There are a lot of athletes, especially the young ones just starting out, who feel invincible; somehow, they think a serious injury typically happens to all other athletes. They have never really given it much thought. Until it happens to them.
For soccer player Brittany, then a high school sophomore, she thought it was the end of her dream. In a game against a rival club, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the knee’s major ligaments. Brittany had hoped to play in college, and being injured was a demoralizing blow.
She underwent surgery for her torn ACL and went through intensive physical therapy for months to strengthen her leg muscles. After ten months, she returned to the soccer field and eventually played for a Division 1 team.
Injuries are a specter that threatens athletes of any level. But you can’t go anywhere forward in your career if you’d play scared. What you can do as an athlete is to prepare and train your body to be ready to perform at a high level. If you want to continue to excel, not only should you train diligently, but you should also include physical therapy in your training regimen.
Training with the right kind of therapist is vital. You may visit clinics like Precision Sports Physical Therapy to get the type of training you might need and achieve your desired level of physical strength.
Below are the reasons why an athlete should consider physical therapy.
- Therapy Prevents Injury
An athlete usually seeks physical therapy after an injury. This doesn’t always have to be the case. Physical therapy can be used for preventive care, specifically, sports physical therapy. Incorrect techniques while training could result in injury.
Injury prevention is a vital part of sports physical therapy. Anyone can benefit from sports therapy, not just athletes or members of a school’s sports team. If you regularly go on a 10K run or do racquetball, consulting with a sports therapist could improve your performance and prevent you from being injured.
Sports physical therapists could evaluate your strength and limitations; they could also design a training program that’s tailor-made for your needs—minimizing the possibility of strains, torn ligaments, cramps, and stress. Before a tryout or a big game, athletes can get a tremendous boost in their performance and help them avoid injury by working with a sports therapist.
Sports physical therapists can assess a comprehensive list of your abilities, from the range of motion to the strength levels of a particular muscle. They are trained to know the different types of sports or activities required by you as an athlete. The training also allows the therapists to pinpoint the areas where you need to improve.
For example, if your sport is long-distance running, the therapist’s program would be geared towards improving your cardiovascular capacity. And if your sport’s most common potential injuries are back injuries, strengthening your core would be a prominent feature of the training plan designed for you. However, if you have no access to a licensed sports therapist, you can take some necessary precautions to help you train.
- Rehabilitates Injury
While sports therapists can help you prevent injuries, accidents can still happen, especially in contact sports. Injuries in contact sports are often more severe and might require surgery. Physical therapists, however, can, in some cases, design a plan with prospects of a quick recovery as part of treatment.
Injuries such as dislocations, torn ligaments, and pulled muscles have caused athletes over the years to be sidelined. Whether you run for fun or play in an organized, competitive sport, you are at risk of being injured. And when an athlete gets injured, physicians most of the time refer athletes to sports therapists to oversee their rehabilitation and aid them in going back to active duty.
This is because physical therapy is not for professional athletes and stroke victims only. For many athletes, physical therapy can be an effective alternative to expensive and invasive surgeries. Physical therapists design a rehabilitation program for an injured athlete, targeting the muscles around the injured area to strengthen them, bringing back range of motion and speeding up their recovery time.
A physical therapist, however, can be different from a sports physical therapist.
The program is usually a combination of exercises, stretches, and other methods prescribed by the sports therapist. Therapists can also help patients learn techniques to avoid re-injuring the same area.
- Alleviates Pain
If you have chronic pain or injury, physical therapy is always a good choice. Your doctor could recommend a physical therapist to you as well. Treatment would likely require many visits. For better results, you should also practice some of the exercises at home on your own.
Sports physical therapists are knowledgeable not only in pain alleviation but also in treating pain at its source. They would treat injured areas with exercises that would ease pain and improve your mobility.
In a session, the therapist may recommend low-impact aerobics training as a start. These are activities designed to up your heart rate while not being too hard on your joints: a brisk walk and using a stationary bike for warming up in place of running, before doing strengthening exercises.
You would have to use machines/equipment too, engage your body weight (ex. push-ups, lunges, and squats), or utilize resistance bands for strengthening exercises. You would also have to work on your core muscles (back, abs, and glutes) and other parts of your body.
Your therapist would also require you to do pain relief exercises that target painful areas to help you gain strength and flexibility. You’ll also do stretches, which should be gentle and won’t push you to your limit—stretches should be done only after a warm-up. There would also be exercises for you to do at home.
