Contact sports such as football and rugby increase the risk of getting hit with a ball or colliding with another player. When this happens, an injury known as a rib fracture can occur. After the impact, if you have a rib fracture you likely will experience pain and swelling, especially when you breathe in. Your ribs might also feel tender to the touch. If the pain is severe, you should head to the hospital to make sure that the fractured rib hasn’t punctured your lung or any other organs. That’s because if a rib fracture is left untreated, it can lead to internal bleeding, lung collapse, respiratory failure and pneumonia.
If hospital treatment is not necessary, pain medication can help control the pain so you can breathe normally. Fractures that require treatment in a hospital can cause so much pain that narcotics are necessary. Surgical rib fracture repair is rarely necessary but may be employed if the rib fails to heal on its own. You may experience severe pain for weeks, and low-level pain can persist for months.
Once your rib has healed, physical therapy or rehabilitation might be necessary to regain the ability to return to normal activity levels. It’s recommended that athletes wait at least four to six weeks before returning to training to ensure the rib has fully healed.