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Digital Subscriptions > Men's Fitness > October 2019 > Call the P.O.L.I.C.E

Call the P.O.L.I.C.E

The rules of injury recovery are changing: rest, as Leo Spall writes, may no longer be best

There shouldn’t be any rest period really: it’s detrimental, and not only with muscle strain injuries,” says Monika Bayer, as she calls for sports and fitness athletes of all levels to move on from received injury rehab wisdom.

We’re discussing the best way to treat strains and sprains of various levels of severity, and the post-doctoral researcher from the Institute of Sports Medicine, Copenhagen, is very clear that time alone is not the great healer.

“There’s a much longer time in pain for those athletes who have a rest period, meaning that the tissue repair is probably worse with this time out,” she says. “There are studies from decades ago indicating that ligament sprains show basically the same thing: that rest periods worsen the outcome.”

If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen a range of health professionals over the years to sort out your aches, pains and tears as you work towards an event or fitness goal; you’re also bound to have been told at least once to simply quit the activity that makes it hurt until the problem goes away.

The prevalence of the RICE protocol – Rest, Ice, Elevation, Compression – is likely to blame. The acronym was popularised by Dr Gabe Mirkin’s Sportsmedicine Book, which was published more than 40 years ago but is still widely referenced online. If anecdotal evidence is indicative, it’s used a lot by GPs, too.

Mirkin has since questioned whether icing is the best way to tackle inflammation and there’s quite a debate on that issue in sport, but the philosophy persists in the NHS, with the health body still advising the same protocol – only with a ‘P’ added at the beginning for Protection (PRICE).

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