Sports injuries can be the worst.
Fortunately, sports injury therapy is here to pick you up when you fall down.
In this article, we take a look at the different types of injuries and how sports therapy can help you recover.
Here’s how to bounce back faster with physical therapy:
How Sports Therapy Helps You Recover
Sports injury therapy is a combination of exercises and non-invasive treatments that heal damaged tissues and prevent further injury.
Depending on the injury, rehab can include joint traction, neuromuscular re-education, soft tissue massage, and more.
We’ll cover all of those in a sec…
But for now, let’s take a look at who is most at risk for sports injuries:
Who Is Most at Risk for Sports Injuries?
Anyone can get injured, but some people are more at risk than others.
Here’s who should be extra careful:
1. Not Warming Up or Stretching
Warming up gradually engages the muscles and improves balance, coordination, and reaction times.
People who don’t do this are more likely to injure themselves.
With that said, do not stretch before you workout!
Stretching beforehand makes the muscles, tendons, and ligaments all loosey-goosey—not a good thing for sports performance.
2. Ignoring Minor Injuries
Remember that little ankle sprain you got last skiing season?
What if that was actually a stress fracture and you didn’t know it?
Over time, it can develop into something much worse.
3. Being Overweight
Are you carrying around a few extra pounds?
As it turns out, being overweight is bad for joints. (1)
Ultimately, it puts stress on the hips, knees, and ankle.
Kids grow fast, and that can make them a little uncoordinated at times.
After all, it’s hard to get used to a body that’s constantly changing!
Children don’t always know their limits and may push themselves harder and ignore warning signs.
Plus, because they’re so active they simply have more opportunities to get hurt.
5. Old Age
As you age, you’re more likely to get injured.
Over time, most people develop muscle imbalances, tightness, and plenty of wear and tear.
Altogether, this increases the odds that you either get a new injury or agitate an old one.
Common Sports Injuries
Minor sports injuries, like sprain, can keep you out for a few days.
More severe injuries, on the other hand, can take months to heal.
Here are some of the most common types of sports injuries:
Sprains: Ligament tears that can be either mild or severe. Ligaments are pieces of tissue that connect bones together.
Strains: Overstretching increases the risk of tendon tears. Tendons are thick cords of tissue that connect bone to muscle.
Ruptured Achilles Tendon: The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the body, located behind the ankle. However, it can still tear with the right force.
Knee Injuries: Knee injuries, including sprains and full-on ligament tears, are common sports injuries.
Fractures: Bone fractures happen from direct, sudden impact. Stress fractures can also occur from long-term wear and tear.
Swollen Muscles: Swelling can happen from severe inflammation and causes muscle pain and weakness.
Dislocations: Joints can pop out of the socket and need to be put back in.
Torn Rotator Cuff: Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that work together in the shoulder socket. They are easy to tear if you over-exercise and have limited joint mobility. (2)
What Is an Orthopedic Physical Therapist?
Orthopedic physical therapists help patients recover from musculoskeletal injuries, like:
At-home Sports Therapy for Mild Injuries
Hopefully, your injury will be mild enough to do sports therapy at home.
The R.I.C.E. method is typically the first step toward recovery from sports injuries.
It can help reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain in the first few days following an injury.
R.I.C.E. stands for:
Rest: For most sprains, you’ll probably need at least 24-72 hours of rest. This period is when you have the most pain and inflammation. It’s also when you have the highest risk of re-injuring yourself. Take it easy and let it heal!
Ice: Ice reduces pain and inflammation. At the same time, it relieves swelling by decreasing blood flow to the injury. Wrap a crushed bag of ice in a thin hand towel and apply directly to the injured area for 15- 20 minutes at a time. Allow the skin to return to room temperature between icings.
Compression: After you ice, wrap the injured body part with a compression bandage. This will prevent it from moving too much, reduce swelling, and provide some support. If the bandage causes tingling or numbness, it’s too tight.
