Athletic trainers and moms alike know that one of the best medicines for injuries is plain old ice as part of the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) treatment. What they may not know is how a sports ice maker can make the RICE method a whole lot more convenient.
With sports, come injuries. Star athletes and benchwarmers alike get taken down by tweaked muscles, blown backs, and sickening crunches, often at crucial moments in championship series. Sometimes, plain bad luck is at work, such as when Washington Redskins Quarterback Joe Thiesmann, a XVII Super Bowl Champion, was sacked during a game against the New York Giants. Thiesmann ended up sprawled on the field with a career-stopping and unforgettable-if-you-saw-it leg compound fracture.
Football isn’t the only injury-inducing sport. According to the National Safety Council, in 2013 basketball was the most dangerous sport in the United States, with 533,509 Americans left in pain after playing. Bicycle riding was a close second, with 521,378 total injuries, followed by football, and then straight-up exercise. But even seemingly benign sports like golf had more than 33,000 injuries, and bowling resulted in 16,982 injured folks. Across the sports board, no age group was safe, with even 5 to 14 year olds, for example, suffering 44% of soccer injuries.
Luckily, most sports injuries aren’t as serious as Thiesmann’s. And more often than not, many are preventable or made worse simply by avoidable bad practice habits, like doing reps incorrectly or skipping the safety gear because it “slows you down” (reality-check, you’re just as slow without it).
To reduce chances of a sports injury, all athletes should warm-up before diving into the intense part of the workout, and cool-down after they’re done exercising hard. Athletes should also stretch before and after, for flexibility. Cross-training, which means doing different types of workouts, is another great tool for overall fitness and injury prevention because you’re not using the same set of muscles over and over.
Sustenance is also crucial to injury prevention. Athletes need to stay hydrated by drinking at least 8 ounces of water a half hour before working out, every 15 minutes while working out, and 8 more ounces when done. Healthy snacks and protein throughout the day will keep the body fueled and will prevent muscle fatigue. Wearing clothes meant for working out can also combat injuries, such as the proper gear according to the weather. Runners and anybody putting in the miles on foot needs to be wearing the right shoes for their running form.
If you do get struck-down by the mysterious will of the sports gods, chances are it’s with one of these leading sports injury types.
- Strains and sprains
- Knee injuries
- Swollen muscles
- Achilles tendon injuries
- Pain along the shin bone
Everyday Athletes Shouldn’t Pull a Kerri Strug
When Kerri Strug landed that vault jump on her torn ankle to lead the 1996 U.S. women’s gymnastics history to its first ever Olympic team gold medal, her feat instantly was immortalized as a lesson on motivation: even when hurting, all you have to do is fight through the pain and you’ll achieve all of your dreams.
Maybe once in a blue moon.
Back on earth, one of the worst things an athlete can do is power through an injury. Props to you and maybe even a cookie if you want to do another five miles with those shin-splints, but you’re only going to make things worse, with more extensive damage and a longer recovery time. Instead, anyone who gets taken down by a workout injury should begin what’s called the RICE routine, within 48 hours:
- Eat a plate of rice pilaf.
- Take a nap and wake up healed.
Just kidding, we’re still on earth. The real RICE routine, touted by everyone from WebMD to athletic trainers, involves:
R: Resting the injury.
I: Icing the injury to reduce inflammation, bleeding, and swelling.
C: Compression bandage treatment to decrease swelling.
E: Elevating the injured part to minimize swelling.
If you follow this recipe, many sports injuries will heal by around four weeks’ time. A month off from exercise sounds like a long drought, especially if you’ve got games to train for, or if you’re worried that down-time will kick off a lazy streak that’s going to be hard to escape. The good news is that resting for four weeks is not the same thing as melting into the sofa with potato chips decorating your belly for four weeks. If possible, stay active by trying new workouts involving only the uninjured areas of your body. And don’t get fooled just because you start to feel a little better. Doing too much too fast will most likely reignite the injury all over again. After the sports injury rest and treatment period, and pain-free living for at least a week, start out exercising nice and easy and build back up to your previous fitness level. But before that can happen you have to:
Ice, Ice, Baby
Ice is essential to healing a sports injury. As old as time itself, when used on an injury, ice can both relieve pain and reduce swelling in the area. This is because the body likes to overcompensate when there’s damage and send way too much blood to the wounded area – thanks body – preventing the proper healing. Since ice is cold, and cold causes things to shrink, the ice causes blood vessels to contract, reducing blood flow to the site of injury.
