Although it can look good on film or television, not every sports injury needs to involve a rush of paramedics or a player leaving the field on a stretcher. The weeks in a cast and on crutches are similarly unlikely. Sprains and pulls, the most common sports injuries, do not involve skeletal damage.
This is not to say that sports injuries are to be laughed off, though–quite the opposite. Precisely because there tends to be no immediately visible damage to the body, as in the case of a laceration or broken bone, it is important for people to understand that they are injured and need to end their game immediately. It is a common phenomenon to see people attempting to ‘play through’ an injury; an opponent noticing this should themselves stop playing and insist the other player get help. Most common sports injuries can make a complete recovery if treated quickly but will rapidly worsen if subject to continued activity.
Most strains and sprains can be treated with a combination of cold and rest. Cold causes soft tissue to contract, countering the swelling that occurs when a muscle or tendon is damaged. This couples with resting the injured limb or joint to keep the tissues in place while they knit. Cold will also numb the nerves in the damaged tissues, alleviating the intense pain that can accompany such injuries. Players can augment these measures with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and pain and use compression bandages to keep the damaged tissue firmly in position.
Abrasions are a common sports injury. An abrasion happens when the skin of a large but shallow area is removed, often by falling or sliding during a game. In such a case, clean the area and cover with sterile (or at least clean) material to protect against further contamination. Applying a spray-on bandage is often the best method of treatment–most such products include antiseptic and coagulant properties as well as forming a protective coating over a wound.
Another common sports injury is a broken bone. A broken bone will often (although not always) be immediately visible; check for a broken bone by seeing if the injured player has full function and sensation in the injured limb. Broken bones should be splinted immediately by securing them to something rigid in their natural position. If nothing else is available, you can secure a bone to the torso or a healthy leg to keep it in place until help arrives. Make sure that at least one participant has already called for emergency medical services, as a bone should be set by experts as quickly as possible.
Just because an injury is common does not mean it is insignificant; if a player feels unwell, they should stop the sporting activity immediately. Similarly, a recovering player noticing worsening symptoms should seek medical attention. As with so many areas in life, telling yourself there is no problem is a problem all its own.