Sports injuries can be a serious burden on the health of the athletic population and are extremely prevalent in Australia. In 2016–17, around 60,000 people were hospitalised for sports-related injuries. For many people, playing sports is an important part of their social life, and is good for maintaining physical and mental health. High-quality management by your physio or osteo is essential to ensuring you are able to get back on the field, pitch, dance floor or whatever else you do for sport, as soon as possible.
Injuries from sports are extremely common. They can present in many different areas in the body from the head, down to the feet. Below, is a brief idea of some of the many conditions that can be seen from sport-related incidents.
There are many different approaches to the initial management of the injuries above. Some practitioners still recommend the use of icing immediately after injury and following the RICE protocols (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Ice has shown some benefit in injuries that present with extreme swelling, but for injuries like a minor hamstring tear or plantar fasciopathy where there is rarely evidence of extreme swelling, icing may not be as useful. Heat is another option that some practitioners recommend. Heat is commonly recommended 48 hours post-injury, and is claimed by some to assist in the recovery process.
One of the more recent developments for acute management is PEACE and LOVE. At Peak MSK Physio, we recommend this process for patients to follow after an injury. You can see the instructions below.
Our Clinic, Peak MSK Physio, has the luxury of both physiotherapy and osteopathy practitioners to get your mojo back. We are very aligned in our approach to making you feel better and getting you back into sports. You can see either profession and expect high-quality management along your road to recovery.
Where sports injury recovery differs from a regular musculoskeletal injury is due to extra phases in recovery known as return to sport and return to play. For example, a desk worker who does not play sports sprains their ankle on the stairs at work. This individual will have different physical demands to meet, compared to somebody who sprains their ankle playing basketball. This is where these two phases come into action.
In the initial stages of management, the aim of a sports injury will be the same as that of a regular musculoskeletal injury. These are aspects of recovery like focusing on relief, recovery, strength, proprioception, balance and coordination. All these aspects of management will be crucial for function and avoidance of re-injury. However, when looking at an athlete, these focuses of management need to be incorporated into tasks specific to the sport of that individual.
If we are managing a basketball player, for example, we need to ensure they can jump off one leg and land on one leg while throwing a ball, pain-free and stable. We need to ensure they can shuffle their feet rapidly and side to side pain-free and stable. Exercises tailored to these specific tasks are required to ensure they can meet these physical demands post-injury. This is known as the return to sport phase. This is where we incorporate sport-specific tasks to ensure the demands of the individual can be met.
The final phase is focused on the return to play. This is where the athlete is managed initially in their return to training. Aspects such as strength levels, pain levels and confidence of the athlete should be monitored in this phase. If they meet the physical criteria of the physio / osteo, then they can be cleared to return to their full sporting activities. This phase requires a professional to ensure you do not return to sport too early risking re-injury and more time on the sidelines.
There are many actions you can take to ensure you are injury-free during sports.
Dynamic warm-up and cool-down: Every sport or exercise program should start with a dynamic warm-up and finish with a cool-down. A good warm-up can increase your heart rate to pump more blood to the muscles so that they can work better during sports. Your warm-up session should consist of 10-15 minutes of cardiovascular exercises and a few sport-specific movements, such as agility or tackling drills. After sports, cool down by doing low-intensity cardiovascular exercise and stretches for 10 minutes can gradually return your heart and muscles to their resting states to prevent injuries or post-exercise soreness.
Selecting the right amount and intensity of sports or exercise is crucial. Always start easy and gradually progress the intensity to allow your body to adapt to the exercise. Avoid progressing too quickly and learn to listen to your body to determine if a progression is appropriate.
Allow sufficient time for your body to rest and recover between your exercise sessions. Doing exercise all the time every day may sound good to the body but it actually puts an excessive burden on the cardiac, muscle, and joint systems, eventually leading to an injury of these systems. In general, 1 to 2 days of rest is recommended after moderate to vigorous intensity exercise.
Doing exercise with an improper technique can affect the body biomechanics, put extra compression on joints, and overload muscles and ligaments. In other words, poor technique can put you at a higher risk of injury. When exercising, it is crucial to maintain a stable form of the trunk and limbs, recruit the core muscles, and control the amount and direction of movements. Our physiotherapists and osteopaths can advise you on how to improve your techniques and keep yourself free of injuries!
Our physiotherapists and osteopaths can help by providing a diagnosis of your injuries. Based on the diagnosis and your needs, we will provide tailored manual therapy including joint mobilisations and soft tissue massage to resolve your symptoms and restore the functions of affected musculoskeletal structures. We will also prescribe exercises to strengthen your muscles that are important for your day-to-day activities. For long-term management, we will investigate the predisposing factors such as sports techniques that contributed to your injuries and provide treatments and advice to minimise the risks of re-injury while we prepare you for returning to the sports that you enjoy.
We are a clinic of experienced practitioners working together for you. We use the best scientific research to inform the decisions we take for your care. We do this with honesty and empathy.
It depends on the severity of the injury and how much the injury and your symptoms are affected by the sports you are playing. If symptoms worsen during or after sports, we recommend reducing the duration or intensity of sports. When you start to recover, you can gradually build up the intensity as tolerated. You may also try an alternative sport or exercise program to temporarily replace your original one while you are recovering. A complete stop of exercising is not recommended as it can cause deconditioning of the musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory systems, making it difficult to return to play in the future.
Your practitioner can use data via testing to ensure you maintain the same levels of strength and function post injury. This will give you the best chance to return to sport at a high level.
Some injuries such as ACL, serious fractures and severe muscle tears can lead to a season-ending outcome. However, most sports injuries can be managed over the course of 7 weeks. This includes monitoring the athlete once they have returned to play.
Running on injured joints has posed a slightly increased risk to developing early osteoarthritis. However, studies have demonstrated that active individuals are less likely to notice any symptoms or changes in their function once they develop osteoarthritis. This is due to active people being more likely to have stronger muscles to support their joints.
No, you should not play through the pain. The principle “No pain, no gain” may be true in other aspects of life, but it is not when it comes to sports injuries. Pain is a signal generated by our body to warn us of potential threats or changes in the body. In sports, those changes can be a sprained ligament or a strained muscle. If you continue to play regardless of the symptoms, the injury may get worse and affect how long it will take to recover.
Surgery is not necessary and not recommended most of the time. In fact, research over the past decades has proved that conservative management including rehabilitation through physiotherapy and osteopathy is more effective than surgery for most sports injuries. While some injuries such as fractures and dislocations require immediate surgical management, conservative rehabilitation remains the first-line treatment for less serious injuries. Our physiotherapists and osteopaths will be able to assess the severity of your injury and discuss with you whether rehabilitation or surgery is a better option for you.