Sports injuries and their aftermaths are mostly always devastating ― both physically and emotionally. It’s a professional athlete’s worst nightmare, infamously side lining many for games, seasons, and in the saddest imaginable way, careers. It's also a fact that sports teams always get a drop in performance when their star player gets injured.
Based on a recent studies, nearly two million people every year suffer sports-related injuries and receive treatment in emergency departments. Injuries can occur during sports, exercise or athletic activity but they’re more common among athletes while participating in sport competitions, training drills, or fitness activities. Athletes are especially prone to injuries due to the high demands of professional sports.
Sports injuries usually involve the musculoskeletal system (which consists of the bones, ligament, cartilage, muscles and other connective tissues). While there are hundreds of sports injuries, the most common ones include sprains, strains, concussion, groin pull, shin splints and knee injuries.
It takes time for an injury to heal, and it's a good idea to seek the guidance of an experienced sport rehabilitator during recovery. A sports rehabilitator is particularly skilled at identifying the cause of an injury and designing a rehabilitation plan to prevent its recurrence.
Sports Rehabilitation (1Hr/£30)
Risk Factors and Sports Injury Prevention
There are quite a number of factors that increase the risk of injury in athletes.
Intrinsic factors are specific to the athletes. They include age, gender, weight, height, range of motion, balance, level of coordination, endurance, improper biomechanics due to medical conditions, psychological factors etc. External factors include (correct) fitting of protective equipment, playing conditions and (im)proper maintenance of playing surface.
Sports injuries can be prevented in a lot of ways. Here are some of them:
- Properly warming up before participating in sporting activities
- Strengthening exercises
- Wearing sport-specific protective equipment (e.g. shin pads)
- Maintaining proper nutrition
- Improving flexibility either through sports massage or stretching exercises (e.g. yoga)
- Taking breaks when necessary
- Early diagnosis and treatment
- Sports rehabilitation
An athlete may end up getting injured, even if all preventive measures are followed. Therefore, in the event of an injury, the next line of action is usually diagnosis followed by rehabilitation.
Sports Rehabilitation (1Hr/£30)
Sports Injury Rehabilitation
Every injury is different, and so is each person’s manner of healing and recovery. Rehabilitation specialists use evidence-based approaches and sports therapy modalities geared towards the athlete’s abilities. Also, it’s necessary to conduct proper diagnosis prior to starting rehabilitation and ensure that the patient’s progress is constantly monitored. Keeping track makes it easier to adjust the demands of the recovery program according to their progress, if there’s need for that.
Please note that the main purpose of rehabilitation should be:
- reducing the extent of the injury,
- reducing or entirely reversing the impairment or loss of function,
- preventing recurring injury episodes, and
- returning the patient to peak athletic performance.
Sports Injury Rehabilitation is usually managed by a multidisciplinary team to identify, prevent, and treat sports injuries. However, before proceeding with treatment, a proper diagnosis must be performed by a certified sports-injury specialist. This helps to understand the extent of the injury and the area or structure(s) involved. Typically, the initial stage of treatment involves reducing pain and promoting healing.
There are different phases in the healing and recovery process, namely the acute phase, subacute phase and chronic phase. Each phase employs different treatment approaches and, as such, the sports rehabilitator has to correctly identify the current phase of the athlete’s injury and which treatment approach to follow.
The acute phase involves four principles, collectively known as P.R.I.C.E. It’s a popular rehabilitation method widely employed in treating acute sports injuries and reducing swelling, relieving pain and inflammation.
The PRICE mnemonic stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Protection ― the first few hours are always important. Fluid build-up, swelling, inflammation… Protect the affected area from further injury by being “supportive”, using, for example, a brace or splint.
Rest ― get lots of it and reduce your workload.
Ice ― a wrapped ice pack can help numb the affected area and reduce swelling. Do this for 20 minutes at intervals of 4 hours throughout the day.
Compression ― (or pressure) can help reduce swelling by preventing build-up of fluid around the injured part.
Elevation ― keep the injured part conveniently propped up (with a pillow or cushion) at a level higher than your heart. This helps to safely minimize blood flow to the area.
Ideally, PRICE treatment should start immediately after injury and it should continue for the next 48-72 hours. Once pain and swelling are minimized, exercise targeted at strengthening uninjured areas around the injury and strengthening the affected areas should begin.
The subacute phase involves maintaining proper ROM (range of motion) and regaining/improving flexibility, balance, endurance and coordination. Injury mostly always leads to a decrease in joint ROM; this can be corrected by assisting the athlete in carefully performing a variety of stretching and range of motion exercises. These controlled exercises will enable the athlete to easily progress to pre-injury routines in the chronic phase. Once coordination and flexibility are regained, the athlete can start working with a trainer towards building strength.
Finally, the chronic phase is a “return to play” phase in which the athlete gradually returns to pre-injury workout routines (usually strength and conditioning programs) performed before return to play. The chronic phase also helps to identify and address risk factors, reducing the odds of recurring injury.
Now, let’s take a look at points to consider when choosing a sports rehabilitator.
Sports Rehabilitation (1Hr/£30)
Choosing the Right Sports Rehabilitator
Sports rehabilitators are healthcare professionals in the field of sports medicine who have received training on dealing with sports injuries. They may treat injuries in general but they mainly specialise in treating sports injuries. Here are a few pointers on what you should look out for so you can hire the right one.
Educational qualifications: they should have completed a graduate-level programme – at least BSc – with clinical focus on sports and exercise science. So basically, a graduate sports rehabilitator (GSR).
Professional responsibility: the sports rehabilitator must communicate and/or consult with other healthcare professionals when needed. They must be able to maintain professional efficiency at all times.
Expertise: they should know how to evaluate athletes’ conditions, diagnose and treat a wide range of medical issues (including limb and spinal conditions) in a wide range of populations. They should also possess the right knowledge and skills in prescribing exercise regimens both for restoring health and maintaining peak athletic performance.
Training hours: in addition to an academic programme, they must have completed 400 hours of clinical work placement to become a fully accredited sports rehabilitator. Please note that this is part of the entry requirements for the British Association of Sport Rehabilitators and Trainers (BASRaT), the governing body for sports rehabilitators and trainers in the United Kingdom.
(For full details, please visit BASRaT's website here.)
If you follow these few points, there's no doubt you'll get the best sports rehabilitator who knows exactly what you want and how to help you with recovery from injury.