As an athlete, you need to keep your body in peak physical condition in order to perform at your best. Unfortunately, injuries can happen to even the most well-conditioned athlete. Sports injuries need to be treated promptly in order to prevent lasting damage to your body. Here are four tips to help you deal with a sports injury.

1. Practice basic first aid.

If you get hurt while playing a sport, you should stop immediately. "Walking it off" can cause more damage, which means you'll be out of commission for a longer period of time. Perform first aid on yourself right away. Rest your injured body part to prevent further injury. Your first goal is to control pain and swelling, so apply an ice pack and elevate your injured body part to encourage fluid to drain away from it. NSAIDs such as acetaminophen and naproxen can reduce your pain and inflammation. 

2. Visit your primary care doctor.

Severe pain or an inability to move your injured body part means you should visit an urgent care clinic at once. More moderate pain can be assessed on a case by case basis. If your pain persists for longer than a day, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor may want to order tests such as x-rays and MRI scans to make sure you haven't broken a bone or torn a ligament. If the injury is extensive or difficult to diagnose, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedist who specializes in sports injuries.

3. See an orthopedist.

An orthopedist will be able to give you a more thorough diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan to help you get back on your feet. They may suggest continued rest and stabilization of the injury using a brace or wrap. More extensive injuries may require interventions such as corticosteroid injections to reduce swelling and promote healing.

4. Have orthopedic surgery.

If less invasive methods don't produce the desired results, you may need to have surgery to fix your sports injury. Torn ligaments often require surgery, since this particular type of injury is unlikely to heal on its own. Orthopedic surgeons are experienced at working with athletes, and they'll use their expertise to ensure you regain as much function as possible. Arthroscopic surgery is usually preferred for sports injuries since it's minimally invasive and allows your surgeon to perform repairs without making a large incision in your body. For more information, contact an orthopedic surgeon in your area.