If there’s one thing worse than sitting out games – or even a season – with an injury, it’s having that injury come back and continue to hold you back the following season. The good news is that when you do it correctly, you can manage your old injuries and have great seasons for the years to come. As physiotherapists that work extensively with athletes, sports teams and their injuries, today we’re sharing our top tips on how to manage your old injuries – and why they can keep bothering you in the first place.
Why your old injuries leave you vulnerable
There are two primary reasons why once you sustain an injury, you’re more likely to re-injure the same area. The first is more evident shortly after recovery, especially if the recovery has been long-standing. Often, when people recover from injuries, they restrict or limit the use of the damaged area. It’s painful to move or to apply pressure to – so they guard it and find compensatory techniques to continue with their everyday lives. Unfortunately, our musculoskeletal system is very much a use-it-or-lose-it framework, meaning that our muscles and joints will weaken and become less flexible after a period of immobility or limited use. This means that when they do start to be used again, they can’t handle the same loads, and are more vulnerable to re-injury.
The second is the effects on the injured tissues themselves. Ankle sprains are a great example – when you sustain repeated ankle sprains, and they’re not effectively rehabilitated, the supporting ankle ligaments are left in a permanently weakened state. This means that you’re more likely to roll and re-injure your ankle – and need to take precautions when participating in sports that have rapid acceleration, changes in direction, uneven terrain and anywhere else you may roll your ankle.
The most common sports injuries we see
We doubt there’s an injury that we haven’t seen, but often we see and treat:
- Sprains – ankles, knees, wrists, back, neck, shoulder
- Strains – these happen when a muscle or tendon is pulled, torn or twisted. We often see Achilles, back and neck strains
- Knee injuries – runner’s knee, tendonitis, iliotibial band syndrome and injury to the ligaments within the knee itself
- Shin splints – medial tibial stress syndrome
- Shoulder injuries – rotator cuff tear, impingement, dislocations
The most common risk factors for these injuries that we see are muscle tightness, muscle imbalance, muscle fatigue, and muscle weakness. The prevalence of certain injuries is much higher for certain sports – so be mindful of the demands of your chosen sports on your muscles, joints and body.
Step one: know your current status
The first step in preventing your old injuries from affecting you this season is to know your current status and risks. That is, know how vulnerable you are to re-injury. This is done with a musculoskeletal assessment by your physiotherapist. They’ll assess the integrity, function, strength and health of the previous injury site, letting you know if, for example, muscle weakness or tightness in the area is leaving you vulnerable.
From there, they’ll create a custom management plan to help you avoid re-injury and help keep you strong and pain-free throughout the season. Your physio will use their knowledge of your sport – and the specific demands placed on your joints and body from that sport.
We highly recommend
While you’ll have all of your questions answered at your appointment, we highly recommend that you:
- Take the time to complete the appropriate stretches, strengthening movements and any other training that is prescribed by your physio. Each movement will have specific benefits to help prevent your previous injury from coming back
- Take the time to warm up and cool down appropriately – when we warm up, we increase our heart rate, our body (and muscle) temperature, improve our flexibility, get our circulation going and boost our mental focus. Each of these elements helps our body to reduce the risk of injury
- Don’t do too much too soon if you have recently recovered from an injury
- Dress for success – have the right gear and shoes to reduce your risk of injury. This includes footwear that helps stabilise, support and control your lower limbs.
- Let your body recover – with the right hydration and nutrition – between training sessions and matches
- Braces or strapping – depending on the findings of your assessment, your physio may recommend that you use a brace or strapping tape – and teach you how to do so. If this is the case, ensure to strap or brace every time you play – both in training sessions and matches. This will help control and support your body and reduce your risk of injury
- Don’t ignore niggles – if you start to feel a dull ache at your previous injury site, don’t ignore it! This could be a sign that damage is starting to recur and further action must be taken before it sees you back on the sideline – again
- If any pain or swelling does begin, follow the RICER principles – rest, ice, compression, elevation and referral to see your physiotherapist
Ready to have the best start to your season? Book in for your pre-season assessment by calling +852 2522 6972 or booking online. Our experienced physiotherapists work extensively with rehabilitating sporting injuries and keeping players on the field. You can follow the work we do on our social media.