Every sport can result in agonizing injuries that are difficult to recover from. High contact sports, such as football, end up causing knee and shoulder injuries for many players at some point in their playing career.
What is surprising is that relatively relaxing activities, such as swinging a golf club or riding a bike, can also result in some of these same devastating injuries.
When faced with an injury, the course of treatment can vary greatly, depending on the injury’s severity. A heat and ice treatment is typically enough to soothe one’s aching muscles, but certain injuries, such as torn ligaments, often require surgery and take months to heal. Below are some of the most common sports injuries and examples of how a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant can help speed up the recovery process.
Football – ACL and MCL Ligament Tears
For football players, the popping sound that comes from an ACL or MCL tear can be one of the most disconcerting sounds they can hear.
Often requiring surgery to repair, tears in these important ligaments can take months to fully heal.
To help speed up the healing process, a physical therapist will develop a specific plan to stretch and workout the knee.
Depending on the facility, a physical therapist will often prescribe gentle exercises, such as walking, swimming, or aquatic routines, to help loosen the ligament without the jarring effect of jogging or high-impact aerobics.
After the first few treatments, the physical therapist will begin adding some strength training exercises to help strengthen the ligaments. Exercises, such as squats or leg lifts, will increase the strength of the hamstrings and quadriceps to reduce stress on the knee joint.
A physical therapist may also prescribe electrical stimulation to strengthen the primary muscles that support the knee. Electrodes are placed on the knee to help reduce pain, and soft jolts are used to stimulate the muscles needed to make the knee stronger. A physical therapist will continue working with the individual to keep the ligaments stretched out, even after the patient feels well enough to return to the football field.
Golf – Rotator Cuff Tears
A group of tendons and muscles that attach the bones of the shoulder joint, the rotator cuff is a crucial muscle group to every golfer’s sports health. From minor rotator cuff irritations to major tears in the joint, physical therapists help bring relief and a quicker recovery to their patients.
Depending on the severity and initial steps needed for a successful recovery, a physical therapist may not immediately begin treatment. If surgery is required, several weeks of healing time may be necessary before the physical therapist will begin working with the patient.
For rotator cuff irritation, or tendinitis, a physical therapist will prescribe certain stretches to help work the inflamed area. To stretch the rotator cuff muscles, the following exercises are designed specifically to target the shoulder area:
- Wall stretches
- Hand up the back stretches
- Pendulum exercises
- Anterior shoulder stretches
For torn rotator cuffs that need to be strengthened after surgery, a physical therapist will likely prescribe specific exercises to build up the torn muscle. Depending on the specific need, some strengthening exercises for the rotator cuff area include:
- Arm reaches
- Wall push-ups
- External rotation exercises with a band
- Internal rotation exercises with a band
- Shoulder blade retractions with tubing
- Isometric shoulder exercises
Bike Riding – Wrist and Arm Fractures
Wrist and forearm fractures, injuries my friends seem to get a lot, are all too common for those trying to catch themselves from falling down on their bikes. Depending on the severity and location, these fractures can take months to fully heal. With wrist fractures, many of the ligaments and muscles around the wrist are atrophied from weeks of nonuse.
Physical therapists help stretch and work the muscles around the wrist, returning the necessary strength and flexibility to this area.
For sports injuries of all shapes and sizes, a physical therapist plays an essential role in helping individuals return to their previous stature as quickly as possible. From a torn ACL to a fractured wrist, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are key helpers on the road to recovery.