(March 2012) by Dr Bruce Sutherland

The benefits of a regular exercise programme are well documented. Exercise reduces blood pressure, keeps weight down, reduces cholesterol, improves mental health, reduces stress, boosts your immune system and generally makes you feel better.

How much exercise gives benefit? The American Heart Association recommends 20 minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate by 80% of maximum, three times per week. Maximum heart rate is calculated as 220 minus your age. Alternatively, exercise for 20 minutes at a rate where, during the exercise, you are too puffed to talk to the person beside you, and do this three times per week.

In New Zealand, the “Push-Play” campaign recommends any form of even light exercise for 30 minutes each day.

Organised sport, especially team sports, can make exercise fun. Regular training with a rugby or netball team each week helps with motivation and makes getting fit easier.

One of the consequences of sport is the risk of injury. Warming up by stretching for five minutes before and five minutes after exercise can reduce the risk of injury on the field. If injury occurs use RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression (bandaging) and Elevation. This reduces the inflammatory response and causes blood vessels to spasm, reducing swelling and bruising, and hastens recovery. Ideally, this should be done as soon as possible and probably has little benefit after 48 hours.

The severity of an injury can be judged by the history of the event. Could you keep playing after the injury? Could you walk on it? Did you need to be carried off the field?

If a limb appears bent or deformed then invariably it is broken (fractured). If there is an associated open wound over the fracture then this is an “open” or “compound” fracture, and this is a medical emergency.

Do not try to straighten a fracture on the field. Cover wounds with a light dressing, apply ice and splint the limb with a make-shift splint. When the patient is comfortable, seek paramedical or medical help.