Sports Injury Recovery: How Physiotherapy Can Help
Welcome to the world of sports physiotherapy, where peak performance meets expert care. At Fifth Ave Physio, located in the heart of Calgary Downtown, we specialize in guiding athletes through the journey of injury prevention, rehabilitation, and optimal performance. Whether you’re a professional athlete or enjoy sports recreationally, understanding the nuances of sports physiotherapy is crucial for maintaining your physical fitness and achieving your athletic goals.
In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the essential aspects of sports physiotherapy, from the five stages of rehabilitation to the role of physiotherapy in physical fitness, and how to treat and prevent common sports injuries.
What Is Sports Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy has a broad scope of practice, with sports physiotherapy being a major branch. A sports physiotherapist can be defined as a professional who promotes safety within physical activity and has advanced competencies to give advice and educate surrounding sports injury rehabilitation and prevention, as well as optimizing function for athletes of all ages.
Whether you are a professional athlete or a recreational athlete, working with a physiotherapist will help to bring out your peak performance. Having knowledge about the sport the athlete is competing in and assessing the individual for this activity to help athletes perform at their best is part of what a physiotherapist can do.
What Are the 5 Stages of Rehabilitation in Sports?
When a sports injury occurs, you may have heard of the 5 stages that will occur to help rehab back to sports. By following these steps as guided by your physiotherapist, you will be able to get back to your sport quicker and with a better success rate than waiting it out. The steps are:
1. Control Pain and Swelling
Many of you may have heard of the old adage RICE; Rest, ice, compress, and elevate. This is still true, but there have been modifications to help keep up with what recent research is showing us. POLICE is now the acronym of choice which includes protecting the area, whether that is by using crutches or using a splint or brace, as well as optimally loading the joint, which can be determined by your physiotherapist.
2. Improving Range and Mobility of Joint
After the initial healing phase of controlling pain and swelling, starting to slowly increase the range and mobility of the joint is important to regain proper movement of the joint. This will contribute to the recovery of the joint as well as establishing good joint health
3. Improve Strength and Endurance of Muscles
Once the range of a joint has improved, reestablishing strength and endurance of the muscles surrounding the joint is crucial to not only provide appropriate movement but also to help protect from the injury occurring in the future. This will also help to lay the foundation for the next stage of rehab.
4. Sport Specific Training
Once proper strength and range have been established, drills that challenge the athlete in sports-type scenarios will help establish stability at higher speeds as well as confidence in the joints and muscles.
5. Returning to Sport/Activity
As confidence and speed return, a gradual return to sport is recommended to test out and see how the athlete does with practices, and eventually games with reduced play time, and slowly increasing back to normal activity. This gradual return is key, as building the body back up takes time and it is important not to rush back and reinjure the area.
What Is the Role of Physiotherapy in Physical Fitness?
Physiotherapists are an integral part of physical fitness if you are wanting to build into a routine. They can help to establish a customized treatment plan and help to determine deficient areas that could be worked on to help prevent injury and improve performance. Physiotherapists can also work with you to collaborate and create fitness goals and help to monitor these throughout your physical fitness journey. The World Health Organization recognizes Physical Therapy to be concerned with (1):
- Promoting the health and well-being of people and the general population through physical activity and exercise.
- Helping to prevent activity limitations, impairments, and participatory restrictions and disabilities in people who are at risk of altered physical activity behaviours caused by health or medically related issues.
- Supplying interventions/treatment to restore the body systems which are needed for movement, maximize function and recovery, as well as minimize disability, and improve quality of life.
- Modify activity, environmental, work, and home barriers to physical activity and help maximize full participation in an individual’s life.
How Can You Treat and Prevent Common Sports Injuries?
Seeing a physiotherapist can help to treat and prevent common sports injuries, as your physiotherapist will complete a global assessment to determine your deficits and how best to improve them. Some of the techniques that will help with your rehabilitation journey are:
- Education on the condition you may have and advice on how best to approach this.
- Exercise prescription that is individualized to ensure that it will address your issue, and the gradual advancement of this as you continue to improve and feel better.
- Manual therapy, which will help to get you moving through joint mobilization and manipulation and soft tissue techniques, allowing for the exercises and movement of your body to be easier to complete.
- IMS/Dry needling is another technique that helps to reduce tightness and tone in guarded muscles surrounding an injured area, as well as improve pain intensity levels and improve overall movement.
What Are the Common Sports Injuries That Occur?
The most common injuries that athletes face are dislocations, strains, sprains, fractures, bursitis, and tendinopathies (2).
- Dislocations – When the joint where two bones meet is separated past its physiological limits, it can be defined as a dislocation. This often occurs in higher-impact sports that include more contact. It is most common in shoulders, fingers, knee-caps, elbows, and the knee joint itself.
- Strains – When a muscle or tendon experiences a pull, twist, or tear. This can occur in both contact and repeated movement sports, such as volleyball or golf. There is a wide range of how serious these can be, from a minor strain to a partial or full tear of the muscle or tendon. This can be sport-dependent on which muscle is most common, as different sports have different body demands.
- Sprains – Ligaments, which are bands of connective tissue between bones, can become sprained when they stretch or tear due to a hit or fall that adds force to the ligament past what it is used to taking. As with strains, there is a range of how serious the sprain can be from minor to a complete tear. The most common sprains are in the ankles, knees, and wrists.
- Bony fractures – This can happen due to a quick overloading of the bone which results in an acute fracture, or from continued stressing of the bone over time causing a stress fracture. Most acute fractures are emergencies and should be casted, or depending on the severity, operated on to allow them to heal. Stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the legs, which include the femur, tibia, and foot bones.
- Bursitis – Bursitis is the irritation and then inflammation of the bursae. Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that reduce friction between tendons, muscles, bones, and skin. They can be irritated by a trauma, for example, landing directly on an area where one is located in the body. It also can be caused through repetitive movements, such as kicking or throwing repeatedly. This is most commonly seen in shoulders, hips, elbows, and knees.
- Tendinopathies – When a tendon is irritated, same as with bursae, it can be caused by a trauma or repeated movement. This can be categorized as tendinitis if a tendon is injured acutely, such as a sudden injury, or a tendinosis which occurs when a tendon is irritated over time. It is seen in many different kinds of athletes, such as tennis, golfers, as well as jumping sports and runners. The most common areas for tendon issues are the elbow, shoulder, knees, wrists and ankles.
Sports physiotherapy is an indispensable part of any athlete’s journey, and at Fifth Ave Physio in Calgary Downtown, we are committed to providing top-notch care and guidance. Whether it’s navigating through the stages of rehabilitation, understanding the intricacies of different sports injuries, or crafting a personalized fitness plan, our team is here to support your athletic endeavors. Remember, the key to longevity in sports lies in the right care and prevention strategies. Stay informed, stay fit, and let us help you maintain your best performance on and off the field.
- Verhagen E, Engbers L. The physical therapist’s role in physical activity promotion. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2008 Dec 3;43(2):99–101.
- Branch NSC and O. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. NIAMS; 2017 [cited 2023 Dec 7]. Sports Injuries. Available from: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/sports-injuries