Handy cold packs for the young athlete who needs to chill

September 1, 2004

The RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) prescription for strains and sprains works very well if the patient applies enough cold compresses. A common problem with home compliance is that the patient often runs out of ice (or frozen vegetables and other frozen foods often used as alternatives). I advise young athletes to keep a supply of cold packs on hand by folding several clean washcloths or hand towels lengthwise, soaking them in water (and squeezing out the excess to eliminate dripping), then wrapping them in clear plastic wrap and putting them in the freezer. Because the washcloths or towels are folded lengthwise, they aren't bulky and can be molded easily around joints or other curved surfaces such as a knee or thigh. If a cold pack comes out of the freezer too stiff to be practical, the patient can soften it by running tap water over the wrapped surface. The packs remain cold for approximately one hour. Best of all, they can be readily replaced by another pack waiting in the freezer.

The RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) prescription for strains and sprains works very well if the patient applies enough cold compresses. A common problem with home compliance is that the patient often runs out of ice (or frozen vegetables and other frozen foods often used as alternatives). I advise young athletes to keep a supply of cold packs on hand by folding several clean washcloths or hand towels lengthwise, soaking them in water (and squeezing out the excess to eliminate dripping), then wrapping them in clear plastic wrap and putting them in the freezer. Because the washcloths or towels are folded lengthwise, they aren't bulky and can be molded easily around joints or other curved surfaces such as a knee or thigh. If a cold pack comes out of the freezer too stiff to be practical, the patient can soften it by running tap water over the wrapped surface. The packs remain cold for approximately one hour. Best of all, they can be readily replaced by another pack waiting in the freezer.

Nkiru Nwebube, MD

Edison, N.J.