Athletes are familiar with injuries that arise from training and competing in sports, but many may not be aware that ice and rest are only part of an effective treatment plan. While the immediate pain may go away and even allow an athlete to continue to train and participate in competitions, minor injuries are often not comprehensively addressed, leading to the possibility of reinjury or long term issues.
As athletes, we believe that pushing our bodies can make them stronger. While this may be true in terms of improving our performance, pushing the body improperly – particularly when it is injured – can do more harm than good. A better approach begins with comprehensive education regarding how to strengthen and challenge the body properly to prevent injury in the first place. And if an injury does occur, retraining the body to avoid recurring damage after an injury is the appropriate next step.
Common injuries that may lead to reinjury include:
A sprain is the result of over – stretching or tearing of ligaments that connect bones to one another. Sprains commonly occur because of trauma that forces a joint out of position or past it’s normal range of motion. Wrists, knees, and ankles are the most common victims of sprain, although sprains can appear in the neck and shoulders as well.
Strains occur due to a pull, tear, or twisting of a muscle or tendon. Overstretching or forcing a movement during activity can cause a strain. Many strains appear in the form of a muscle spasm, and back and neck strains are commonly treated with physical therapy.
The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that knee injuries are the most common joint injuries among both athletes and non-athletes. Common knee complaints include “runner’s knee”, which creates pain close to the knee cap on the front side of the knee, tendonitis, and iliotibial band syndrome, which causes pain on the outside of the knee. Knee injuries can include damage to the cartilage or ligaments and bone bruising.
First time runners and experienced athletes alike are familiar with shin splints. Pain along the large bone in the front of the shin (the tibia) often occurs due to improper running technique, decreased range of motion, or muscle weakness. With appropriate treatment, education, and exercises, you can expect pain to decrease and function to improve.
Sports physical therapy can help you heal faster after an injury, and a trained therapist can help you determine when it’s time to continue your training regime. Physical therapy for sports injuries can also help you prevent recurring injuries and long term damage by training the body to prevent repeating the actions that resulted in injury initially.
The best approach, however, is to avoid injuring yourself in the first place. If you are beginning a new sport or activity, rather than waiting until injuries occur, you can prepare and strengthen the body. That way you will be strong enough to perform the activities required to improve and push past your limits. Learning how to train and exercise properly will help your body to perform better and decrease your risk of injury.
Runners in particular can benefit from participating in physical therapy to prevent or recover from injuries. Muscle imbalances, shoe choices, and inefficient gait all contribute to common injuries for runners. Talking to your physical therapist about these issues is a great way to maximize your performance and minimize risk. Even seasoned runners can benefit from gait analysis to reduce injury risk as improve speed and endurance.
If you have questions about physical therapy for athletes, we invite you to contact Reid Mosely, DPT, CSCS or any of our six doctoral trained therapists here at Move Better Physical Therapy. Our Perform Better Program and our Run Better Program can help healthy athletes prepare themselves for new challenges and help injured athletes get back out there. Contact our office at (434)-817-0980 to learn more!