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Athletes know nothing is worse than sitting out a game or season due to pain or an injury. This is also the fear of many coaches and parents as well. Seeing their child or athlete unable to do what they love is heartbreaking. Numerous parents would rather skip sports altogether than see their kids injured.

However, despite this well-intentioned and well-founded fear, there are ways to prevent sports injuries and help athletes recover as soon as possible. The answer is in physical therapy’s role in sports medicine. So, what is sports physical therapy, and how does sports physical therapy prevent injury?

How Does Sports Physical Therapy Prevent Injury?

Also known as sports therapy, sports PT focuses on treating athletes. General physical therapists can help rehabilitate an injury. Nevertheless, a sports-focused physical therapist is trained to handle sports and exercise injuries and physiological aspects. They possess a deeper understanding of exercise science and biomechanics, two important subjects in preventing and fully rehabilitating sports-related injuries.

Many athletes ask us, "How does sports physical therapy prevent injury?"

Since sports physical therapists focus specifically on athletes, they can develop a prevention plan and unique treatment that considers the athlete’s sport. Similar to each person’s body is unique and uniquely responding to a treatment plan, so does each athlete based on the sport. Based upon a full evaluation, a PT will create a plan that considers movement and spots, physiology, strengths and weaknesses, and injury risk. They will then create a plan with position-specific and sports-specific exercises to enhance the athlete’s movement.

Evaluation And Assessment

Before a physical therapist can develop a plan of action for the athlete, the therapist will do an evaluation. This evaluation includes pain assessment if there’s existing pain. During an injury and pain assessment, the physical therapist will find the underlying cause of the pain and give a diagnosis to treat it properly.

Then, after the pain subsides, they may include mobility and functional testing to determine weaknesses and where there can be improvements. This testing will include video and playback to check the areas of the body most prone to stress during the sport’s specific movements. For example, if the sport needs a lot of stress on the knee and jumping, the physical therapist will look closely at that spot for signs of weakness. These weaknesses could cause injury, so assessing each athlete’s biomechanics is crucial for prevention.

Sports Injury Prevention

Unfortunately, most athletes come to consult a physical therapist once they have already been injured or are in pain. However, among the most helpful benefits to physical therapists in sports medicine is sports injury prevention. Physical therapists understand exercise science, physiology, and biomechanics more deeply. Here’s how they can help you prevent sports-related injuries:

Work Conditioning Or Training

A physical therapist can help athletes prevent injury through proper training.

Physical therapists can partner with you to develop an exercise program to prevent work-related injuries. Work conditioning for injury prevention helps you increase your strength and endurance to avoid injuries.

People in occupations that require repetitive movements, such as manufacturing, construction, and healthcare, may need work conditioning. The conditioning program is especially useful for preventing injuries in the musculoskeletal system.

Isokinetic Training

Isokinetic training is a type of strength training using dynamometer machines to maintain a constant speed for muscle contraction while monitoring your exertion. This type of training blends the contractions of isometric, static exercises with the range of motion in isotonic exercises.

Isokinetic training is good for those who might be predisposed to injury or had a previous injury and are concerned about re-injury as they ease back into exercise.

Strengthening

Your physical therapist can evaluate your needs and set a program that best suits your abilities. Physical therapy can assist in strengthening your muscles and joints to take on heavier loads. It will also enable you to train longer over time.

Under your physical therapist’s guidance, your unique exercise program will gradually increase your activity level to build endurance. It will also incorporate various exercises instead of focusing on one training technique to improve your overall strength.

Talking to your physical therapist about what exercise or program works best for you is always best.

Improving Range of Motion

When your body gets into positions you’re not used to, you’re at risk of injury. The amount of movement the joint can take is known as the range of motion. Improving the range of motion goes hand in hand with improving your overall performance. Studies show that proper warm-up and stretching increase your muscle’s range of motion and reduce the risk of sports injuries.

Certain exercises can improve your range of motion and flexibility. Depending on your strengths and limitations, your PT can teach you exercises that will enable you to stretch your muscles and move your body in different ways.

