The fall sports season is upon us. Many students and weekend athletes are excited about the prospects of playing their favorite sport. Before you jump into action, you may want to visit a physical therapist for ideas on how to reduce your risk of injury or re-injury.
Although most athletes return to their sports three to four weeks after an injury, one-third will re-injure themselves within a year, according to a 2010 study published in “The Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy.” A physical therapist can assist with both the current injury and how to avoid re-injury.
Physical therapists can help you reduce your risk of injury by:
- Assessing your risk of falling by re-assessing your past injury and stamina.
- Specifying “high risk” activities to help you have a successful sports season while minimizing the chances of injury.
- Helping you make the specific sport as safe as possible.
- Educating you about the medical risk factors linked to common sports injuries.
- Designing individualized exercises, strength, and balance training.
Regardless of your age or sport, the more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of injury. The factors associated with the greatest risks are:
- A history of previous injuries
- Balance problems
- Muscle weakness
- Vision problems
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
If you are worried about re-injury (or if you recently had an injury), your physical therapist can conduct a brief consultation. If the consultation shows that you are at risk, the therapist will perform a thorough evaluation, including:
- A review of your medical history
- A review of your medications
- A simple vision test
- A sports safety assessment
- A simple screen of your thinking and physical abilities
- Feet and footwear assessment
Based on the evaluation results, your physical therapist will design an exercise and training program to improve your balance and strength. A recent systematic review of many published studies found that exercise-based programs are effective in preventing injury.
Balance and Strength Training
Balance training has been shown to be an important and effective part of injury prevention. Your physical therapist will design exercises that challenge your ability to keep your balance.
Strengthening exercises are a key element of preventing various muscle and tendon injuries. They are most effective when they are done in conjunction with balance training. Your physical therapist will design strengthening exercises that focus on the specific sport muscles.
Sports injury can often take at least four weeks to heal. “The best way to avoid the injury is through strength training,“ instructs Deepika Goyal, a physical therapist in Raleigh, NC.
Physical therapist, Deb Bishop, recommends, “A good way to reduce injury is by doing flexibility exercises in order to prevent loss of balance and strength.”
Exercising by playing sports can be very beneficial to your health, but sometimes these benefits are outweighed by injury. The physical therapists at Care First Rehab can help you avoid poor training practices, improper equipment, flawed techniques, and assure that you are in the proper conditioned to play the sport with warming up or stretching exercises.
- 17 Most Common Fitness Injuries and How to Prevent Them
- Physical Therapist’s Guide to Falls
- Student Athlete Injury Prevention Program