Physical therapy excels in both treating and preventing sports injuries. While we might more commonly think about injury prevention in relation to elite athletes it is equally important in recreational athletes and even those who work out weekly. Our bodies are interconnected, this means that weakness or dysfunction in one region can create problems in another region or area of the body. The range of motion, weakness, muscle imbalance, movement patterns, and technique can all influence distant regions.
Exercise is an important part of life in order to become or stay healthy. For many people, sports are a fun way of burning extra calories, socializing and getting/staying fit. Unfortunately, this also means the occasional sports injury, or a flare-up of an old injury or condition. Sports injuries have sidelined many athletes for games, seasons, and worse, careers. Injuries are common while participating in organized sports, competitions, training exercises, or fitness activities. Poor training methods, inadequate warm-up, and lack of conditioning are a few of the causes of sports injuries. You don’t have to be a professional or even amateur athlete to suffer a sports injury. In fact, many times those most susceptible to sports injury are people who have just started exercising or do it on a recreational level; your typical weekend warrior. Sports injuries are typically seen as injuries to the musculoskeletal system, including muscles, bones, and tissues such as ligaments, tendons and cartilage.
Coping with sports injuries often requires physical rehabilitation. Physical therapy helps people rebuild strength and movement in parts of their body after an injury. Therapy can also help someone manage pain and prevent permanent damage and recurring problems. Physical therapists are trained to help patients recover following an injury. As part of physical therapy, they can teach exercises, stretches, and techniques using specialized equipment to address problems.
The most common sports injuries include:
- Sprains: A sprain occurs when the ligaments that join the ends of one bone with another are stretched or torn. Sprains are caused by trauma such as a fall or blow to the body that knocks a joint out of position. Ankles, knees and wrists are most vulnerable to sprains. However, back, neck and shoulder sprains are very common too.
- Strains: A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is pulled, torn or twisted. Strains can occur from overstretching during a forceful movement whilst playing. A common example of a strain is a muscle spasm. A back or neck strain is a very common injury treated in physical therapy.
- Knee pain and injuries: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the knee is the most commonly injured joint. Orthopedic surgeons see more than 5.5 million people annually for knee pain and injuries, which can include runner’s knee (pain or tenderness close to the knee cap at the front side of the knee), tendonitis and iliotibial band syndrome (pain on the outer side of the knee). Severe knee injuries often include bone bruises or damage to the cartilage or ligaments.
- Shin splints: Shin splints occur when there is pain along the large bone in the front of the lower leg, known as the tibia or shin bone. Shin splints most commonly occur in runners, especially those who are just starting a running program. This is usually due to poor alignment of the body, or weakness in the leg muscles. The good news is that we can treat many orthopedic and repetitive motion injuries without the need for invasive surgeries or addictive medications.
- Tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow: While tennis elbow obviously affects tennis players, it can be a problem for other athletes as well. Overuse of tendons and muscles in the forearm can cause a lot of strain on the elbow and cause pain. After a good amount of rest, a physical therapist can show you good exercises to build up strength in the area.
- Quad strains: Whether your quad strain is a result of frequent use, a muscle imbalance, or a lack of stretching, it is definitely a pain to deal with. A physical therapist can help you identify the cause and take steps to prevent future strains.
- Bursitis: Bursitis is most often caused by repetitive, minor impact on the area, or from a sudden, more serious injury. Age also plays a role. As tendons age they are able to tolerate stress less, are less elastic, and are easier to tear. Bursitis can occur in the elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, and Achilles tendon. Bursitis is inflammation or irritation of the bursa. The bursa is a sac filled with lubricating fluid, located between tissues such as bone, muscle, tendons, and skin, that decreases rubbing, friction, and irritation. Our manual therapy and tool assisted techniques are very effective for helping with bursitis.
Proper training, strengthening and stretching are the most important elements to preventing sports injuries. It’s important to work with professionals, trained in your sport and are dedicated to making sure you are properly conditioned before doing the sport. Our physical therapists have years of working with different sports injuries and helping to train individuals on how to prevent injuries.
Our licensed physical therapists can customize an exercise and sports injury prevention program that recognizes the weaknesses of your particular musculoskeletal system, allowing you to recover quickly and stay active. Even, if you have an old injury, it is important to have it evaluated by our physical therapists to prevent long-term damage such as arthritis to your joints. If you have a new or old sports injury like tendonitis, arthritis, a stress fracture, or low back pain, our therapists can design a treatment program to promote wellness and minimize the chance of re-injury. Call us today to learn more!