Rehab After a Sports Injury Can Put You Back in the Game
If you’re an athlete, sooner or later you may to have to deal with a sports injury. The good news is that physical therapy can put you back in action, frequently to the same level of performance you enjoyed before your injury.
We’re all too familiar with sports injuries these days. Television and the Internet bring them to us – up close and in endless replay. Millions were horrified recently when Kevin Ware, a player on the national champion University of Louisville men’s basketball team, shattered his leg during the NCAA tournament. Recovery from a serious injury like that can be difficult and time consuming.
Competitive athletes are not the only ones who suffer injuries. If you play golf or tennis on weekends, or like to run to keep in shape, you can be just as likely to experience an acute injury or pain and discomfort from overuse. And while you may not be a team athlete, you more than likely share similar goals with them – to get healthy again and back to your sport or activity as quickly as possible.
Common approaches to treatment for sports injuries
While every person requires a program designed to his or her specific needs, there are approaches to rehabilitating injuries that apply to all athletes. Let’s look at some common injuries and how we go about treating them at Good Shepherd Physical Therapy.
The most frequent sports injuries are:
- Muscle strains and pulls
- Joint sprains and ligament tears
- Overuse problems like tendonitis and bursitis
Depending on the severity of the injury, the initial phase of recovery often involves protection and stabilization of the injured area, which may include wearing a sling, using crutches, splinting or even surgical repair. During this period we work on controlling pain, swelling and inflammation, maintaining motion, preventing muscle atrophy and creating an environment to allow the body to promote its own healing, which takes time and rest.
Following this initial phase of recovery, we work on regaining strength, flexibility, muscular balance and coordination. We also design sport-specific drills to retrain body and position awareness to allow athletes to regain the skills and conditioning they’ll need to return to their sport safely.
Sports injury recovery
Recovery times vary. Four to eight weeks is an average length of treatment. ACL repair may take a couple of months; an ankle sprain may take a couple of weeks. But it is unwise to rush the process. Here’s the key point: We want to get athletes to play their sport again with minimal risk of re-injury. When you re-injure the tissue, you set yourself even further back. This can chronically weaken joints or muscles, making you more susceptible for repeat problems and extending the cycle of injury.
Most athletes do return to their sport, even after serious injury. But the best advice is to stay in good condition – stretch, warm up, cool down and know your limits. That works for competitive athletes and weekend warriors active within their sport and throughout injury recovery.