Participating in sporting activities like football, wrestling, bicycling, gymnastics or surfing can cause a lot of wear and tear to various body parts, especially the neck. For instance, an accidental fall or a blow to your face during tackling may lead to sprains and strains. This can also result in significant damage to the neck ligaments, which may contribute to severe conditions like spinal cord problems or paralysis.
The common symptoms you’ll experience include neck stiffness, headaches, impaired breathing, leg or arm paralysis, extreme neck pain, bruising, or tenderness. It’s advisable to seek professional medical help for complete diagnosis and proper treatment in such a situation.
That said, here is what to do with a sports-related neck injury:
1.Seek Medical Treatment
Medical treatment is vital for all neck injuries, both minor and serious. Specific critical conditions like a neck fracture can be life-threatening and are considered a medical emergency. For that reason, it’s ideal to consult your doctor for a comprehensive neurological examination immediately. The radiological tests include X-rays, MRI and CT scans and the treatment options you’ll receive depend on the severity of the injury based on these results. Your doctor might recommend:
- A neck brace till your bones fully heal
- Surgical interventions for a severe fracture or spinal cord compression
- Stronger pain medicine or steroid injections to relieve extreme pain
The minor injuries may be managed with the use of:
- Muscle relaxers to reduce stiffness and reduce acute pain
- Icing and alternate heat to reduce the swelling
- Pain relievers to ease pain
- Massages to manipulate your neck muscles and provide relief
Most mild injuries usually heal in a few weeks. However, if your injury doesn’t respond well to treatment, you should inform your doctor for alternative care.
Here are some benefits of seeking medical treatment:
- Early treatment ushers in a speedy recovery.
- Medical professionals can diagnose unnoticeable medical conditions for treatment.
- Constant monitoring limits the risks of developing complications.
- You can prepare mentally for specific lifestyle changes that may arise. For instance, your doctor may recommend you completely abstain from the specific sport, probably due to its high risks.
In addition, your medical records serve as important evidence for personal injury lawsuits. They enable you to easily sort out your legal matters and get the compensation you’re entitled to. If you require representation for any sports-related neck injury, such as a spinal cord injury, consider reaching out to qualified and established law firms like Sadaka Law.
2. Consider Physical Therapy
Proper injury rehabilitation is essential for any kind of injury. It helps to get your body back on track, making your road to recovery even easier. Here are other benefits of physical therapy:
- It corrects faulty movements.
- It eliminates build-up tissue which can hurt or cause tightness.
- It provides strategies to deal with recurring pain.
- It strengthens your neck muscles, thus reducing strain.
- It trains your joints and internal organs to function optimally.
Your therapist will first conduct an initial assessment to understand your condition better and determine the appropriate approaches to treatment. Below are some types of therapy that can apply:
- Postural correction: A licensed physical therapist can guide you on how to go about gentle neck stretches and maintain the appropriate posture to increase neck flexibility.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy: It’s a pain management technique that involves the use of electrical currents in the affected area to disrupt pain and calm your nerves.
- Cervical traction: This involves the use of inflatable devices to separate joint surfaces of your neck and decrease pain. It’s mostly recommended by orthopedists if you have a bulging or herniated disc.
- Ultrasound: This entails deep heating your soft tissues like the tendons to inject energy and increase the elasticity of muscles. Usually, it’s conducted before active movement exercises to help improve your range of motion.
- Meditation: This relaxation method transforms your thoughts, giving you more control over the existing pain. It may be helpful, particularly during recovery.
Generally, through physical therapy, you can learn the best coping techniques to gradually get back to the game. Also, focusing on active exercise as the primary part of physical therapy may be more beneficial because passive treatments like TENS may only offer temporary benefits.
3. Take Enough Recovery Time
Adequate recovery time is essential for neck injuries, especially for severe ones like neck fractures. As much as you may want to get back to your favorite sport as soon as possible, it’s also crucial that you prioritize your health.
If you’re still experiencing neck pain, it’s an indication that you’re yet to fully recover, meaning you should have enough rest to regain your strength. Ignoring this phase may aggravate your injury into a more chronic one that can be difficult to treat or lead it to recur in the future.
Below are some ways to speed up recovery:
- Post-injury nutrition: Nutritional diets like vitamins, proteins, calcium-rich foods, and fatty acids are significant for muscle building, tissue rebuilding, and strengthening.
- Keeping fit during recovery: Fitness ensures your muscles are always flexible, making it easy to transition to play after recovery. Even so, the type of exercises and frequency should correspond to your doctors’ instructions.
Also, when you’re medically cleared to resume your sporting activities, remember to take it easy during the initial stages to avoid new injuries. Here are some protective techniques for your consideration as you get back to full performance:
- Use protective equipment like helmets, braces, or shoulder pads.
- Avoid excessive spearing.
- Watch out for injury warning signs.
- Avoid strenuous and poor training methods.
- Take a rest when in pain or tired. Also, inform your doctor if the pain persists and ask for guidelines on the way forward.
4. Focus On Self-care
There are efficient ways to take care of yourself to decrease recovery time after a sports injury. You can:
- Engage in relief exercises to stretch your tight muscles.
- Quit unhealthy habits such as smoking or substance use since they can weaken your bone structure.
- Manage your stress levels to prevent tension of muscles.
- Refrain from certain daily activities like driving or lifting objects to avoid reinjury.
- Use neck pillows to support your neck during sleep.
Neck injuries are common in the world of sports due to the many risk exposures. While you might take the necessary precautions to prevent them, accidents and complications may develop anytime.
If you happen to suffer from a neck injury, it’s best to seek immediate medical treatment, go for physical therapy, have enough rest, and take good care of yourself. Altogether, remember your health is paramount, so take the measures required to facilitate optimal recovery.