The best gel pack treatments for different sports: A guide for coaches and athletes

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The best gel pack treatments for different sports: A guide for coaches and athletes

Whether you’re an athlete or a sports enthusiast, you will know all too well that there is no glory without some pain. Sports training and competition come with its fair share of pain. 

However common sports injuries may be, it’s extremely important to be able to provide immediate relief to injuries in order to get proper recovery.

In this article, we will investigate the causes of many common injuries in popular sports while informing you on how to best treat those injuries. 

How do sports injuries happen?

First, it’s important to know the usual causes of injuries sustained from sports or training. Here are the two most common reasons for sports injuries:

Poor or lacking warm-ups and cooldowns

This sounds very elementary as we’ve been hearing this from our coaches and PE instructors since we were young when we were students.  Along with proper breathing and proper form, warm-ups and cooldowns are elements of physical training that many unfortunately overlook. 

A proper warm-up will increase the body’s temperature and increase circulation of blood to our muscles, while a cooldown slows down the heart rate and prevents the build-up of lactic acid in the muscle. Cooldowns also prevent stiffness in the muscles. A good warm-up and cooldown are considered essential parts of any training and competing, as many sporting injuries could be prevented if we properly prepare our bodies before and after training or competition.

Overtraining can lead to pulled muscles

A pulled muscle, or muscle strain, is quite common in sports and training. It’s the result of fatigue, overuse or improper use of a muscle. High impact sports can do this as one is prone to unknowingly or accidentally using improper for. The most common areas in the body for pulled muscles are the quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, lower back and shoulders.

Now that we’ve determined the two most common types of sport injuries, let’s see what types of gel packs are best for different kinds of sports.


Running is one of the easiest sports due to its accessibility (you can do it anywhere there’s open space or on a treadmill). It’s considered “low-maintenance” sport in that all you need are a good pair of running shoes and, unless you’re participating in track and field, it doesn’t really have any set of formal rules (apart from observing local traffic rules!). 

Anyone can start running on their own, and this is also the reason why runners are prone to injury. 

Treating runner’s knee

Also called Patellofemoral pain syndrome, runner’s knee can be experience by any type of athlete, but it is more commonly found in runners due to the high impact that running inflicts on our knees. 

A common symptom of runner’s knee includes pain in the front of the knees. This is caused by the misalignment of the femoral groove, creating an ache felt in the knees is at rest and a sharper pain when it is being used. 

A grinding or crunching sensation may also be felt in the knees, especially after periods of extended rest. Runner’s knee can be felt most in the mornings when getting out of bed.

To reduce the initial symptoms of runner’s knee, the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is recommended as a first treatment. 

Because the knee is a major joint, a cold compress (gel pack) should be wrapped completely around the area, and not just on top. 

A good icy gel pack for runner’ knees should measure at least 10 inches so it can fit perfectly around the runner’s knees. The pack should also come with Velcro straps that can be adjusted to keep the gel pack snug against the area of pain.

Treating shin splints

Shin splints are another common ailment that runners have. Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints make up about 15 percent of all running injuries. Running downhill, or on hard surfaces (like concrete), a lack of flexibility,  and even using inappropriate or worn-out footwear are common causes of shin splints.

The pain experienced in shin splints are concentrated in the lower leg between the knee and the ankle. Shin splints begin with small tears around the shinbone that can develop into something more serious. That is why it is important to get immediate treatment upon the first signs of shin splints. Shin splints take time to heal, so it is important to rest your body. The most essential treatment is icing the shin to ease the pain and swelling. This must be done 20-30 minutes every three to four hours up to three days or until the pain is gone.

multi-purpose ice pack is great for general injuries, but because the shin is the second-longest bone in the human body, shin-specific gel packs are your best bet for this. 

Choose gel packs with adjustable straps so that they provide a snug fit around the lower legs. The straps will also allow the gel pack to act as compression to the shins, aiding in faster recovery. 

It’s not enough that the gel pack is big enough for your shin. It should be flexible when ice-cold, too. Meaning that, when it comes straight from the freezer, the gel pack can be comfortably moulded around the shin to ensure that all areas of the shin are given the cold treatment. 


Basketball is a sport that has a following of 825 million people worldwide, making it the third-most-popular sport in the world (after soccer and cricket). 

Most injuries in basketball include ankle sprains and knee injuries, so multi-use gel packs that can fit around joints would be ideal companions for basketballers. 

The most important feature of a gel pack for knees and ankles are ones that are flexible when ice-cold so they can be perfectly wrapped around the injured area.

Wrist and hand injuries in basketball

Basketball requires use of your upper body and hands as well, so the sport is also prone to bring injuries to upper extremities. One common ailment that basketball players suffer from is jammed fingers.

Here’s a common scenario in basketball: You try to catch the ball but instead of the ball perfectly being captured by your hands, it smashes the tip of your finger. Even if it is the tip of your finger that’s hit, the injury of a jammed finger often occurs at the knuckle, the base of the finger, so knuckles will commonly swell.

Thumb and wrist sprains are common basketball injuries. These sprains may occur due to overuse or an acute injury. A wrist sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched or torn, or when the wrist is bent forcefully. A painful scenario but often seen in basketball is when a player falls to the court floor onto an outstretched hand. A sprained thumb is also sustained through the same manner. 

For these kinds of wrist and hand injuries, using an ice pack or cold therapy is the first course of action. Putting cold gel packs on your hand or wrist for 10 to 20 minutes at a time every one to two hours over a three-day period (or until the pain subsides) is key to keeping the inflammation down. 

For hand and wrist injuries sustained in basketball play and practice, standard-sized gel packs work best. This is because they can cover the entire hand all the way to the wrist. It’s best if the gel packs you use are flexible, even while frozen, so that they can contour and provide cool relief to all affected areas.

Football (or soccer)

With an estimated number of four billion fans around the globe, football (soccer) is by far the most popular sport in the world.

Apart from lower limb injuries (similar to basketball and running), one of the main ailments seen in those playing soccer is shoulder injuries. A Sports Injury Bulletin study has seen that the increased participation of youth in football, as well as the changing characteristics of the game like increased contact and aggression, are some of the reasons why there is a growing number of upper extremity injuries in the world’s game. 

Recovery of players is extremely crucial to football clubs. A shoulder dislocation can mean 41 days away from the field for outfielders. Goalkeepers are kept away for twice as long because they need full shoulder function and stability to return to their position. 

Just like most sports injuries, cold therapy is the first treatment required for shoulder injuries. If the injury requires surgery or invasive treatment, players will still need cold treatment for post-surgery care.

With shoulder injuries being quite common in football, ice-cold gel packs that provide targeted pain relief like shoulder ice packs would be a good choice for treating this injury. Look for gel packs that perfectly contour around shoulders, bicep, triceps and across the body or neck so that you’re as comfortable as possible while recovering.

However, some shoulder injuries can extend all the way to the upper or lower back. If this is the kind of pain you are in, it may be worth looking into extra large injury ice gel packs so that all affected areas are covered at the same time.

These kinds of sports gel packs are also perfect if you need post-surgery care from injuries. 

For both kinds of sports ice packs, it is important that they stay cold for around 22 minutes per application, which is the recommended cold exposure time for injuries.

Injuries in sports are inevitable, so rest and recovery are essential to any athlete or an active person’s lifestyle. If you have any questions regarding gel packs or your sports injury, feel free to contact us for a chat!
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