'RICE' treatment is nice for losers of sprain game

January 22, 1994|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Staff Writer

The Great Ice Event is ending thanks to sunny skies and temperatures expected -- finally -- to inch above freezing this weekend.

But, it comes too late for many folks who took nasty tumbles on the ice this week. If you're sitting at home nursing a sprain, take some small comfort in knowing you are not alone.

"This is a day for orthopedic surgeons and tow truck drivers," Tom Harries, a doctor at the Orthopaedic & Sports Center in Severna Park said Thursday. "We are inundated here, seeing some fractures but mostly sprains."

Fractures need the immediate attention of a doctor but if it's a sprain, there are things you can do at home.

"We use the word 'RICE,' " Dr. Harries said. The acronym stands for "rest, ice, compression and elevation."

Doctors advise not to put any weight on the injured area. Wrap ice in a wash cloth or seal it in a plastic bag and apply it to the sprain for 20 or 30 minutes. Then leave it off for 20 or 30 minutes, then apply it again. Do this as often as necessary.

Support the injured area with an elastic bandage or some type of splint. But don't wrap it too tightly.

"That would take care of most of the sprains," Dr. Harries said.

"Of course, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a

sprain or a fracture," he cautioned. If in any doubt, visit an emergency room or a physician for an X-ray, doctors recommend.

Expect to recover from a sprain in two to six weeks, said Dr. Robert S. Ellis, an orthopedic surgeon at the Anne Arundel Medical Center.

But, if it's a fracture, "expect eight weeks to a year to heal," he said.

Let's face it. We're not even midway through winter yet. So prepare yourself for more dreadful icy weather by thinking "prevention," Dr. Ellis added. "Wear shoes with some degree of traction, do what you can to avoid walking on smooth, shiny or 'black' ice. And be careful when you take that first step out. Use sand, kitty litter or some type of salt for icy areas."

But in icy conditions, Dr. Ellis said the best advice of all is, "Don't go out unless you have to."

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