No one wants to even think about these things in preparation for an upcoming race…but these tips could save your life. (A few notes from our Rock/Creek Trail Series Medical Director in preparation for the upcoming Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race)
“You are in the thick of things – trees whizzing by in a blur, feet flying, wind in your face – all those days of training are paying off. You are on pace for a new PR, until…ouch!”
I hate it when that happens. Some dumb painful thing interrupts your racer’s high. Sometimes you just need to cowboy (or cowgirl) up and work through it. But sometimes working through it is the worst thing you could do. How can you tell the difference? Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
The “Duh” List
These are things that you are just going to have to stop for. Sorry, Superman, Wonder Woman – bad days happen, & you will be able to live to compete another day when you stop after noticing these:
1. Broken Bones
Maybe you’ve met someone who kept going even though they had a broken bone in an event. They were lucky. When you continue to move with a broken bone, you are risking internal injuries to the surrounding tissue from the bone fragments. You really don’t want to add a torn blood vessel to your list of things to recover from.
How can you tell if there is a fracture? Check for these signs…
- There is heavy bruising
- Even gentle pressure or movement causes pain.
- The limb or joint appears deformed.
- The bone has pierced the skin.
- The extremity of the injured arm or leg, such as a toe or finger, is numb or bluish at the tip.
2. Head Trauma
I have seen this happen up close several times. A person falls & their head hits the ground…they may be out for just a moment, or a few minutes, or perhaps not at all. Their first instinct is to jump up – usually due to embarrassment – & get right back to what they were doing. The scary thing about head trauma is that it may take some time before any internal damage shows on the outside. Even if you feel fine, you must get checked out at a hospital as soon as possible after losing consciousness.
3. Snake Bites
If you’re bitten – don’t suck the wound, try not to move that part of your body very much, & bail. You need to get medical attention. It takes 30 min. to prepare the anti-venom for the snakes in the Southeast. Don’t waste that time.
4. Allergic Reactions
Most often this will be from an insect sting, but it could be the day that you discover you’re allergic to the latest flavor of power bars that you saved up just for race day. (Bummer!) If you start to have swelling around your lips or in your throat, get help right away! If you know that you’re allergic to insects, have asthma, etc., carry your medications with you during the event. The car is too far.
5. Chest Pain / “Heartburn” / Pressure in the Chest
Just this year a runner experienced a heart attack & passed away at the Nashville Marathon. Years ago I lost a relative who died during the Marine Corps Marathon. Chest pain is not normal for an athlete. Stop & call for help.
6. Dazed & Confused
If your arms and legs seem to have a mind of their own, if your mind doesn’t seem to mind that you don’t quite recall what it is you’re doing out there, if you are getting dizzy, sleepy, severely nauseated, or are unusually short of breath, it’s time to start looking for those pretty red crosses of the medical personnel. They are your friends and are there to help you find your way back to the real world!
The “What The?” List
When you deck out, especially when it happened too quickly to tuck & roll, check for these signs.
1. Sprained ankle / knee / wrist / etc.
If you can’t move the joint or put any weight on it because of instability or pain, The pain is severe, If you have a fever and the joint is red and hot
Any bleeding from your skull, or bleeding that surges with your pulse needs to be addressed right away. Put pressure on the wound with your shirt – or better yet, someone else’s shirt – and get help.
See “Dazed & Confused” above.
The “Pause-&-Check” List
These are things that can be the early signs of something more serious, or you may be able to push through them. Learn to discern which is which before race time so that you’ll know when you are in the midst of your event.
1. Rash – is it from sweating or is it hives?
2. Redness – am I overheating or getting a sunburn?
3. Cramping – is in one area or spreading to others?
4. Thirst – am I drinking enough during this event?
5. Headache – is it a searing pain or is my iPod just too loud?
Again, we all hope that none of these things happens to anyone during a race, but if they do, you can be prepared to take the right actions that will help you live to run better another day.
For more information on running in the heat or cold, or on how to stay hydrated, check out the Run Fit page on the Archer Physical Therapy web site: www.archerpt.com
About the author:
Archer Physical Therapy offers unique assistance at many events in the TN & GA area through the Event Medical Coverage & Recovery Acceleration Program, developed by Debra Martin, MSPT, CLT. Debra has combined her 15 years of experience in treating wounds & athletic injuries throughout the rehabilitation process with cutting-edge research on medical care to meet the needs of endurance and adventure-sports athletes. In fact, she’s probably thinking of ways to get you better even faster while you are reading this – she’s just that cool. She also set the record for the flexed arm hang test at Leda Shishoff Elementary School at a little over 2 min., & perhaps would still be there if the gym teacher had not made her come down.
You may reach Archer Physical Therapy at 423-693-5490 or find out more on the web: www.archerpt.com