I banged my knee up really good last night, and it made me realize that I should probably write something up about the recovery process. I'll keep it simple though cause I know the last thing people probably wanna do if they're injured is sit down and read a 1,000 word essay on what they're doing wrong.
Injuries of all types and BMX go hand in hand. If you ride, at some point, you're going to get hurt. It could be as simple as a scraped up knee or elbow, or it could be as serious as a torn ACL (which I wouldn't wish on anyone.) I've had problematic knees for a pretty long time, and I'm usually pretty good about not re-injuring it, but when I do, I follow the standard athletic injury acronym: R.I.C.E.
R.I.C.E. stands for "Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation," and it can be used for all types of athletic injuries, including sprains, strains, pulls and tears. (It should go without saying here, if you think you need medical attention for something more serious, don't waste your time reading this, head to the doctor ASAP!) But a lot of us that ride know our bodies pretty well, and a lot of us that ride know when we've done something more serious that's in need of medical attention. But for the less serious injuries, R.I.C.E. speeds up the recovery process dramatically.
So let's say you also banged up your knee last night. The knee has in turn begun to swell, bruise and become inflamed. This is a normal part of the healing process, and also the area in which R.I.C.E. works best. I'll start with "Rest."
"Rest"- Get off the knee, now! You run the risk of injuring it even more in its weakened state. Plus, your body needs to rest so it has extra energy to heal itself more efficiently. So stay off the knee. Get your girlfriend to drive you to work, don't walk around any more than you need to. And please, give the bike a rest.
"Ice"- Use ice packs, cold packs or even frozen vegetables. I use Trader Joe's frozen mango slices. Cold provides short-term pain relief and limits swelling by reducing blood flow to the injured area. Don't over-ice though. 15-20 minutes at a time, then 15-20 minutes off the ice.
"Compression"- This is my favorite. Compression limits swelling, which slows down healing. Some people notice pain relief from compression as well. Get an Ace Bandage at your local Duane Reade and wrap the injured area up. Not too tight though, but tight enough. You know?
"Elevation"- Elevating an area reduces swelling as well. Take a leg off, kick back and make sure that knee is raised up with some pillows in bed.
Follow this format for up to 48 hours following your injury and you should see the pain and swelling begin to subside. If not, make an appointment and get to the doctor. At this point though, if your pain and swelling is going away, you're not done just yet. Light massage of the area is recommended to avoid the formation of scar tissue. Not only that, gentle stretching of the area will help get the joint working properly again. Heat also helps, since it increases blood flow to the area. There's also anti-inflammatory medications that people can take, but I don't know the legal ramifications of me, a non-doctor, talking about recommending Ibuprofen here, so I won't broach that subject. But you can read all about it here.
And there we go, the acronymatic road to recovery has begun. Take a load off and don't rush back to the bike though. Basically, and this will be different for each person and each injury, pay attention to your body's healing process. You'll know when you're feeling up to riding again. Just don't rush it, or you could end up injuring yourself even worse. And that, well, it would suck. So rest up, learn your R.I.C.E. and thank the creators of Ace Bandages for making recovery a heck of a lot easier. -Brian Tunney