Be it through the TRL season or during preseason training, some players will sustain injuries which require careful management and treatment if they are to get back to full fitness as soon as possible. Whether you are familiar with the complete R.I.C.E.R protocol or not, the application of ice to an acute soft tissue injury is of paramount importance. So what is the effect of ice on minimising soft tissue trauma and what is the best method of application?
The Body’s Response to Soft Tissue Injury.
In response to an injury, the body’s tissues go through 3 distinct but overlapping processes. Within a few minutes of injury, the body produces blood clots to prevent excessive blood loss. As a result of this restriction, tissues surrounding the injured area die off over the next 3 – 4 days. Within an hour, chemicals released during blood clotting trigger an inflammation process which increases blood flow to the area in an attempt to clean up the dead cells and destroy potential infection. Swelling and inflammation occur. The final stage of this process includes the development of new tissue and its remodelling over the following weeks to months.
Why should I ice?
When ice or another type of cold therapy is applied to the sk
slowing down the blood flow you are able to reduce the amount of initial clotting and prevent excessive inflammation. This sleep like state gives the cells around the region a better chance of surviving while the blood flow is temporarily restricted. As these processes begin within minutes of injury, it is vital to apply cold therapy as soon as possible after trauma.in over a soft tissue injury it restricts the blood flow to the area and slows down the cells’ metabolism into a near sleeping state. By
Once your injury has been managed in the early stages and the original inflammatory process has subsided, it is important to remember that the new tissue will be undergoing remodelling. At this stage the tissue is highly susceptible to micro episodes of inflammation. As you gradually return to full activity and, whilst conditioning of the new tissue is taking place, it is advisable to continue the use of ice after training or a game for a the first few weeks post recovery.
How long should I ice for?
Fifteen minutes of ice applied to the skin is suitable to allow for an adequate effect on deep tissues. Remember to always allow sufficient time in between ice sessions to allow the skin to recover.
We recommend fifteen minutes on and forty five minutes off. An insulated ice bag is ideal however a plastic bag or a bag of frozen peas are adequate alternatives. Remember to never apply ice or frozen gel packs directly to your skin as this puts you at risk of an ice burn. Always place a moistened towel in between the gel pack and your skin to prevent the chance of injury.
Maintaining this protocol once an hour for the first 36 – 72 hours post injury will provide the best opportunity for minimising the severity of your injury. Immediate application of cold decreases the likelihood of excessive cell death and inflammation which, in turn, will reduce the recovery period and hasten a return to sport.
If you have any further questions or require more information, Allsports Physiotherapy have a YouTube channel dedicated to videos covering a range of sports injury management protocols and healthy lifestyle tips. You can check out our video on acute soft tissue injury management here:
Otherwise feel free to contact any of our clinics, or myself personally during business hours if you have any other queries or concerns.
Best of luck with your season ahead!
Allsports Physiotherapist – Jindalee Clinic