During your session, your therapist might also use heat and ice packs; an ice pack is excellent for inflammation while heat warms up your muscles, letting them move better. Both ice and heat are great for pain treatment. You will also be treated to a massage, but not the relaxing kind.
You may feel discomfort because the areas that will be massaged are injured and may feel sore or painful. You are in good hands, though. Your therapist will ensure that the session is safe and helpful for you.
Sometimes, a sports therapist will use devices for your treatment. The transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) will utilize a device to transmit a low-voltage electric current on your skin just above the painful area. Ultrasound, on the other hand, sends sound waves to the painful areas of your body. These treatments can block pain.
Therapy shouldn’t hurt, but sometimes it could. You’ll be working with parts of your body that are injured or experiencing chronic pain, so you should expect a bit of discomfort. Your rehabilitation may be taxing, especially after a deep tissue massage or after a session of stretching, but it will all be worth it.
You don’t have to worry. The therapist’s treatment program is centered on your specific needs. You just have to work through it in the meantime. Remember that each person responds to therapy differently. Habits, alignment, daily activities, and your body type will influence your rehabilitation. Hang on, and you’ll be as good as new before you know it.
- Develops Physical Strength and Improves Athleticism
Sports physical therapists know the human body; they know how to evaluate your body’s capability and what areas you might need help. Sports therapists have various programs for strength training and the development of athleticism.
As an athlete, you cannot perform at your best if your joints and muscles are inflexible. Being flexible helps prevent injury. Stretching should be part of your warm-up; stretching can make your muscles develop a greater range of motion, making you stronger and more athletic. Your posture will likely improve as you develop greater flexibility, making your body correctly aligned. A good posture could also fix any imbalance in your form. Overall, an excellent warm-up helps your body get ready for physical activity and jumpstarts your cardiovascular system.
A good therapist could also train you to have proper form; if you aren’t doing your exercises correctly, you’d just waste time and effort. Improper form while exercising can damage the muscles. Having proper form means that the muscles are correctly targeted, you are using your energy efficiently, and there aren’t any wasted movements or exerted efforts.
Remember also to switch up your routine. Doing the usual exercises can get old quickly. It could get boring and make you complacent. Your training will lose its efficacy over time, and your muscles will not be getting any benefit as it gets conditioned to the routine. Avoid injuries from overused muscles by switching up. Moreover, by changing your routine, you’d also develop muscles in new areas.
- Improves Cardiovascular Endurance In Sports
Another important aspect of your training is aerobic and anaerobic exercise. A balanced mix of these two is best because if you focus only on aerobic exercise, you will not have proper muscles as a foundation for strength development, and if you focus too much on anaerobic exercise, your endurance will suffer.
This is true for the weekend warrior and professional athlete. A varied training regimen that includes various exercise methods, different intensity levels, and a training program that targets specific muscle groups are best.
Aerobic training, also called ‘moderate-intensity training,’ depends on a constant intake of oxygen. During this type of training, the body uses fat and glycogen or stored glucose as the primary fuel source. Your body increases its fuel consumption when exercising, then slows down to normal once you’re through.
Doing aerobic training means you are increasing your stamina that can sustain an activity for a longer period. This regimen is ideal for long-distance runners, not for sprinters, who mainly rely on explosive power. Exercising for endurance doesn’t mean you’ll be giving a hundred percent of your effort. You should still be able to carry a conversation with a partner, like when you’re jogging, biking, or hiking.
Anaerobic training, on the other hand, is referred to as ‘high-intensity training.’ This type of exercise is intense and requires a hundred percent of your effort. Anaerobic training will get your heart rate and breathing working double time. You won’t be able to hold a conversation. This exercise isn’t sustainable for long periods; you’ll need time to recharge. Weightlifting and sprinting are two examples of this type of training.
This kind of intense training burns calories—a lot of calories for a short time and will continue for up to two hours after you’re done, even as your body recovers. This is known as the ‘afterburn’ or ‘oxygen debt’ and is very important in weight management.
The function of sports therapy had grown over the years. The future of sports therapy has a lot of possibilities for athletes; they play a big part in an athlete’s success and rehabilitation. Sports physical therapy’s benefits go beyond the physical; it could also give confidence to athletes concerning their abilities as they know that they are as prepared as they ever could be.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.