Sports Medicine

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Sports Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Treatment

sports injury prevention, rehabilitation, and treatment

There are about 8.6 million sports related injuries every year in the United States according to the CDC. For most of those injured athletes, what might you guess is the number one thing they want to do after getting hurt?

They want to get back out there. On the field. On the court. On the ice. At the track. At the gym. For athletic-minded people, whether playing professionally, at college, in school, as a casual competitor, or going against their own limitations, being out there is number one. Nothing is more frustrating than to be compelled to stay home or on the bench to deal with an injury.

Sports medicine has emerged as a specialty for exactly this reason. 

Sport physiotherapists are trained to recognize and understand the specific motions and exertions required in individual sports that put extra strain upon certain joints, muscles, and ligaments. 

If you’re an athlete at any level, form, or stage of life, you understand all this, and that’s why you’re here. You’re here either because you’re tired of being injured and want to know what you can to do restore your previous level of performance, you have undergone a surgery for a sport related injury, or because you want to prevent future injuries from happening and want talk to a specialist who can actually help you achieve that. 

You’re about to learn the basics of sports medicine. What it is, how it relates to sports physiotherapy, how it can help you, and much more. Use the table of contents below or just keep reading.

The Ultimate Guide to Sports Medicine

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The Ultimate Guide to Sports Medicine

What Is Sports Medicine?

what is sports medicine

Sports medicine is a somewhat broad term that includes a variety of specialists all bound by one commonality – serving patients who take part in athletics. They either work exclusively with athletes, or they have the skills to provide targeted care to people who experience athletic related injuries. 

Under this broad group you will find sports medicine specialists such as sports medicine doctors, sports physiotherapists, regular physiotherapists, sports massage therapists, athletic therapists, and trainers. 

Some of these work with sports teams or athletic departments, some with individuals. Sometimes more than one specialist works with the same person or team, and their various skillsets and strengths will complement each other. 

The goal of sports medicine specialists is clear: Treat injuries that have already happened, restore the athlete to their fullest potential, and work to prevent future injuries from occurring in ongoing athletic activity.

You could seek help from a sports medicine specialist for any of the following reasons:

  • You have a sports injury and need treatment
  • You are not injured, but want a training regimen to help you stay that way
  • You need to regain your athletic performance after an injury or surgery
  • You want to maintain your current athletic performance and lifestyle
 
 We’ll get to some of the differences between the various specialties in a moment. But what makes sports doctors so helpful is that they understand the movement and physical demands of particular sports. They know what your body must be able to endure to keep performing in your sport. 

And with that knowledge, they can recommend treatments that will help someone with a sports injury to regain their full strength and return to the field ready to compete.

They can also teach you how to apply proper mechanics to your body so you are moving your joints, muscles, and ligaments in the safest and best ways. Plus, if you have a specialist on site during your competitions, they can assess and possibly treat injuries on the spot, depending on the severity.

For example, suppose you’ve had an ACL injury and your knee had to be reconstructed. The sports doctor understands that your ACL is what allows you to run, pivot, kick, and change directions. That’s why this is one of the most common knee ligaments injured in sports. 

After the surgery gets performed, a sports physiotherapist can help you rebuild your strength and repair the damage so you can return to the field.

Check out this great exercise which is ideal for running-specific strength, courtesy of Physio Plus Health Group.

How Can Sports Rehab Help Me?

how can sports rehab help me

Sports injuries can impact so many different parts of your body and can occur in just about every sport. Consider:

  • Ligament injuries – an over-stretch or complete tear of the strong tissue that connects joints. Common ligament would be the ACL of the knee or the ATFL of the ankle.
  • Concussions – a mild traumatic brain injury with major consequences. Dizziness, brain fog, poor coordination, headaches, and poor endurance are some of the potential consequences of concussions.
  • Muscle strains – typically occurring during eccentric load like throwing or trying to slow down a movement full of momentum this is an overexertion of the muscle fibres that can lead to mild to severe damage.
  • Fractures – whether a stress fracture that occurs from long-distance running or a clavicle fracture from being slammed into the boards the road to recovery from a fracture to return to sport needs focused rehabilitation.
  • Contusions – mild contusions may cause soreness but more severe contusions are a very serious matter. 
  • Chronic pain – sometimes being in the sport you love isn’t without sacrifices. Chronic pain can either occur from sports injuries or be something an athlete lives with prior to being involved in sports.

