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Sports Injuries First Aid

Harry Rose explains why first aid should be on every coach's radar.

It is almost unthinkable, in this day and age, that anyone involved with sports at any level would not give serious consideration to first aid. Yet far too many athletes suffer the prolonged effects of injury due to a lack of proper medical care. If you are a coach who doesn't draw correlations between first aid and sports injuries, it is time to change your thinking.

First aid should be something a coach thinks about before the start of a new season. It is something they should continue thinking about whenever they work with athletes. The reality is that proper first aid can mean the difference between a complete recovery or a devastating injury that could end an athlete's career.

Two Types of Injuries

Good first aid begins with a basic understanding of sports injuries. From a medical standpoint, injuries are divided into two categories: acute and chronic. Knowing what you are looking at determines the type of first aid you offer. More often than not, acute injuries are the ones that demand the most serious attention.

Acute Injuries

Acute injuries are those that occur suddenly. Fractures are a good example. You might have two football players battling for the ball when one tackles the other a little too hard. A resulting broken leg would be an acute injury demanding immediate attention.

Chronic Injuries

By contrast, chronic injuries are those that occur over time. They are sometimes referred to as overuse injuries for this very reason. One of the more recognised chronic injuries in the game of baseball is the classic ulnar collateral ligament tear. Though the tear itself can occur suddenly, it is almost always the direct result of long-term overuse. The injury is one of the most common causes of Tommy John's surgery among pitchers.

Both types of injuries (acute and chronic) call for different first aid protocols. Coaches must understand the types of injuries they are dealing with so that proper aid can be rendered when necessary.

Identifying Injuries on the Field

First aid for sports injuries is rooted in identifying injuries as they occur. Having an ample supply of UK first aid kits on hand isn't very helpful if you are not familiar with the types of injuries your athletes are likely to suffer. In light of that, some of the more common acute injuries suffered by athletes include:

  • dislocations
  • bone fractures
  • head injuries
  • sprains and strains
  • contusions and abrasions.

Identifying a bone fracture immediately tells a person administering first aid to immobilise the bone in question. Responders would use an air cast or splint to secure the broken bone before moving them. The athlete would then be immediately taken to a hospital. Depending on their response, shock treatment might also be necessary.

Dislocations are fairly easy to identify if you've had experience with them. Contusions and abrasions can be seen with the naked eye. Things like head injuries, knee injuries, and muscle sprains are not so easily identified. They often require examination by a medical professional.

Recommending the PRICE Protocol

The NHS recommends that everyone, including coaches and trainers, familiarise themselves with the PRICE protocol. It is designed to address both acute and chronic sprains and strains. Being that such injuries are so common, the PRICE protocol is something that sports coaches should be implementing.

PRICE rests on five strategies correlating to the individual letters of the word:

  • Protection of the affected area to prevent further injury.
  • Rest intended to allow the injured limb to heal.
  • Ice is applied at regular intervals to reduce inflammation.
  • Compression applied to limit future inflammation.
  • Elevation whenever possible, to reduce inflammation.

When viewed through the lens of first aid, the PRICE protocol can be an invaluable tool for coaches, parents, and athletes alike. It can facilitate faster recovery from strains and sprains while also reducing the risks of long-term injury.

The Value of First Aid Classes

There is a lot more about first aid and sports injuries this post could address. But in the interests of brevity, moving on to one final point is appropriate. That point is the importance of taking first aid classes. As a coach tasked with looking out for your athletes on the field, first aid classes are a no-brainer.

Even a basic first aid class intended to help you identify the most common injuries athletes suffer can go a long way. A basic class can teach you how to treat cuts and abrasions. It can teach you how to identify and address broken bones. It can teach you how to prevent injured athletes from going into shock.

It is not possible to prevent all sports injuries. Things happen. But it is possible to mitigate the effects of both acute and chronic injuries. Giving attention to first aid principles is a good place to start. Understanding the types of injuries your athletes might experience, how to identify them, and how to treat them will ultimately be good for everyone you work with, on and off the field.


Page Reference

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

  • ROSE, H (2021) Sports Injuries First Aid [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article626.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Harry Rose is a certified personal trainer with 10+ years of experience in the fitness industry. He is an expert in sports conditioning and strength training among other disciplines.