In sports injury rehabilitation, physical therapy plays a crucial role in helping athletes recover and return to peak performance. Through individually tailored exercises and techniques, physical therapists reduce pain, restore mobility, and enhance strength and flexibility. Their expertise aids in promoting healing, preventing future injuries, and facilitating a safe and effective recovery process for athletes of all levels.
Sidelined by a serious sports injury? Don’t let it keep you from doing what you love doing the most. A comprehensive and individualized physical therapy plan can play a vital role in your rehabilitation and potential comeback as an athlete, or your ability to enjoy your favorite weekend pastime. Let’s dive right into it.
How Rehab for Physical Therapy Accelerates Healing
Recovery from a sports injury can be lengthy, depending on the severity of the injury. Smaller hairline fractures or muscle strains don’t have nearly the same treatment protocol or prognosis as the compound fracture of a major bone, or full separation of a large muscle from its tendon.
Some injuries require surgical intervention, which needs to be accounted for in the recovery process. Post-surgical complications can introduce complicated pain symptoms, and delay rehabilitation. Like many other fields, sports medicine is messy, and there isn’t always an answer to every question.
However, in nearly every case, a sports injury benefits from an individualized physical therapy plan – especially if the client’s wish is a return to the pitch, field, or court, after an athlete’s made a full medical recovery from their injury.
Physical therapy primes athletes and sports hobbyists for a return to their favorite pastime by increasing the body’s tolerance for the various demands of the sport, improving their resilience against a reinjury, and strengthening the body to compensate for certain losses, such as a partially attached or atrophied muscle.
Key Modalities for Physical Therapy in Sports Injury Rehabilitation
Physical therapists employ numerous tools when working with their clients on a sports injury. Exercise is central to physical therapy, rehabilitating the injured tissue through a carefully structured training regimen that, slowly, introduces progressively higher levels of resistance, distance, or time to facilitate mobility, strength, or conditioning.
Physical therapists may also make use of electrical stimulation to stimulate injured muscles and/or nerves, manage or reduce pain through medication and nerve stimulation, use passive techniques to improve a muscle’s flexibility (such as stretching a client’s leg with a machine or pulley), as well as massages and joint mobilization.
Preventative Measures for Athletes
A severely injured muscle or bone is always more likely to be injured again. But a comprehensive physical therapy plan can help clients minimize the risk of future injuries by building greater physical resilience through the supporting musculature, improving technique, improving mobility, and utilizing compound movements and sport-specific exercises to create greater mechanical efficiency in an athlete’s force output, and reduce the physical stresses on their body.
Sports injuries are nearly universally devastating, putting a pin on short-term ambitions and often affecting the trajectory of an athlete’s career. For amateur athletes and hobbyists, sports injuries can keep them away from the activities they love doing most. In many cases, people with sports injuries are eager to get back to doing what they do best – and they tend to have plenty of questions. Some of the questions we hear most often include:
Can going to physical therapy help prevent future sports injuries? First, it’s important to point out that an injured muscle or tendon, or a broken bone is always going to be a more likely candidate for re-injury. However, a significant amount of time in physical therapy is spent conditioning an athlete for injury prevention, strengthening their adjunct musculature, improving their mobility, and reducing the likelihood of a recurring injury.
What should an athlete expect during their first physical therapy session for a sports injury? In general, there are many physical tests involved in the early stages of physical therapy. A therapist must establish a baseline for their client, determine their response to certain mobility and unilateral strength tests, and talk to their client about their goals and wishes to best determine an individualized treatment plan.
Are there any risks or potential complications associated with physical therapy? If a client outpaces themselves, does not provide proper feedback, or if there is miscommunication during therapy, then they may be at risk for a reinjury or a different injury. Early physical therapy sessions will usually involve very, very low loads or levels of resistance. But as an athlete returns to peak strength and conditioning, the likelihood of another injury mounts. It’s important to be honest with your feedback in and out of therapy and follow protocols.
What other healthcare professionals or specialists may be involved in the sports injury rehabilitation process alongside a physical therapist? A client with a sports injury, depending on the circumstances of their injury and their complaints afterwards, may be visited and examined by a neurological specialist, an orthopedic specialist, a sport-specific Doctor of Medicine, a radiologist, as well as pain management specialists, to help with chronic or acute pain symptoms after a sports injury.
Physical therapy can go a long way towards helping clients with sports injuries regain their former strength and mobility. However, physical therapists often need to work together with many different healthcare professionals to help identify if their client shows any indications for a medical intervention, or even surgery. If you would like to learn more about different pain management practices when dealing with a sports injury, contact us at the Pain Management and Injury Relief clinic.
Physical therapists are instrumental in guiding athletes towards a full recovery, through nerve and tissue stimulation, ultrasound imaging, joint mobilization, passive exercise, a personalized training regimen, and a comprehensive pain management plan. Learn more about pain management options for athletes in recovery through the Pain Management and Injury Relief clinic.