Rugby is a collision sport, which means there is the possibility of injuries to the soft tissues or joints of the body. A traumatic injury to the soft tissues may well cause bleeding and an inflammatory response and the following advice on effective immediate treatment helps maximise the body’s natural healing response. Soft tissue is any tissue that supports, surrounds or protects organs or other parts of the body meaning that tendons, ligaments, muscles, nerves and blood vessels are all types of soft tissue.
Please note that the following advice is not a substitute for high quality first aid or immediate care and players should consult a qualified therapist or doctor if injured as it is important to make the correct early diagnosis and appropriate treatment
The key aim in the immediate treatment of soft tissue injuries is to prevent further tissue damage, reduce the body's inflammatory response and allow the injured tissue to begin healing. The the following principles are recognised as the best practice for the management of soft tissue injury.
- Initially, the joint or soft tissues must be protected from weight bearing loading and excessive movement. During a match or training this may well require removal from the field of play or the training session, but the exact method used to protect the joint or soft tissue will depend exactly which part of the player's body has sustained the injury. Protection may include strapping, use of a sling for upper limb or use of crutches for a lower limb injury
- Once the injury has occurred immediate rest of the injured area will prevent further damage and allow healing processes in the tissues to begin without disruption. Depending on the severity of the injury, the rest period required may vary between one to four days. More severe injuries may take longer
- When applied to the injured tissue, ice causes contraction of the blood vessels (this is known as vasoconstriction), which will reduce localised swelling in the area. It also has an analgaesic effect, reducing pain and discomfort by slowing down nerve transmission
- Ice can be applied in a variety of ways, ice cube massage on skin with dermatological cream used as a lubricant to prevent an ice burn, ice bags wrapped around the area, cold gel packs placed in a damp towel to prevent an ice burn, or more sophisticated cold water compression garment placed around the area
- It is recommended that ice is applied for 20-30 minutes every two hours in the initial (or acute) phase of injury, which lasts on average for the first 48 hours
- Compression assists in the control of the bleeding at the site of the injury, and the subsequent inflammatory response of the injured area during the acute phase. It may consist of a compression bandage wrapped around the soft tissue or joint, or an elasticated bandage tubigrip which is easily applied over the soft tissue or joint
- Elevation is used to assist in the drainage of inflammation products produced by the body at the site of the injury. For arm injuries the use of a sling, or placing the arm above the level of the armpit assists this process. For leg injuries placing the limb in elevation above the level of the groin assists this process
Note: It is important that you seek medical advice in the event of any injury which may stop you participating further in the session, or if you experience unexplained symptoms, particularly if they stop you participating further in a session or are recurrent.