Abuse of Ice (H2O)


By Jim Hall.

No, not the drug but common frozen H2O.

The biggest mistake made by inexperienced sports trainers (and some medical professionals who should know better) is to ice a player or athlete and send them back out to play.

Once an ice pack is applied to a sore muscle or injury, that athlete should take no further part for the day.

If you are contemplating a player returning to play, make a proper assessment of the injury or give them time to determine if they are fit to return prior to applying ice.

Some exceptions are a 5 minute application to a jarred finger or chronic sore knee where there is minimal muscle tissue. Another might be Osgood Schlatters, again mainly on bone area.

Ice massage for shin splints 10 minutes prior to warm ups is also acceptable and beneficial.

As a first aider, often we get a request for ice. We should always ask who and what it is for, have they got any further events or are they returning to play and advise them once they ice they are finished for the day.

Many may ask why. Ask them why they do warm ups prior to playing (“to prevent injury “) and now they are going to “freeze up” and worse still be unaware they are doing further damage due to lack of feeling created by the ice.

So many times we see the junior trainer going immediately for the ice pack or a student saying my teacher said to get some ice. Pull rank in these situations regardless of their stature (e.g. doctor, nurse, pys.ed. teacher ) If they choose not to heed your advice, fill out a PCR and ask them to sign saying they chose to put the athlete back out after icing. They probably won’t sign and will most likely stop doing it.

Recently, at an athletics carnival some students came to the first aid room asking for some ice for their friend. We suggested it might be a good idea if we looked at the injury. The student was transported to hospital with a dislocated hip and muscle torn from the bone.

Icing should be 20 minutes on and 2 hours off. Effective ice massage can be provided by filling a polysterene cup with water, freezing, tearing a small amount of foam from the top so ice protrudes and massaging firmly over the injured area in a circle about the size of a cricket ball for 15 minutes at a time 3 or 4 times a day.

Anyway, chill out for now!!