Early Sports Injury Treatment: How to Avoid the HARM Factors

Do you know the proper protocol for early sports injury treatment? You can safely manage many acute soft-tissue injuries at home, including muscle strains, ligament strains and tendon injuries, if you avoid the HARM factors for the first 72 hours.

Early Sports Injury Treatment: How to Avoid the HARM Factors

HARM stands for heat, alcohol, running and massage, all of which can compromise healing. Avoid:


Applying heat to a new injury can increase both swelling and bleeding. For the first few days, don’t use heat packs or deep heat creams. Hot baths, showers and saunas should also be avoided.


Consuming alcohol when recovering from a sports injury can lead to increased bleeding and inflammation. And alcohol consumption doesn’t just inhibit wound healing — it also increases the risk of post-injury infection.


Running or engaging in strenuous physical activity too soon can aggravate an acute sports injury. To prevent the pain, bleeding and swelling from getting worse, avoid exercise until your physician gives you the go-ahead.


Massage to an injured area can irritate the damaged tissues and cause increased inflammation and bleeding. Indirect massage to the surrounding areas may be beneficial, but only with expert guidance on the proper techniques.

The PRICE Protocol for Early Sports Injury Treatment

Avoiding the HARM factors for the first few days is essential for the best chance at a quick and easy recovery. In addition, physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians advise following the PRICE protocol for faster healing from acute sports injuries.

The PRICE protocol is the recommended first line of care for soft tissue injuries to the muscles, ligaments and tendons. It involves:

  • Protection — Protect the injured area by limiting use and keeping weight off the affected appendage. This can help prevent further damage to the soft tissues.
  • Rest — Rest and avoid activities that aggravate the injury. This can encourage proper healing. Gentle strengthening and range-of-motion exercises may be beneficial when recommended by an experienced sports medicine physician.
  • Ice — Cold therapy, or applying ice for 10 to 15 minutes once every hour or two, can help minimize pain and swelling from an acute soft tissue injury.
  • Compression — Wrap the injured appendage with an elastic bandage or compression wrap to help reduce swelling and provide much-needed support to the damaged tissues.
  • Elevation — Elevate the injured area above the level of the heart to help decrease soft-tissue inflammation.

When it comes to managing acute soft tissue sports injuries, remember to avoid the HARM factors and to follow the PRICE protocol. For more information on early sports injury treatment, schedule a consultation with a local physical medicine and rehabilitation physician today.