There are 24 ribs in the body that are responsible for protecting the internal organs as well as assist with the breathing process. Sustaining a direct blow to the chest can cause the ribs to bruise, separate from the breastbone or even shatter. Even though bruised ribs can be excruciating, they can fully heal in most cases.
Types of rib injuries
Always bear in mind that rib injuries are quite common among wrestlers, but can also occur in other contact sports. This injury causes immediate pain and can be debilitating for the first couple of days. Sneezing, breathing and coughing can be painful.
When it comes to a rib sprain, it occurs once a ligament attached to a rib is pushed out of its usual position. Once the ligament is stretched out beyond its normal position, it eventually gives way at a weakened point within the ligament itself or where it is attached to the bone. In some cases, it is also possible for the ligament to pull out a bone fragment along with it.
In severe cases, it is vital to seek immediate medical care. If the symptoms of a minor sprain persist longer than 2 weeks, a doctor should be consulted. The slow healing is due to poor circulation and lack of protection to the affected area.
The first aid includes rest, application of ice and light compression. The long-term treatments involve rest, adequate support around the rib cage, pain medications and gradual return to activity.
What are the symptoms?
- There is tenderness and pain over the affected region
- Muscle spasms of the rib cage
- Pain during movement such as breathing, sneezing or laughing.
How bruised ribs happen
The likely cause of bruised ribs is a direct blow to the chest. This pushes the ribs against the neighboring muscles and the impact can lead to bruised ribs. Even though the injury is referred as bruised ribs, most of the pain is caused by injuries to the surrounding muscles and cartilage of the rib cage.
During football, the injury can occur when the player is hit or if he/she falls on his/her side with the ball or a helmet in between the body and the ground.
When an individual sustained bruised ribs, the healing process usually takes up to 3-4 weeks on average for the injury to fully heal.
Who are at risk?
Any individual who engages in contact sports are included in the high-risk group such as rugby, football, lacrosse and hockey as well as wrestling and boxing.
Initial treatment for bruised ribs
The initial treatment for bruised ribs is also the same for broken ribs, but the recovery period must be shorter.
- The individual must avoid engaging in any activity that triggers pain in the rib cage, including sports.
- You can provide acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen for the pain.
- Apply an ice pack or cold compress at 15-20 minutes at a time at 3-4 times throughout the day to reduce the pain and inflammation during the early stages after the injury.