The RICER And NO HARM Approach:

Nobody likes being on the sidelines as a result of injury.

Unfortunately however this can sometimes be the case when you are involved in sport or recreational activities, despite undertaking the best preventive measures. 

If it happens to you, knowing the correct procedures for effective injury management is essential.

Reducing the severity and impact of sports injuries

Soft tissue injuries are the most common in taking you away from activities. They can include ligament sprains, muscle strains and muscle bruises.

If you do fall victim to soft tissue injuries, there are two injury management approaches that you should follow – RICER and NO HARM. They help you prevent further damage and will get you back to your sport or activity quicker.

 Another thing to remember when treating injuries is that the first 48-72 hours are vital in the effective management of any soft tissue injury. RICER should be initiated immediately after injury and continued for 48-72 hours, in conjunction with NO HARM factors. 

Smartplay, Sports Medicine Australia’s sports injury prevention program funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, outlines the principles of RICER and NO HARM to help you deal with an injury efficiently and effectively. 

Athlete holding wrapped injured knee

RICER acronym explained

This simple acronym is the key to successful injury management.

Rest – Place yourself in a comfortable position. Keep the injured area supported. Avoid using the injured area for at least 48-72 hours as continued activity will increase bleeding and damage.

Ice – Apply ice to the injured area for 20 minutes, every two hours for the first 48-72 hours after injury. Ice reduces swelling, pain and bleeding. Ice can be used by crushing  or placing it in a wet towel or plastic bag. Alternatively, a frozen pea packet or a cold pack wrapped in a wet towel can be used.

Caution: Do NOT apply ice directly to skin.

Compression – Apply a firm wide elastic bandage over the injured area, as well as above and below. Where possible hold ice in place with the bandage. Between ice treatments maintain bandage compression. Applying a bandage will reduce bleeding and swelling and also provides support for the injured area.

Caution: Ensure the bandage is not too tight. Some signs of the bandage being too tight may include numbness, tingling or skin becoming pale or blue. If these symptoms and/or signs develop remove the bandage and reapply again firmly but not as tightly.

Elevation – Raise the injured area above the level of the heart at all times. A pillow can be used to provide support and comfort. Elevating the injured area reduces bleeding, swelling and pain.

Referral – Arrange to see a qualified health professional (doctor or physiotherapist) immediately. This will determine the extent of your injury and provide advice on the treatment and rehabilitation required.

Man resting after a run

No HARM acronym explained

No Heat – Applying heat to an injury increases bleeding. Avoid hot showers or baths, saunas, spas, hot water bottles, hot linament or heat packs. 

No Alcohol – Alcohol increases bleeding and swelling which delays healing. It can also mask pain and severity. 

No Running – Running or exercise increases blood flow to the injured site. This can make the injury worse and delay healing. 

No Massage – Massage or the use of heat rubs increases swelling and bleeding. 

By applying RICER and NO HARM techniques you will be able to recover from your injury faster and get back to the sport or activity you love doing sooner. 

Early and correct use of RICER and NO HARM factors is essential for the initial management of a soft tissue injury.

RICER & NO HARM should be continued for 48-72 hours.

For further information on injury management, visit Sports Medicine Australia

And if you regularly fall victim to muscle tightness, aches and soreness, look into remedial massage or even consider a handheld percussion massager as preventative injury management.

If you’d like to know more about the increasingly popular massage gun home devices, please check out our comprehensive guide.