Rib injuries can be a nuisance and reasonable common occurrence in athletic populations. Rib bruising can happen following minor trauma e.g. falling and landing flat on the ribcage, an impact such as a rugby tackle or hockey check, or accidentally if one bumps into an immovable solid object. Acute pain when sneezing, coughing, laughing, and when going from lying supine to sitting up can aggravate symptoms of pain and sometimes nausea.
Rib fractures in non-contact sports are uncommon, however if they do occur a physician will look for associated injuries that occur concomitantly.
The bad news for an athlete is that a rib injury (bruising or fracture) will only heal with rest and patience. Anti-imflammatory medication may be prescribed by a physician to alleviate symptoms day to day. In (common) cases where the athlete must perform with rib injury, he/she must manage pain psychologically to ensure performance. This means a re-setting of the pain threshold in the mind of the athlete. An example of this type of pain management is where an athlete rates pain from 0-10 (with 0 corresponding to no pain and 10 to maximum pain). Following injury, an athlete must be able to manage a 3/10 or 4/10 pain as a 0/10, meaning that their threshold for pain management must increase whereby carrying the injury assumes a state of normality. This kind of strategy is of vital importance for professional athletes in that it allows them to manage pain while competing!