Two thirds of all sporting injuries are reported in the lower limb, with the most common sites of injuries being:
- Knees: causing up to 40% of sporting injuries
- Ankles: causing up to 25% of sporting injuries
- Feet: causing up to 10% of sporting injuries
If you feel pain and tenderness during or after sport or activity the first thing you should do is follow the RICER protocol:
Rest: Cease the sport or activity you are participating in and rest the affected area. You should limit or restrict weight bearing until you can do so pain free.
Ice: Ice the affected area immediately being careful not to put ice in direct contact with uncovered skin as this may induce a cold burn. Ice should be applied for 10-minute periods, repeating every two hours for up to 48 hours.
Compression: Apply a moderately firm bandage or crepe bandage around the affected area making sure a 50% overlap of the material is applied 6-8 inches below and above the site of injury.
Elevation: Elevate the affected area above your heart, this can be as simple as lying on a bed or couch with the affected area resting on a pillow.
Referral: If, following an injury, you are unable to weight-bear or are in a severe amount pain, you should seek medical treatment. If, after two days of rest, your lower limb injury pain has not resolved you should contact a podiatrist.
Ligament and tendon injuries account for 35% of all sporting injuries, such as the medial and lateral collateral ligaments or the Achilles tendon. Following injury to ligaments and tendons, you should:
- Immobilise through use of bracing and/or strapping
- Begin gentle, pain-free stretching to maintain range of motion
- Engaging in supervised and home-based exercises gradually increases your ability to weight-bear over time
- Recommencement of sporting activity when at 80% of pre-injury strength and range of motion. This will usually not be sooner than 6 weeks and may require follow up for up to 12 months
Muscles injuries account for 30% of all injuries reported, such as the calf and hamstrings. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is another example of muscle injury. Muscle injuries should be treated by:
- Protection of the area causing pain. This usually involves resting the area concerned, with controlled active pain free movements to maintain joint range of motion.
- Early assessment and mobilisation of the injured limb, with the use of manual therapy, enables pain free activity that facilitates recovery
- Depending on the severity of the injury, you may require a multidisciplinary rehabilitation plan, including physiotherapists, sports physicians, or surgeons