Sports medicine can treat or help you manage all of these conditions and injuries.

So what does sport rehab look like with a physiotherapist?

The main goal is to develop a program that is specific to your body and sport. The plan will not just address pain but restore functionality to your muscles and joints, rebuild your strength, and agility that is specific to what you need in your sport.

In implementing such a program, sports physiotherapists will use techniques like exercise therapy, dry needling, taping, shockwave therapy, and other specific interventions to address your unique deficits.

Get help from a sports medicine specialist if an injury is preventing you from playing and competing. The specialist can also teach you how to safely train while you rehab from your injury. They create a return to play with  you and safely test clinically to evaluate the lowest risk possible with a return to sport. Setting some limits in the early stages to you can recovery swiftly and prevent further or worsening injury.

Sometimes, you have an injury but need to play just one more game, such as the final game in a tournament. Depending on the injury, a sports medicine specialist may be able to get your body ready to play that last game before you can devote more extensive time to healing and restoring from your injury afterward.

Running tips courtesy of Peak Health & Performance (Read the caption)

The Difference Between Sports Physiotherapists and Sports Doctors

Let’s clarify a few of the differences between some of these sports medicine specialists. 

Sports doctors are the ones who diagnose injuries and disorders and perform the actual procedures, such as surgery or injections. They will also prescribe medication and refer onto further assessments or professionals to assist in your management plan. 

These are like any other doctor in terms of their credentials. They go to medical school and get licensed like any other. But they have chosen to further specialize in sports-related injuries and treatments. 

A sports physiotherapist uses non-invasive techniques to produce long term healing and revived performance. They tend to work with you for a longer period of time than the doctor. Your sports doctor may even refer you to a sports physiotherapist. 

The sports physiotherapist’s goal is to help you return to sport as quickly and safely as possible.

Check out this video about Runners’ Core Workout, courtesy of Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Clinic Physiotherapy 

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The Difference Between Sports Physiotherapists and Athletic Therapists

There is a lot of overlap between these professions.

Both specialists work to help you prevent injuries, manage pain, and rehabilitate injuries to your muscles and bones so you can experience the full range of motion and physical independence you need to get back on the field. Neither requires a referral from a physician. Both create personalized treatment plans. 

Both are very familiar with the musculoskeletal system, meaning muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. They know how to assess sports injuries and develop sports rehab plans. 

And, both use similar treatment methods, including mobilizations, sports massage, taping, stretching, electrotherapy, biomechanics, and exercise training and education.

 

That’s a lot in common. But as you’ll see, the differences are significant. Here are the main ones you need to know:

  • Athletic therapists focus on the musculoskeletal system. 
  • Sports physiotherapists also consider your neurological and cardiovascular health
  • Physiotherapists have a broader knowledge base and medical background
  • Athletic therapists are trained alongside university sports teams, they learn on the field and in clinic
  • Physiotherapists treat people of all ages and all levels of activity
  • Athletic therapists are quick thinkers who can assess injuries in the moment, right on the field. You often see them traveling with teams and athletes during competitions, including at the Olympics. Physios tend to work in sports clinics or hospital settings

Who you end up seeing may well depend on who your insurance will cover, because both are able to help treat many of the same conditions. 

Common Sports Injuries Successfully Treated with Sports Physiotherapy

Whether you golf, run, swim, or play sports like basketball, hockey, or racquetball, the great majority of sports injuries you can suffer will be treatable by a sports physiotherapist.

Here are some of the most common sports injuries that can be treated:

  • Meniscus tears
  • Bone and muscle contusions
  • Ankle and ligament sprains
  • Muscle strains
  • Dislocations
  • Subluxations
  • Achilles tears
  • Bone fractures, both minor and major
  • SLAP injuries

Check out these 4 simple exercises by Aurora Sports Medicine Professionals for a healthy golf swing:

5 simple stretches to start your golf warmup courtesy of Fusion Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre

Golf forearm warmups courtesy of INNOVA Integrated Wellness Centre

Exercises to help you improve your golf game courtesy of Physio Sport Plus

Great warmups you can use to prepare before you go on your run, play your sport, and even do before a great workout courtesy of Sheddon Physiotherapy Sports Clinic

9 Things to Do Right Now if You Have a Sports Injury

As long as it’s not a fracture or an injury that requires immediate attention, what should you do to help your body heal from a sports injury?

