Sports Related Therapy

What’s the Difference Between an Acute and a Chronic Injury?

There are two kinds of sports injuries: acute and chronic. Acute injuries occur suddenly when playing or exercising. Sprained ankles, strained backs, and fractured hands are acute injuries. 

Signs of an acute injury include:

-Sudden, severe pain


-Not being able to place weight on a leg, knee, ankle, or foot

-An arm, elbow, wrist, hand, or finger that is very tender

-Not being able to move a joint as normal

-Extreme leg or arm weakness

-A bone or joint that is visibly out of place.

Chronic injuries happen after you play a sport or exercise for a long time.  

Signs of a chronic injury include:

Pain when you play

Pain when you exercise

A dull ache when you rest


What Should I Do if I Get Injured?

Never try to “work through” the pain of a sports injury. Stop playing or exercising when you feel pain. Playing or exercising more only causes more harm. Some injuries should be seen by a doctor right away. Others you can treat yourself.

Call a doctor when:

The injury causes severe pain, swelling, or numbness

You can’t put any weight on the area

An old injury hurts or aches

An old injury swells

The joint doesn’t feel normal or feels unstable.

If you don’t have any of these signs, it may be safe to treat the injury at home. If the pain or other symptoms get worse, you should call your doctor. Use the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) method to relieve pain, reduce swelling, and speed healing.

 Follow these four steps right after the injury occurs and do so for at least 48 hours:

Rest. Reduce your regular activities. If you’ve injured your foot, ankle, or knee, take weight off of it. A crutch can help. If your right foot or ankle is injured, use the crutch on the left side. If your left foot or ankle is injured, use the crutch on the right side.

Ice. Put an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes, four to eight times a day. You can use a cold pack or ice bag. You can also use a plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel. Take the ice off after 20 minutes to avoid cold injury.

Compression. Put even pressure (compression) on the injured area to help reduce swelling. You can use an elastic wrap, special boot, air cast, or splint. Ask your doctor which one is best for your injury.

Elevation. Put the injured area on a pillow, at a level above your heart, to help reduce swelling.