When you’re on the road with your team, you may not have access to a top-notch sports medicine facility or highly trained physical therapist when your traveling baseball players experience injuries. But you still want that player back in the game as soon as possible.
For minor injuries, the acronyms RICE and MEAT help players treat themselves to prevent complications and accelerate healing. But what are RICE and MEAT? How do you use them? Do you need both?
At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Kingwood and Houston, Texas, David Lintner, MD, has 30 years of experience as the head team physician for the Houston Astros. He recommends RICE and MEAT to keep his athletes in top shape.
Here’s how to go from acronyms to accelerated healing using RICE and MEAT.
First, what’s RICE?
RICE has been the gold standard for healing acute injuries for decades. RICE stands for:
- REST — rest the injured body part
- ICE — apply ice packs at intervals to reduce swelling
- COMPRESSION — compress the injured area to reduce swelling
- ELEVATION — elevate the injured area
RICE is an easy way to remember what to do when you pull a tendon or ligament, twist an ankle, or otherwise get injured mid-play. The problem is that it doesn’t always work well despite its widespread use. In fact, Dr. Mirkin recanted his RICE recommendation in 2015.
The main problem with RICE is the “ice” part. Applying ice to reduce swelling constricts the blood vessels and constricts blood flow to the area. However, your body needs blood to repair damaged tissue. That’s where MEAT comes in.
Now, what’s MEAT?
The MEAT protocol prohibits icing the injury because ice constricts blood flow and may damage tissues. Instead, this more physiologic approach to healing consists of the following:
- MOVEMENT — gentle movements to stimulate blood flow
- EXERCISE — as soon as possible, stop the “rest” cycle and start to rebuild
- ANALGESIA — painkillers instead of anti-inflammatories
- TREATMENT — physiotherapy and other interventions to restore functions
In other words, no ice or anti-inflammatories. Both ice and anti-inflammatories stop your body from circulating nutrients to injured tissue and actually slow the healing process. Resting the injured area for too long can lead to stiffness.
The point is to start with gentle movements, even directly after the injury, to keep blood flowing and accelerate healing. Then, while “resting” from vigorous activities, gradually build up strength and flexibility with exercise.
When do you need RICE or MEAT?
To subdue pain and stop extreme swelling, you may adopt RICE for a day or two. As soon as possible, start to move the area and transition to the MEAT protocol.
Both protocols aim to accelerate healing, rehab the injury, and get back in the game. Limit the use of anti-inflammatories and use an analgesic such as acetaminophen instead.
Are you heading on the road with your team? You don't have to feel stranded if one of your players experiences an injury.
Send your player’s MRI to Dr. Lintner for a second opinion, no matter where you are. Contact our friendly and knowledgeable staff by phone or the online form for a throwing or other injury today.