From the weekend warrior to the elite athlete, that is one of the first questions they usually ask when they come in for treatment. Just because an injury may feel better, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe to return to competition. There are many factors that need to be addressed.
1. Is there a sufficient range of motion around the injured site to perform the activity? Restricted movement can lead to reinjury.
2. Is there full strength? There is often muscle atrophy after an injury. Is the strength sufficient to protect the injured area?
3. Have the cardiovascular needs for the sport been addressed and restored? Many injuries occur when fatigue sets in, so it is important to be fit before returning to sport.
4. Is proprioception sufficient to prevent re-injury? Proprioceptors tell our body where it is and need to be retrained after an injury. After an ankle injury, you may have poor balance. This needs to be worked on before going back to play.
5. Has the cause of the injury been addressed? Tight muscles, muscle weakness or imbalance, poor biomechanics, and overtraining can all contribute to an injury. Only treating the injured site may not be enough.
6. Have you done sport-specific exercises before returning to play? Strengthening and stretching exercises are fine, but have you done any dynamic exercises, and exercises that mimic what you would be doing in your sport?
7. Is the injury protected? Although the injury may feel fine after a few weeks, injured tissue can take much longer to heal completely. It may be necessary to have the area braced, taped, or padded to protect it from further injury as it continues to heal.
8. Has the therapist told you what you need to do to take care of the injury as you return to the game?
Certified Athletic Therapists are trained in sports injuries and returning athletes to play. At Burlington Sports Therapy, our athletic therapist has over 25 years of experience working with national and varsity athletes. If you are not sure if you are ready to return to sport, call today for an assessment.
Written by Madeleine Hunter
Certified Athletic Therapist, Registered Massage Therapist
Prentice, W.E. Principles of Athletic Training. 2011