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If you’ve played or watched soccer, you know how physical the game can be. When strains and sprains occur, the body’s natural response is to swell and protect the injured area. Swelling is good--although sometimes painful--response to injury. While it helps to begin the healing process, too much swelling can slow recovery.

Ice is an easy, inexpensive and reliable tool to treat swelling. It helps reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels and blood flow to the injured area. Heat has the opposite effect and as a general rule should not be used with acute swelling.

Andy Hylton, OrthoCarolina Physician Assistant and former professional soccer player, shares five tips on how to properly ice an injury:

  1. Ice quickly. Ice an injury within the first 10 – 15 minutes to make the most impact. An ice pack or frozen bag of vegetables works great.
  2. Protect your skin. Use a thin barrier between the ice and your skin to protect from frostbite.
  3. Elevate the injury. If possible, elevate the injured area above the heart while icing, this can help to further decrease swelling and inflammation.
  4. Timing matters. For finger and toe injuries, ice for 10 minutes. Most other injuries should be iced for 15 minutes.
  5. Be consistent. Ice 3 – 4 times a day for the first three days. After three days, ice just once near the end of the day.

It’s important to note that simple swelling can last between 2 – 4 weeks. Bone and soft tissue injuries can also result in swelling. An orthopedic evaluation could be useful to get a diagnosis and a better estimated time of recovery.

Andy Hylton is a P.A. (Physician Assistant) at OrthoCarolina and also has a degree in Athletic Training. He has played professional soccer in the U.S. and England, and also played for Great Britain’s soccer team in the World University Games (Olympics for students) in Beijing, China. Andy treats all ages and orthopedics needs, particularly sports medicine injuries and conditions.

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