The quicker the swelling subsides, the quicker an injury can heal. This is why ice should be applied as soon as possible after an injury happens – it’s most important to target the inflammation within the first two days of the trauma. Too much swelling can also cause more damage. So think of ice as a way of preventing damage beyond the initial sports injury, and facilitating the healing process. Ice can also be used on more chronic sports aches and pains that get inflamed after a workout, like a pesky bout of plantar fasciitis, to prevent further swelling in the area.
You can, of course, use other cold things to treat sports injuries, like a bag of frozen peas, but then what will you have for dinner? In all seriousness, using regular old ice is the easiest and most cost-effective way to treat injuries.
How to Use a Sports Ice Maker for an Injury
Icing a sports injury is really simple if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, you could give yourself frostbite….Though this could solve the problem by getting rid of the area completely, we think it’s best if you heal with all body parts intact.
First and foremost, you need to make some ice. You can go with the old ice cube mold trays, filling them up unevenly at the kitchen sink and then inching back to the freezer only to realize that you spilled half of the water on the trek over and now you don’t have a free hand to open the freezer door.
Or, you can just use a portable sports ice maker and save yourself a ton of grief. These ice making machines sit right on a countertop and are capable of busting out anywhere from 28 to 50 pounds of ice per day, with the cold healing gold ready in under ten minutes. You might be saying, But I already have a fridge with a nice fancy built-in ice maker. Why don’t I just use that? Here’s a question for your question: Can you carry your fridge around? Didn’t think so.
That’s why a NewAir portable ice maker – and the keyword here is portable – is perfect for a household with athletes in it: the sports ice maker can be set up right where the injured person has set up camp, so they don’t have to move around and exacerbate the problem. Outside the house, high school coaches, parents of student-athletes, and anybody else who’s involved in sports can keep one of these in the van for unexpected injury scenarios instead of using half-melted ice from the Gatorade cooler. All that’s needed is an outlet, which you can find in even the remotest of public bathrooms, and some water in the ice maker’s reservoir. Press the power button and ice is ready in as little as 6 minutes. You can also make ice cubes of various sizes, depending on what’s most comfortable for your injury. Any unused ice eventually melts back into the reservoir and then is used when you need ice again.
Now that you have unlimited ice an arms-length away, and lots of it, here’s what you need to do:
- Put about two handfuls of ice (or more for larger injuries) in a plastic bag, a sock, a towel, etc., so that the ice won’t directly touch your skin.
- Use the ice locally, meaning in the area where the injury is. Move it around occasionally within the region that has swelling.
- Ice the area for at least 10 minutes, but no longer than 20 minutes. Anything shorter and you won’t be helping the muscle tissue. Anything longer and you could get frostbite.
- Ice 5 to 8 times a day, with at least 45 minutes between treatments.
- Continue to ice for at least 3 days following an acute injury, and immediately following workouts if it’s a nagging chronic sports injury.
Pay attention while you’re icing. It should feel cold at first, and then it will burn a little, and then it will begin to ache, and then it will get numb. Once you feel numbness, you need to remove the ice, or you could damage your skin. How long you need to ice for will depend on the area of focus, with thicker tissue areas requiring longer icing times.
To complete your RICE routine, you’ll need to follow-up icing with Compression. This involves putting an equal amount of pressure on the injured area, to also reduce swelling. You can use a simple elastic wrap or bandage for this. Then, don’t forget to Elevate the injury just above the level of your heart using a pillow or blanket pile, in order to reduce swelling further. If you follow this routine, you should back out on the court in no time at all, with your trusty ice cube maker by your side.