2016 Olympics: first aid tips for athletes
- Make sure you have the right equipment
If you are new to exercise or are returning after a long break, you’ll need to make sure you have the right kind of exercise equipment, including the correct footwear. If your workout includes running, walking, group sports or gym equipment, a well-fitting, comfortable pair of sports shoes is essential.
Wearing unsuitable shoes can lead to foot and ankle damage, however wearing good shoes lessens the impact of your step, cushioning the foot from heavy landings.
If you’re starting a fitness regime where you will be wearing new shoes, you should get guidance from a podiatrist who can assess the way you walk before recommending what type of shoe you need.
If you are using equipment you have never used before, make sure you speak to staff at the gym you attend. Starting a new regime, without getting appropriate equipment advice, can lead to injuries, while regularly using the wrong items that aren’t suitable for your body type can cause long-lasting problems.
2. Keep hydrated
Athletes should never underestimate the importance of good hydration. Whether you’re a serious competitor or a complete beginner, you must make sure you get the right amount of water before, during and after your workout. Drinking water helps you to regulate your body temperature and transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy.
There are no exact rules around how much water to drink while exercising, and each person is different. Whatever exercise you do, it’s worth carrying a bottle of water to make sure you stay hydrated throughout. If you feel light-headed, have muscle cramps or if your heartbeat won’t return to normal, you may be dehydrated.
3. Be aware of the weather
If you are exercising outside, be aware of the weather. Avoid workouts during the hottest times of the day. Instead, try to schedule them in the morning or late afternoon.
Be aware of the danger signs of heat-related emergencies and stop exercising if you feel dizzy, light-headed or are experiencing heat cramps – try to always and stay in the shade and dress in lightweight workout clothes.
4. Keep a first aid kit nearby
Be aware of where your nearest first aid kit is when exercising, or if you can, buy a portable one to bring with you if you’ll be on the move. This way, you will be able to deal with any injuries quickly, and prevent any further, potentially long-lasting damage.
With a basic first aid kid, you should have the general tools to help with a wide range of injuries. These include:
- Sterile gauze dressings
- Sterile eye dressings
- A variety of bandages
- Safety pins
- Alcohol-free cleansing wipes
- Antiseptic cream
This is a basic guide, but you should know what you’ll need based on your medical history and the type of activity you’re doing. If you are unsure, you can speak to your pharmacist who should be able to assist you.
5. If you feel pain during exercise, stop immediately
Sudden pain is usually the first sign of an injury and can be your body’s way of telling you to stop before you do more damage. If you feel pain, don’t try to run it off or push through and hope the pain disappears. Instead, you should stop all activity immediately. You can then assess if you have an injury and treat it accordingly.
6. Treat your injury
Most sports injuries that require immediate treatment are called “acute injuries”. They occur suddenly and can consist of:
- Pain and swelling
- Cuts or abrasions
- Sprains or strains
The first type of treatment for these injuries is to prevent, reduce and stop swelling. This means resting the injured area, applying ice via an ice pack wrapped in a towel (or even some frozen food wrapped in a towel if ice packs aren't available) and applying compression via a bandage or wrap. You must then elevate the area to reduce blood flow and swelling.