How to tell if an athlete is hurt or injured

The 1993 movie, "The Program," shed light on a lot of the ins and outs of playing big-time college football. When one of the players remained on the turf after a hard hit, his coach asked him, "You injured, Jefferson, or just hurt?" Further elaborating, the coach explained, "If you're hurt, you can still play. If you're injured, you can't. Are you hurt or are you injured?"

This is something that every athlete is going to come across many times during their careers, despite wearing football shoulder pads or shin guards. For those who don't specialize in sports medicine, it can be nearly impossible to tell if a player is merely sore or injured. On the other hand, of course, doctors will not only be able to determine whether or not someone is actually injured, they should also have the knowledge to diagnose the type and severity of the damage.

If the athlete is in extreme pain, coaches and teammates need to immobilize the part of the athlete that may be damaged and make sure they receive immediate medical attention from a professional.

In the heat of competition, a lot of athletes would say that they are only hurt when they've actually sustained an injury, so it's important for coaches to assess the situation responsibly. The rule of thumb is that if something hurts so much that the athlete can't move slightly without wincing in pain, he or she needs to be taken to the sidelines and have ice applied to the area that hurts.

Here are some other signs to look for that are strong indications an athlete is injured:

♦ An internal popping or snapping sound that led to intense pain
♦ Dizziness, nausea
♦ Immediate swelling and bruising
♦ Shortness of breath
♦ Warmth radiating from the area in question

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