Can we use the ‘magic sponge’ in First Aid?

Can we use the ‘magic sponge’ in First Aid?

Can we use the 'magic sponge'?
Young man injured himself and holding his leg while screaming in pain.

Can we use the ‘magic sponge’ in First Aid? The quite ordinary sponge seems to have miraculous powers on the football pitch. Coaches and physiotherapists use it to treat injured soccer players who after having a wet sponge applying to their injury seem to be miraculously healed. The site of Brazil’s Neymar at the 2018 World Cup rolling around on the floor made us think he may have had a serious or even life changing injury. However a dab of the magic sponge and he was up and running again! There’s less diving at my local pool.

A touch of cramp? Leg snapped in two places? Head injury? Don’t worry the magic sponge cures all! Not so much magic, more a sponge and some cold water. At the 2018 World Cup I have seen it replaced by simply squirting water out of a water bottle on an injury!

The magic sponge first appeared in 1888 after the formation of the Football League. In order to relieve their players after knocks and tackles they used a sponge and cold water as pain relief. Of course over time this became the panacea for injury management. The reality was the magic sponge was invented to buy players a bit of time, a way to almost justify spending a few extra seconds on the ground to allow the pain to pass before they could get back on their feet and resume their game.

Today on-field injuries are now dealt with by physiotherapists but often the first thing you see on TV is them splashing an injury with water or these days spraying the area with a magic spray! For the modern day physiotherapist they need to sort out the real injury from the play acting or diving from players. Some players are just down to catch their breath and some players are there because they made such a meal of the fall or dive that they’ve got to justify their injury by getting some sort of treatment or risk a booking for play acting. The magic sponge is therefore used to buy time for the player.

So should you use ice cold water and ice sprays in in grassroots sport?

With over 1.9 million people playing football each week, injuries are a common aspect of grassroots football. However the effect of cold water and cold spray is very limited but its better to have a limited effect than nothing at all. The effect of ice is to provide short-term pain relief to the area. But be aware if you cold an injury so the player cant feel pain and then return to play they could make a real injury worse without knowing it.

We would recommend that icing an injury means that player goes not go back on the pitch or training ground. Use ice and cold sprays in the right context. To learn more about this come on one of our Sports First Aid courses.

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Digital Sports First Aid Manual

You may be interested in our Digital Sports First Aid manual. The manual is free for anyone who books on one of our first aid courses. This can be downloaded multiple times to your hand held tablet or phone and includes links to a large video library of videos demonstrating first aid techniques like CPR and injury management. The manual also contains links to a library of blogs dealing with specific illnesses and injuries.