Rehabilitation and Ongoing Treatment for Common Sports Injuries
Active Rehabilitation is the key to a complete recovery.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 6, 2001 | Updated September 14, 2017
In part 1 we looked at the initial treatment for sports injuries, like running injuries and other common pulled muscle complaints. Last month, in part 2, we looked at specific rehabilitation techniques to help repair any damaged soft tissue.
Now, in part 3, we’re going to put the finishing touches on your recovery and rehabilitation. We’ll look at regaining the fitness components that may have been lost during your injury and recovery. Click here if you missed either part 1 or part 2.
If you suffer from sports injuries or are seeking to prevent their occurrence it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that’s just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
By now, you’ve come over 80% of the way. You may even feel that your injury is fully recovered. Your treatment so far may have stopped the swelling and bleeding, it may have reduced the amount of scar tissue at the injury site, it may have even started to heal the soft tissues which were injured. But there is still one more important thing to do.
The last 20% can be the most crucial to your complete recovery. If you’ve ever suffered from a sporting injury in the past, you’ll know how annoying it is to think you’re recovered, and then out-of-the-blue, you’re injured again and back to where you started from. It can be one of the most frustrating and heart-breaking cycles an athlete, or anyone else for that matter, can go through.
What is Active Rehabilitation?
Most people will refer to this phase of your recovery as the active rehabilitation phase. Simply because, during this phase you will be responsible for the rehabilitation process. You will be doing the exercises and activities required to speed up your full recovery.
The aim of this phase of your rehabilitation will be to regain all the fitness components that were lost during the injury process. Regaining your flexibility, strength, power, muscular endurance, balance, and coordination will be the primary focus.
Without this phase of your rehabilitation, there is no hope of completely and permanently making a full recovery from your injury. A quote from a great book called “Sporting injuries” by Peter Dornan & Richard Dunn will help to reinforce the value of active rehabilitation.
“The injury symptoms will permanently disappear only after the patient has undergone a very specific exercise program, deliberately designed to stretch and strengthen and regain all parameters of fitness of the damaged structure or structures. Further, it is suggested that when a specific stretching program is followed, thus more permanently reorganising the scar fibres and allowing the circulation to become normal, the painful symptoms will disappear permanently.“
The first point to make clear is how important it is to keep active. Often, the advice from doctors and similar medical personnel will simply be; rest. This can be one of the worst things you can do. Without some form of activity the injured area will not receive the blood flow it requires for recovery. An active circulation will provide both the oxygen and nutrients needed for the injury to heal.
Any form of gentle activity not only promotes blood circulation, but it also activates the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is vital in clearing the body of toxins and waste products, which can accumulate in the body following a serious injury. Activity is the only way to activate the lymphatic system.
A Word Of Warning!
Never, Never, Never do any activity that hurts the injured area. Of course you may feel some discomfort, but never push yourself to the point where you’re feeling pain. You’ve come a long way from first being injured, don’t take a step backwards now. Be very careful with any activity you do. Pain is the warning sign, don’t ignore it.
Now it’s time to make that injured area strong again. The main areas you’re going to be working on are your flexibility, strength and coordination. Depending on your background, and what sport you’re involved in, these elements should be your first priority. As you start to regain your strength, flexibility and coordination, you can then start to work on the more specific areas of your chosen sport. Let’s start with flexibility.
When increasing the flexibility of the injured area it is important to increase the flexibility of, not only the damaged muscles and tendons, but also the muscle groups around the injured area.
The best form of stretching to use is a form of stretching called static stretching. Be sure to warm-up with some light activity, and then place the muscle group into a position where tension is felt. Hold the stretch for an extended period of time, at least 30 to 45 seconds.
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Get back to the activities you love. Whether it’s enjoying your favorite sport, or walking the dog, or playing with the grand kids. Imagine getting out of bed in the morning with a spring in your step. Or being able to work in the garden or play your favorite sport without “paying-for-it” the next day.
When attempting to increase the strength of an injured area, be sure to approach this in a gradual, systematic way of lightly over-loading the muscles and tendons. Be careful not to over do this type of training. Patience is required.
The use of machine weights can be very effective here, as they provide a certain amount of stability to the joints and muscles as you perform your rehabilitation exercises.
When a soft tissue injury occurs, there is always a certain amount of damage to the nerves around the injured area. This, of course, leads to a lack of control of the muscles and tendons, and can also affect the stability of joint structures.
To compensate for this lack of coordination, specific exercises and drills should be done to help with balance, coordination and muscle control. Be sure to keep the activity as specific as possible to the sport you play.
These last three issues of The Stretching & Sports Injury Report have been a very comprehensive account of the correct treatment for most soft tissue sports injuries. If followed correctly you will find that most minor injuries, like mild sprains and strains, will heal within a day or two. While most major soft tissue injuries will heal within a week or two.
As an example, a client of mine recently broke her shoulder and suffered a large amount of soft tissue damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the shoulder. We applied the principles outlined in these articles, and within eight weeks the fracture has healed and most of the scaring has been removed. We are now working towards increasing the strength and flexibility of the shoulder joint, and within another 4 weeks the shoulder should be at about 95% of it’s original condition.
Considering there was a fracture in the head of the humerus, she has recovered extremely well. This type of injury is one of the most extreme soft tissue injuries you are likely to ever come across. Not only has there been damage to the soft tissues, but also to the bones. If this rehabilitation procedure can help the most severe injuries, it will be very effective for many of the most common soft tissue injuries.
About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.