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Here’s the Game Plan: Tricks of the Trade

Sports Editor Emily Stancliff is an athlete with a mission: to inform you, the sports community, about your bad habits. "Here's the Game Plan" will give readers advice about everything and anything, ranging from fuel food to keeping your "cool" during a rough game.

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What is the worst part about being injured? Sitting on the sidelines? Dealing with those horrible itchy casts? Or having to deal with the throbbing of the affected appendage?

In my experience, it is the culmination of pains, both mental and physical that tortures me throughout the school day. However, I have discovered a couple tricks that help keep the pain at bay.

While crutches can help rest an injured part, they can cause problems too. Users should direct their body weight down their locked arms to the palms of the wrist, rather than resting the crutch on the underarms. This prevents rashes or sores under the arms and nerve pain from resting on underarms. Use good technique and consider some kind of extra cushioning – even a plush dish towel will help.

If crutches are not an option or if you have difficulties using crutches, you may want to consider alternative forms of modality. Knee scooters and wheelchairs can be tedious and cumbersome in a school setting, but they will not cause the formation of abrasions or underarm sores. They also do not require as much strength as needed to operate crutches and require little to no need to balance.

Another annoyance or distraction that I have come across stems from the dreaded trio – casts, boots, and braces. For one, casts are itchy. Under normal circumstances, extra dead skin cells, which make up the top layer of your skin, are rubbed off against clothing or bedding. In a cast, they build up, causing the area to become inflamed and itchy.

To calm the itch, you might resort to talcum powder (aka baby powder), but sometimes even baby powder is too harsh. I have found that keeping the cast clean and dry can knock out two birds with one stone. It soothes the itch and prevents infection. Lose the lotions – even deodorant if it is too irritating – and use a hairdryer on the lowest setting to keep the cast dry.

Boots and braces are a category to their own with their list of annoyances, but chief among their offenses is their strap disfunction and general tightness. To keep skin from becoming irritated and help speed recovery time, brace sleeves can relieve sensitivity and serve functionally as a compression element. Compression helps to keep oxygenated blood flowing to the injured area and can help reduce swelling.

It should be noted, though, that making the area too tight can lead to increased pain, more swelling below the brace, numbness, tingling, or coolness. If needed, adjust your straps throughout the day. You should also make sure that you are constantly moving your toes or fingers to help keep blood flow in circulation.

One of my personal favorites in accelerating the healing process is the use of electrical and bone stimulation. Electrical stimulation helps to promote muscle and tendon healing, while a bone stimulator promotes bone healing. While it might seem intimidating at first, electrical stimulation of any kind increases blood flow to the injured area, which promotes healing and reduces pain.

The last bit of advice, passed on to me by my two parent physicians, is called the RICE protocol. The acronym RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, and it applies to nearly all musculoskeletal injuries. While all four of these steps are essential to the healing process, there is one extremely vital concept – rest.

Rest is the most important, yet it tends to be the most neglected of the bunch. No athlete is keen on the idea of sitting out for days, weeks, or even months on end to heal, but oftentimes, this is precisely what they need. By following these four simple steps, you are not only assured of reducing pain, but also quicker healing.

The thing about injuries is that they come at inopportune times, generally ruin your well established routine, and are extremely annoying, but as an athlete you cannot afford to lose heart. When something bad happens, you can either let it define you, let it control you, or let it strengthen you. Use these quick little tips to lead you to your major comeback.

Emily Stancliff is a Sports Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.

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Here’s the Game Plan: Tricks of the Trade