A guide to first aid treatment for sports injuries

amputee football (©José Pablo Domínguez)

amputee football (©José Pablo Domínguez)

Sports might be fun but it is not without risks. Sports injuries are common and many athletes have come to an untimely end to their careers due to the irreversible damage of sports-related accidents.

It is highly recommended for athletes and coaches to learn first aid at Through this, they can anticipate and respond to injuries while on the field.


Sports injuries: A look at the numbers

In Australia, for instance, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that 60,000 people were hospitalised due to sports injuries between 2016 and 2017. Males are more likely to experience injuries and 1 in every 10 injuries is serious and life-threatening. In the same report, the following are the sports with the most reported hospitalisation cases due to injuries:

  1. Football (38% of males, 15% of females)
  2. Cycling (12% of males)
  3. Netball and basketball (13% of females)
  4. Wheeled motor sports (8% of males)
  5. Equestrian activities (11% of females)


First aid treatments for common sports injuries

Sports injuries are classified into two common types, which are chronic and acute. An acute injury could happen due to an awkward landing, sudden application of force and forceful impact. Meanwhile, a chronic sports injury is developed over time, be it due to poor technique, overuse of joints or muscle groups or structural abnormalities.


Strains, Sprains, Fractures

These three injuries commonly happen in sports that involve intense footwork, such as track and field, soccer, basketball and football. Sprains, fractures, and strains could range from minor to major. Regardless of the severity of the condition, the R.I.C.E method could be used as a first aid response.

  • Rest – Support the affected area and avoid moving it for at least 48 hours.
  • Ice – Apply ice to the joint, ankle, or muscle for 20 minutes every 2 hours for 2 to 3 days.
  • Compression – Wrap the affected area with a firm band. Be sure to include the upper and lower part of the painful area when bandaging.
  • Elevation – Let the patient sit or lay down. Then, raise the affected area, ideally above the level of the heart.

Fractures, sprains and strains are pretty common injuries in sports so it is best to learn first aid at to handle these injuries, regardless if you are an athlete or coach.

Facial Injuries

Facial injuries, such as cracked teeth, nasal fracture, tooth intrusion, epistaxis and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dislocation, are also common in sports. Specifically, facial injuries often happen in soccer, horseback riding and baseball.

Dentists can put together a chipped tooth if the patient receives immediate medical attention. Meanwhile, a displaced tooth could be more challenging to resolve, as it might require a tooth extraction.

Place an ice pack on the affected area to stop the bleeding. If a tooth rescue box is not available, let the patients hold the dislocated tooth under their tongue.

Mark Striegl, Casey Suire (©ONE Championship)

Mark Striegl, Casey Suire (©ONE Championship)



A concussion is a form of brain injury and is common in sports involving direct impact, be it from another player or sporting equipment. This commonly happens in boxing, wrestling, football and mixed martial arts.

Concussions could be mild or major, and it could take two weeks to a couple of months for the patient to fully recover. Athletes are highly advised to refrain from playing too soon after the accident to avoid having a second-impact syndrome, which could delay the healing.

Blacking out, light sensitivity, nausea, and bleeding scalp are signs of concussions. Once you notice these signs, be sure to keep the patients’ head steady. Over-the-counter meds would be a great help. While waiting for the ambulance, reduce the swelling of the affected area by applying ice.

Bruises, Abrasions and Cuts

While the severity of these injuries varies, these are fairly common in many types of sports. This could be due to direct contact with an abrasive material, poor choice of footwear and improper sports attire.

The R.I.C.E first aid method could be used for these injuries. It is also best to clean the wound as soon as possible. Coat the affected area with antibiotic ointment or other topical solutions. Then, apply pressure and cover it up with a bandage.

Sports might be a great activity but you should also be aware of the risks, including injuries. Before the game, be sure that a first aid kit is at hand and you have a medic on standby.

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