As an athlete or highly active person, you need more than ‘rest and drink plenty of fluids.’ 

One sports physiotherapist developed a 9-part response to sports injuries – things you can do yourself, or with the help of a physiotherapist.

Their system is an acronym – PEACE and LOVE

Protect your body by avoiding activities and motions that increase your pain

Elevate your injured area, if possible, above your heart to reduce inflammation

Anti-inflammatories consult a doctor before using these, but they can help manage your pain

Compress the injured area with taping or elastic bandages to reduce swelling

Educate yourself about your injury

Load as you rehabilitate, a bit of loading is helpful

Optimism be positive and confident about your ability to heal

Vascularisation look for cardio exercises that don’t cause pain, and start doing them regularly. Research has shown even hopping on a stationary bike with a shoulder injury can help the body in healing.

Exercise without aggravating symptoms to restore your strength and mobility faster than you would just laying around. 

What Is Kinesiology Tape and How Can It Help?

Kinesiology tape was created with the goal of providing support and helping reduce pain and swelling without compromising any range of motion or athletic performance. It achieves this in part by its extreme stretchiness. The original tape was a blend of cotton and nylon, designed to blend with your skin’s elasticity. 

Unlike things like knee braces which can limit motion, sports taping is also water resistant and can stay on your body for days, even through a shower. 

How and why does sports taping work?

The theory behind it is that taping gives sensory support to the area that is injured. Ultimately helping your brain better connect with the injured area so intense muscle guarding, compensation, or pain can lessen.

It is also believed that sports taping increases the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid, which reduces swelling. Also, if you feel more comfortable moving with the support of taping then the more likely you will want to optimally load. 

How do sports physiotherapists use kinesiology tape?

They like to combine it with their other treatment methods. By itself, taping can only make so much of a difference. But in combination with stretching, strengthening, dry needling, and other sports physical therapy strategies, taping can help reduce your pain and swelling so you can start getting back to optimal movement as soon as possible.

Need to See a Sports Medicine Specialist?

Your best first step is to look for someone in your area who identifies themselves as a sports medicine specialist. If you want to visit a clinic or hospital, seek a physiotherapist. If you want someone to travel with you or your team, look for an athletic therapist. If you have a severe injury, look for a sports physician first. 

If you find yourself with too many choices, try to find someone who has more experience with your particular sport or athletic activity. And of course, some may be covered by insurance and some may not. 

Use what you’ve learned from this guide to find the best sports medicine specialist for you.

Common Injuries Successfully Treated with Sports Medicine Physiotherapy

Frequently Asked Questions

It depends on the injury, the requirements of the sport, and overall cost vs. benefit of playing. If it is the championship finals and you aren’t quite 100% rehabilitated from your injury there may be a chance. Your sport physiotherapist will assess your physiological, structural, and psychological readiness to return to play making sure your health and safety is priority but understanding the importance of playing your sport. 

The short answer is anyone! If you keep getting aches and pains at the 4km mark with your journey to 5km runs then you can see a sport physio. Sport physiotherapists are adaptable to all levels of sporting ability from weekend warriors to professional levels. 

It depends on the injury. A simple strain or sprain make take 6-12 weeks whereas a broken bone or surgery may be 6-12 months. Individualized factors play a big part in this including how long it takes to heal, what sport you are returning to, and how long it takes to reach specific performance marker milestones. Your sport physiotherapist will keep you motivated and inspired throughout your rehabilitation so however long it takes the time will fly by. 

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Sports Medicine Physiotherapy is one of several possible methods for relieving pain that do not rely on prescription medications and all the side effects and baggage they come with. Not to mention that most drugs can only mask pain, but rarely address root causes. Find a clinic if you are suffering from muscle tightness, soreness, or pain to improve your quality of life, today.