Published: June 8, 2010
Updated: Nov. 11, 2010
When you play sports, having an injury is almost inevitable; however, the length of time off the pitch can be shortened dramatically by practicing the RICE principle.
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) for minor injuries will speed recovery and get you back in the game faster.
To fully understand how RICE works, look a bit closer at each of the different elements.
Rest is the first principle of RICE. Rest does not necessarily mean total immobilization or weeks on crutches. However, it is important to modify your activity especially within the first 24-48 hours following injury.
Your body's first reaction is to begin the repair process by stopping the bleeding at the site of injury. This occurs when a clot forms around the injured tissues inside your body. Rest is important to allow for both the clot formation, as well as preventing disruption of this clot after it is formed.
Ice applied to an injured and painful area has a numbing effect that reduces pain and offers temporary relief.
While pain relief is beneficial following injury, the most important function of ice has more to do with its effects on the actual cells in the injured area. In basic terms, it helps your body reduce swelling and provide the necessary oxygen and nutrients to the area for healing.
Applying some type of compressive wrap to an injured area can greatly reduce the amount of initial swelling. Swelling is a major factor in prolonged rehabilitation.
Swelling occurs very rapidly; however, since it's removed through the lymphatic system, it takes a long time to reduce swelling.
Elevation refers to keeping the injured body part in a position higher than the level of the heart.
For an ankle sprain, this means propping your foot up while lying down. When your leg is elevated, gravity works to reduce the swelling and relieve pressure from the injury.
After a minor injury, swelling should be reduced within the first couple days and a gradual return to activity is recommended.
First, work on gaining full range of motion by lightly moving the injured body part and stretching to a comfortable range. Next, begin to strengthen the area with normal daily activities and then progress to sport activities.
If you are still in pain and have significant swelling longer than one week, you may need medical assistance.
Call 888-ASK-DUKE (888-275-3853) to schedule an appointment with a sports medicine specialist.
For soccer-specific injuries, please contact Kelly Hess, Duke Sports Medicine Soccer Outreach Coordinator, at 919-314-7670 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information was provided by Duke Sports Medicine physical therapist Kelly Hess.