With my role of having a private physical therapy office inside a youth sports facility, I see everything from injuries that happened seconds prior, to adults with aches and pains that they have been dealing with for decades. I often get asked the question on both sides of the coin, "do I need to see a professional right away?" and "why did I wait so long to seek help?" What both of these questions boil down to is when to see a professional after the pain starts. If we run our children to the doctor every time they report and ache or pain, especially in a sport as demanding as gymnastics we may as well bring our pillow and blanket and write a rent check to the doctors office. However, if we ignore those aches and pains those gymnasts become the adults coming into my office with a 30 year history of knee pain that has never been resolved.
There have been a few different sets of "rules" developed in the orthopedic world to determine if you need an x-ray right away, but this generally only covers acute injuries that are quite serious, and often you wouldn't need to pull out a textbook to decide if you(r gymnast) needs medical attention.
So, to solve this problem, I have developed the "Rule of 3's"
What this is meant to do
Serve as a guideline for when to seek medical attention
Help you strike a reasonable balance between making an appointment for every ache
and pain and ignoring the big stuff
What this is not meant to do
Serve as an excuse for not listening to your body
Replace mothers/fathers/coaches/caretakers intuition
Suggest you ignore an injury that obviously needs medical advice
So what is it?
The Rule of 3s helps you to determine if you should seek medical care for an injury that is somewhere between a scrape and a bone sticking out. What type of medical care? I can't tell you that for sure but if you fall into the 1st or 2nd "3", probably a medical doctor, the 3rd "three", a physical therapist or movement professional.
So here we go....When to seek medical care if you(r gymnast) has pain
- That limits their ability to bear weight on the extremity, or move the extremity through at least 50% of the range of motion for 3 hours they need medical attention
-That lasts consistently for 3 days they need medical attention
-That lasts at all, even intermittently, for 3 weeks, they need medical attention
Now, to clear up that first statement, if there is an obvious bony deformity, massive swelling and bruising, or 10/10 pain there is absolutely no need to "wait 3 hours and see." That is more in reference to those injuries that involve equal amounts pain, fear and shock, and may be able to wait a day or two to see an orthopedist, rather than rushing to an emergency room.
For the second and third statements, this is where we resolve problems NOW and don't allow them to become lifelong problems.
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