Injuries are a part of sports.  What you need to do though is figure out when you have an injury or when you just have some pain that can be pushed through.

Old school thinking is to be tough and play through pain or an injury.  Sometimes that just can’t happen.  Nowadays, you have to be smart with injuries.  What exactly are we playing for at this particular time?  Figure that out to better diagnose what you need to do with the injury.

I’ve decided I don’t want my athletes to tough it out just yet.  I want them to tell me whenever they get some type of pain to let me know.  Let’s discuss it and then determine what we want to do with it.

And they tell me every ache and pain.

Sometimes, it isn’t anything.  Other times it is something that might be a little concerning.

When it comes to injuries, aches, or pains, this is the checklist I use with my athletes to determine a course of action:

  • You know a real injury when it happens.  Call 911 and stay calm.  When a leg snaps, a ligament tears, or a major muscle pull, you know it.  That isn’t something you say, “I think I can walk this off.”
  • A lot of people tell me they have a pain when they do this.  Then they put their limb in some funky position.  Ok.  Don’t do that and let’s see where it hurts doing natural movements.
  • You then try to identify anything that might have caused the pain.  Did they wake up with a pain because they slept funny?  Did you fall on the playground and throw your hand back to catch yourself?  If you can identify where the pain originated that can help determine whether it is a pain or could be an injury.
  • On a scale of 1-10 (1 being almost nothing and 10 being worst pain ever), how does this rank?
  • Do you feel it all the time or just during certain movements?
  • Do you feel you aren’t moving at full speed because of this pain?
  • Can you touch the pain or is it deeper than that?

There might be some follow up questions, but I usually start with those.  They give me an idea of what I’m dealing with.

Usually, they are minor aches or strains that can be solved with some ice, stretching, or potentially rest.  I typically have the athlete ice for 15 minutes, rest 60, then repeat that cycle for as long as possible for a few days.  

If the pain stays the same, but ideally gets better then I think we are on the right track.  

If the pain gets worse, then we might have to consult a physician.

If after 7 days the pain has stayed the same and not gotten better, you might want to consult a physician.

These are just my guidelines.  I’m an expert in speed and strength training.  I’ve learned a few things on injury prevention, recovery, etc., but by no means am I an expert.  So take these with a grain of salt, but this is what I do.

Yes, if need be, I might suggest the athlete cut back on the activity to allow recovery.  Or focus on lower body work, if it is an upper body pain for example.

Don’t ignore every little ouchy.  I don’t try to push through it either until you have gone through at the very least, this checklist.  Then make your decision from that point.