What Sports Injuries Are Treated With Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy can help with many sports-related injuries.

Patellofemoral Syndrome

Sports injuries involving the lower body are usually knee injuries. Patellofemoral syndrome is usually caused by a slip or fall onto the knees. There’s swelling, pain, and an imbalance of the knee muscle in its groove. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help the muscles correct themselves. Aside from strengthening exercises, a physical therapist might use knee taping or bracing techniques for this injury.

ACL Tear

The ACL is a major ligament found in the knee. ACL tear or strain can be caused when playing sports because of a sudden change in direction or coming to a sudden stop. There’s instability and swelling in movement with an ACL tear. Aggressive physical therapy can assist with recovery.

Shin Splints

With shin splints, there is typically pain in the lower leg bone- the tibia. It’s common with runners. Rest and ice can relieve the pain, and a great pair of shoes with arch support can help.

Shoulder Injury

Shoulder injuries in sports range from misalignments and dislocations to strains and sprains of shoulder muscles and ligaments. The shoulder is a weak joint prone to injuries during sports activities. Rest and icing should help with swelling and pain.

Groin Pull

Also known as groin strain, the muscles can get strained due to quick side-to-side movements when engaging in sports. Range of motion exercises and stretching can assist with recovery.

Concussion

A blow to the head can result in a concussion. It’s a serious injury and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, confusion, vomiting, and slurred speech. Any athlete who incurs a concussion should get immediate medical attention. Treatment with a physical therapist can assist with the dizziness and headaches associated with a concussion.

Hip Flexor Strain

The hip flexor muscles can be found in the upper front thigh. Running inclines, sprinting, and sudden movement can strain the hip flexor. There might be bruising in the thigh area along with pain and inflammation. Stretching and range of motion exercises through a PT assist with recovery.

Sciatica

Back pain extending to your leg’s back is known as Sciatica. It is often seen in cyclists and athletes who perform lots of trunk rotation in swing sports like tennis and golf. A pinched nerve or bulging disc may cause back pain. A physical therapist can help eliminate sciatica symptoms.

Tennis or Golf Elbow

This condition is called an overuse sports injury. Repetitive actions inflame the wrist and forearm. Icing and rest generally help, but strengthening exercises and stretching techniques with a physical therapist help even more.

Hamstring Strain

The hamstring muscle is found in the back thigh. Lack of stretching can lead to this muscle being pulled. If this condition persists for over two weeks, a physical therapist can assist with ultrasound treatment to promote the healing of the pulled muscle.

How Do You Treat Sports Injuries Using Physical Therapy?

Sometimes, sports injuries happen no matter the measures you take to prevent them. When they happen, your orthopedic doctor may ask you to take it easy briefly. However, you’ll eventually be able to engage in physical activity as part of the rehabilitation. After all, an injury is not the end of all physical activity for you.

Sports injuries can be treated with physical therapy.

It would help if you did not stay completely immobile after sustaining an injury. Physical therapy is considered a vital aspect of the healing process. Early on, your therapist and doctor will teach you simple movements that can assist in preventing post-injury or postoperative complications such as blood clots.

During the initial stages of healing from sports injuries, physical therapy helps reduce inflammation and pain. As your condition improves, the therapist will also adjust your PT plan. Because the injury limits your movements, you may start with a range of motion exercises and then proceed to strengthening exercises.

Aside from exercise, physical therapists can also employ other techniques to deal with sports injuries. Examples of other modalities are hot and cold therapy and manual therapy.

Stay On Top Of Your Sports Game with Sports Physical Therapy

Our physical therapists here at Precision Sports Physical Therapy can help you treat and overcome different conditions, which means that whatever sports you play, our licensed physical therapists can help you prevent future injuries, relieve the pain you’re experiencing, and recover effectively.

Physical therapy is a good option for all athletes looking to up their game and stay healthy throughout the year, no matter their sport. Book an appointment today!