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Treatment of Soft Tissue Injuries

Sally Perkins explains how to deal with sports-related soft tissue injuries safely and effectively.

Soft tissue injuries are the most prevalent injury encountered by athletes. Soft tissues - which include muscles, tendons, and ligaments - can be found all over the body. The most significant risk factor for a soft injury is having had one previously. Therefore, when it comes to keeping these tissues safe, stretching, training, and refraining from pushing oneself beyond certain limits, are key. 

What Types Of Soft Tissue Injuries Can Occur When You Are Playing Sport?

Some of the most common injuries that can occur are acute injuries (those which result from a specific incident), bruises (usually caused by contact with other players, falls, or running into a hard surface), sprains (which affect joints that are forced outside their usual range of motion), strains (when muscles stretch or contract too quickly, resulting in a tear), and overuse (these injuries can occur when athletes repetitively twist, pull or compress soft tissue). The difference between overuse injuries and the rest is that the former takes a long time to appear. When they do, however, the swelling and pain can be intense.

The First Response To A Soft Tissue Injury

If you experience a painful tear or sprain while you are taking part in sport, taking immediate action to treat soft tissue injuries is key. The acronym RICER (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, and Referral) sums up all the actions you need to take. It would help if you immediately stopped playing the sport. Next, apply ice for 20 minutes three to five times daily (with at least one and a half hours between applications) and keep this going for 72 hours to address pain and swelling. An elastic bandage will help prevent blood loss and swelling, and elevation will also help soothe inflammation. Try to keep the injured tissue higher than your heart when you are at rest.

Consulting A Professional Is Key

Most soft injuries heal in a period spanning from a few days to around a month and a half. Suppose swelling and pain are moderate to severe. In that case, however, the need to see a professional is indicated, since the right treatment will speed up healing and enable you to get back to your sport as quickly as possible. Your doctor may recommend bracing your sprain, for instance, or you may be given a series of exercises to do to regain mobility after a strain. Sometimes, surgery may be recommended for a condition that does not normally require it - such as bursitis  (which occurs when the bursa - cushion-like sacks that are present near the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, and heel - are injured). In the case of bursitis, if infection occurs, a doctor may decide to drain out the excess fluid or may deem surgery the best way to go forward.

What Are Typical Recovery Periods For Soft Tissue Injuries?

Seeing your doctor when you encounter a soft tissue injury is important because this will enable you to classify your injury and give you a good idea of how long recovery will take. Grade 1 injuries usually affect a small percentage of tissue and enable recovery a few days or in a couple of weeks at most. Grade 2 injuries involve partial tears of tissue, and they can take between six weeks and two months to heal. Grade 3 injuries are considered severe since they involve a complete break of the soft tissue. If you are unable to use the affected limb at all, you may have a Grade 3 injury. Recovery can take between a few weeks and a year, depending on where the injury occurred and how severe it is.

Soft tissue injuries are the most common type of injury faced by athletes, and they should be prevented through training and stretching. If you encounter this type of injury, use the RICER method immediately. It is also important to see a doctor or physiotherapist so they can help you strengthen the affected area. This way, you can avoid succumbing to a second injury in the same spot.


Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • PERKINS, S. (2019) Treatment of Soft Tissue Injuries [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article513.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Sally Perkins is a professional freelance writer with many years' experience across many different areas. She made a move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and travelling as much as possible.