Sports carry an undeniable list of benefits, from physical fitness to team camaraderie to boosting mood and self-confidence. For professional athletes, sports can be a highly lucrative career. However, all sports also carry a risk of injury. Sports rehabilitation, or overcoming an injury in a way that allows a full return to the sport, is absolutely critical for injured athletes, and physical therapy is a key component. Here is what you should know about the role of physical therapy in sports rehabilitation.
Common Causes of Sports Injuries
Injuries can occur for many different reasons, but some causes are more common than others. The bulk of sports injuries involve one or more of the following factors:
- Inadequate warmup
- Lack of conditioning
- Poor training
“Weekend warriors,” or those who sit at a desk all day and then participate heavily in sports on the weekends, are at increased risk due to the constant cycle of no training followed by heavy training. Likewise, professional or highly competitive amateur athletes are at increased risk of overtraining, because they may not be taking regular rest periods. In addition, those who are fiercely dedicated to one sport must be careful to cross-train regularly to prevent overbuilding some muscles at the expense of others.
Common Sports Injuries
There are innumerable ways to injure yourself in sports, but some injuries occur across the entire span of sports and fitness. These include:
- Knee injuries
- Muscle strains
- Shin splints
- Swollen muscles
Those who play sports such as golf or tennis are at risk for repetitive-use injuries such as golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow. Going through the same set of motions over and over again increases the biomechanical stress on the same parts of the body over time.
Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation
Physical therapy is a broad field that focuses on anatomy and kinesiology, or the science of movement. In sports rehabilitation, the goal of the physical therapist is to assess and treat not only the current injury, but the factors that contributed to it. Your physical therapist will help you heal, and help you create a future plan of action to minimize your risk of being reinjured.
There are three stages to healing an injury: acute, subacute, and chronic. During the acute phase, the focus is on controlling inflammation and stimulating your body’s natural healing responses. The plan of action is called PRICE (Prevention-Rest-Ice-Elevation). Your physical therapist will teach you how to properly care for your injury in the first days after it occurs, while minimizing the risk of further injury.
The subacute phase involves controlled motion. Research shows that getting back to moving around quickly is one of the keys to successful healing, but care must be taken to avoid reinjury. Your physical therapist will teach you a variety of in-office and at-home stretching and strengthening exercises designed to restore your range of motion and decrease pain. Depending on the specifics of your situation, you might be able to return to limited training at this time, or you may need to wait a bit longer.
The chronic phase is your progressive return to your full pre-injury workout regimen. At this point, the injury is well on the road to healing, and you are at minimal risk of reinjury. However, your body has been traumatized and needs the chance to transition back to full training. Your physical therapist will also work with you to address any functional issues that may have contributed to the injury, such as weak supporting muscles or other problems with the underlying structures.
Prevention of Sports Injuries
Although not all sports injuries can be prevented, following some basic tips can help minimize your risks. Always begin each workout with a full stretching and warm-up routine. Avoid being a “weekend warrior” by building functional fitness activities into your workday life. Avoid overtraining by incorporating regular cross-training routines and building in time to rest. Before you start training or competing at a very high level, consider seeing a physical therapist for an assessment and advice on how best to prepare your body. Of course, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor as well before embarking on any new fitness or sports program.
Founded by physical therapy innovator Dr. Joseph Simon, the Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center is a leader in pain relief and injury recovery conveniently located in Midtown New York City. We offer several dedicated programs for different conditions, along with the latest innovations in physical therapy for all. If you are ready for the latest treatments for your pain or injury, we invite you to call us today at (212) 213-3480 to learn how we can help.