Managing Acute Sprains And Strains With POLICE

Managing acute sprains and strains with POLICE

“Woop woop that’s the sound of the POLICE”…


We’ve all done it from time to time. Rolled over on our ankle during a match, sprained our wrist as we’ve fallen or tried to stop a ball from going into the back of the net, jerked our knee a funny way. We’ve all come across the acronym “PRICE” in the past in terms of acute soft tissue injury management but almost five years ago a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine published by leading physiotherapists and researchers in Belfast recommended that we change our management to “POLICE” (Bleakely et al, 2012). Sprains and strains are obviously different to broken bones and serious injury so the caveat here is that if you are ever in doubt, get yourself or the injured person checked out immediately.

P Protection
Stop what you’re doing, don’t panic, take yourself out of that situation whether it be sitting down, being subbed off or being guided over to the sideline. If you need it taped at the time by a qualified person, or if you need a brace or crutches after further assessment, that is all part of the protection. Protection should not be long-term however.

O Optimal  L Loading
This is not the same as rest. Rest is useful initially but prolonged rest may cause deconditioning of the muscles and/or affected limb, the affected joint may stiffen up and the injury itself may take longer to heal if we don’t optimally load it. This is basically just gradually starting to use your injured joint/area again within your own limits which stimulates the healing process and regulates swelling. This was shown to be the case in a paper by Khan and Scott (2009).

“Every step you take, every move you make” (Sting, The Police, 1983)… because “early activity encourages early recovery” (Bleakley et al, 2012)

I Ice
Ice helps your injury by promoting an analgesic affected to the injured area. However the jury is still out on ice regarding its usefulness on swelling and other physiological affects to the body.
Never use ice if there is any numbness post-injury or if there is an open would. Never apply it directly to your skin in case of a burn (yes, a burn!)

C Compression
Like ice, research is unclear as to compression’s true affect within the injury management paradigm but anecdotally, and from personal experience, it can be useful in controlling swelling. A simple tubigrip or elasticated support bandage may be useful at the acute and chronic stages of injury – it should be tight and comfortable, but not too tight! Take it off at night for comfort

E Elevation
This is useful for swelling and pain management – and it’s a perfect time to do your rehabilitation exercises of gentle movements of finger and toe wiggling.

If in doubt about any injury you or a loved one have, get yourself checked out and assessed by a Chartered Physiotherapist.

More Information 

Book an Appointment

or contact the clinic for details

Áine Tunney MISCP

Bleakely, C.M., Glasgow, P., MAcAuley, D. C., 2012. PRICE needs updating, should we call the POLICE? BJSM, 2012; 46(4): 220-221.
Khan, K.M. and Scott, A. Mechanotherapy: how physical therapists’ prescription of exercise promotes tissue repair. BJSM, 2009; 43:247-252

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