Returning to Sport After Injury
We are very lucky in the Inner West to have a rich sporting culture, whether it’s competing in team sports or running around the local park, we are one of the most active population groups in Australia.
Exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle. Numerous studies have found regular exercise benefits both physical and mental wellbeing. However, physical activity can lead to injury- both in recreational and elite sportspeople. Team sports such as soccer, AFL and rugby tend to account for the highest number of injuries. In recent years we have seen an increase in injuries from individual sports such as running, cycling and gym based exercise (UNSW, Sport and Leisure Injuries in NSW, 2008) (AIHW, Australian Sports Injuries, 2014-15).
When discussing injuries the most important thing to remember is that exercise is safe. The likelihood of injury is low- but when it happens we need to make sure the athlete is given the very best treatment to be able to return to sport.
Let’s discuss how we do this at Physio On Alice – Physio Newtown – to get you feeling and moving better as soon as possible!
What to do immediately after an injury
When you sustain an injury from exercise it is not as simple as ‘resting until it feels better’. How much rest is enough? What things should you avoid?
RICE and Avoid HARM
Resting is a bit of an art form- it’s all about balance. In the first 2-3 days after an injury it is very important to follow RICE(Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) and HARM(Heat, Alcohol, Running and Massage) principles. Rest helps give injured muscles, tendons and ligaments time to heal. When we try to ‘push through pain’ it doesn’t give structures time to heal and can lead to re-injury, chronic pain and collateral injuries to other areas of the body.
Picture Cite: https://runningwithclarkkent.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/rice-and-pech-taking-care-of-sport-injuries/
When physiotherapists talk about rest we don’t want you to lay in bed for days! In fact, complete bed rest is often detrimental to recovery. Active rest (or relative rest) is the concept of continuing daily activities and exercise without overloading the injured structures. Swimming, hydrotherapy, walking, cycling, yoga, pilates and weights are examples of relative rest that your physiotherapist may recommend. D
Following a sports injury it is always a physio can help provide you with professional advice and further management. A Physiotherapist can help guide you through a specific rehabilitation program designed for your injury and sport. This will often involve giving you exercises to improve flexibility, strength, balance and endurance in order to help you recover and prevent recurrence of the injury.
When can you start playing again?
The question that every sports person wants to know is “how long until I can play again?”.
The answer to this question is complex because every person and every injury is different. We need to take into consideration:
- Soft Tissue Healing Times
- Your Age
- The Type of Sport you Play
- Compliance with Rehabilitation Program
- Ability to pass strength, flexibility and sports specific tests
- Ability to complete a full training session
1. Soft Tissue Healing Times
The time it takes for an injury to heal depends on type of injury.
For common injuries, studies have found:
Ankle sprains take between 6-12 weeks for ligaments to heal (Ankle Ligament Healing after Acute Ankle Sprain: An Evidence Based Approach (2008). Hubbard et al.)
- First time shoulder dislocations can return to sport once strength and range of motion are equal between sides.
- ACL reconstructions (hamstring graft) take between 9-18 months to return to sport (Current Concepts of ACL Recontruction: Criterion Based Rehabilitation (2012). Adams et al.)
- Hamstring strains, on average, take between 23-43 days to return to sport. Physiotherapy treatment reduces risk of reinjury by over 60% (Rehabilitation and Return to Sport After Hamstring Strain Injury (2016). Erickson et al.)
2. Your Age
Generally speaking, older athletes have slower soft tissue healing times and therefore take longer to be able to return to sport after an injury. This is thought to be due to a change in hormones, an increased inflammatory response and reduced function of repair cells as we age.
3. Type of Sport
The time to return to sport will be influenced by the type of sport you are returning to. There needs to be enough recovery and rehab time for you to cope with the demands of the sport such as accelerating, contact and pivoting.
Picture Cite: http://www.vaknee.com/knee-procedures/knee-acl-reconstruction/
4. Compliance with Rehabilitation Program
It shouldn’t be surprising that the better your are with your rehab the quicker you are likely to return to sport.
5. Passing Strength, Flexibility and Sport Specific tests
Before returning to sport it is important that you pass flexibility, strength and sport specific tests, set out by your Physiotherapist. This is to make sure that you can return to sport safely with minimal risk of re-injury.
Picture Cite: http://www.bringitonsports.com.au/the-pro-agility-test-explained/
6. Ability to complete a training session
It is important that you are able to complete a full training session before returning to your sport. This is again to make sure that you can return to sport with minimal risk of re-injury.