The rule of thumb after an athletic injury is R.I.C.E.
Rest: Activity should be reduced, the injury should be splinted, and no weight should be applied to the injury.
Ice: Ice packs reduce pain and swelling and should be applied judiciously for 20-minute periods to avoid ice burn or frost bite. Packs should be removed for intervals of 40-60 minutes before being reapplied.
Compression: Compression should be applied lightly in the form of an elastic wrap so that it accommodates swelling. Anytime the wrap seems too tight or causes swelling below the wrap it should be loosened.
Elevation: Holding the injured part above the level of the heart is standard treatment to reduce swelling.
Returning to competition after R.I.C.E. Therapy
After injury, the first goal is to restore motion and flexibility; warm up before exercising and stretch after. Stretching improves muscle flexibility by approximately 20%. The next goal after injury is to restore strength. This should begin after 60 - 70% of normal motion has returned. Restoring balance is the third goal. This often neglected component is essential for successfully returning to competition and avoiding re-injury. Balance can be restored through practice, the use of a balance board, and doing one-legged exercise. Finally, upon returning to sports activities, the use of a brace to provide additional support and protection is recommended for the first few weeks.