re a casual athlete, weekend warrior athlete, professional athlete or even a performance artist, our sports medicine doctors provide services to all types of athletes. Visit BannerHealth.com to learn more.

Orthopedics Sports Medicine