Elevation: Raising the injury above the height of your heart drains fluid from the area and reduces swelling. If you hurt your hip, for example, try laying on your back with a couple of pillows underneath your buttocks.
First Day After Injury
This is when swelling and inflammation is at its worst.
Plus, bruising is more noticeable and the entire area can turn a deep purple or black color.
Continue using R.I.C.E. on days 2 and 3 if you still have swelling and pain.
At the same time, you may want to take anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger, turmeric, and omega-3 fish oil. (3)
Make sure your ginger and turmeric supplements contain either black pepper extract or fenugreek to help with absorption.
Whatever you do, don’t use heat therapy within the first three days.
Although it may feel nice, the heat makes the swelling worse.
How to Tell If You Should See a Doctor
If your sports injury is more severe, you should see a doctor right away.
Be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
Visible deformities like lumps or bends in your arms and legs
Inability to put weight on one of your legs
Popping or crunching sounds when you move
Severe swelling and pain
However, you may not experience severe symptoms right away and still have a serious injury.
If your injury doesn’t improve with at-home sports therapy, visit the doctor.
After the first few weeks, you shouldn’t have any swelling or bruising.
Advanced Sports Therapy Treatments for Severe Injuries
Severe injuries may require surgery and orthopedic sports therapy.
The following are some of the most common orthopedic physical therapy treatments:
Therapeutic Exercise: This is the bread-and-butter of sports injury therapy. Most of the recovery process is just putting in the hard work.
Soft Tissue Massage: Following a sports therapy session, your physical therapist might recommend a massage to help loosen stiff muscles and scar tissue.
Neuromuscular Re-education: A set of exercises that strengthens the mind-body connection.
Assisted Stretching: Your physical therapist may help you stretch the injured area and surrounding body parts to improve mobility.
Joint Mobilizations: A type of manual technique that relieves nerve pressure and stretches the joint.
Electrical Stimulation: Several types of electrical wave therapies can reduce pain and swelling, including Hi-Volt and TENS.
Dry Needling: Fine needles are inserted into the damaged tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
Traction: A type of joint mobilization that stretches the spine vertically.
Spinal Stabilization: An exercise that strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine.
Hot & Cold Therapy: After the initial healing phase, hot and cold therapy can be used to increase circulation and reduce pain.
Cold Laser Therapy: Special lasers penetrate deep into damaged tissue to speed recovery.
Ultrasound: Sound waves that improve circulation.
Which Sports Therapy Techniques Your Physical Therapists Use Will Depend on the Injury
For example, an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is a common knee injury that often requires surgery and rehab. (4)
In fact, you may even do sports therapy before surgery to limit strength loss and speed recovery following surgery.
Recent research shows that patients with stronger quadriceps have faster, less painful recoveries. (5)
Following surgery, there’s a lot of scientific factors to consider, including:
Putting together a long-term strength training program
Deciding which exercises to use: opened-chained, close-chained, isolated, or functional?
Whether or not to target the knee cap with exercises
Identifying and treating weaknesses in surrounding muscle groups
Electrical stimulation to improve quadriceps strength
Blood flow restriction therapy
Ultimately, these are complicated concepts that require years of training to learn.
Poor sports therapy means longer recovery times and a higher risk of re-injury, so it’s definitely worth it to work with a professional.
Sports Injury Statistics
The most common sports injuries are sprains and strains.
More often than not, they occur in contact sports like football and basketball.
However, injuries are much less common in non-contact sports like running and swimming.
Unfortunately, if you’re a young male you’re much more likely to get a sports injury.
A recent study found that 8.6 million Americans ages 5 to 24 suffer a sports injury every year. (6)
That’s more than half of all sports injuries!
Roughly a third of those happen during organized team sports.
The lower body is more likely to get injured than the upper body because it bears weight.
If you have any more questions about sports therapy, feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers.
We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.