Sports physiotherapy is a branch of physical therapy that is geared towards both athletes and casual players who have suffered an injury or ongoing problem. Sports physiotherapy is a specialized form of physiotherapy which is designed to help with injuries or conditions occurred during sports activities. The modalities include hands-on treatment and rehabilitation. Whether you’re a professional athlete or at the beginning of your athletic journey, sports physiotherapy can be a suitable form of treatment for you.
Sports activities, whether professional or otherwise, can cause muscle strain or even serious injuries. If these problems are not given proper medical attention and treatment, they can worsen. However, these unwanted injuries can now be alleviated and prevented from happening again through the application of sports physiotherapy. You can maximize your performance and prevent future injuries through various techniques and exercises. Sports physiotherapy is meant to help you get back on track as soon as possible in a safe, secure, and effective way. The conditions treated through sports physiotherapy differ from nerve, ligament, or muscle injuries to other musculoskeletal disorders.
The Key Areas of Sports Physiotherapy Include
- Examining and diagnosing injuries
- Identifying the cause of an injury
- Designing an individual treatment plan
- Performance enhancement
Sports injuries are high-performance injuries that require utmost care. A Sports physiotherapist works closely with the athlete/ team to identify the requirements of a particular sport and bring out the best result post-injury in performance. For instance, if a midfield footballer injures his ankle while playing football and goes through rehab. He is given specialized rehab exercises to be able to run, cut directions and manipulate the ball like before the injury as per his sport. Depending on the sport a customized rehab program is designed to assist the athlete back to the sport. If it’s a cricket injury like hypertension in a fast bowler, then the bowler is guided to exercises that prevent hyperextension or stabilize the spine and assist in his return to cricket.
Sports physiotherapy can in fact provide various treatment modalities. The treatment approaches towards back pain and neck pain in regular patients will be dealt with with various treatment techniques used in sports therapy and mainly on movement rehabilitation. For instance, Running has been taken up by many regular individuals for fitness, but they struggle with injuries due to a lack of guidance/knowledge.
Players are at risk of injury at any moment, they can sustain injuries to the head, face, shoulder, arm, thigh, and knee There are various measures to prevent the injuries by making sure that the muscles and joints are properly warmed up, protective gears are used, using safety equipment, and doing proper cool-down exercises. The exercises should be done under the guidance of a trained and experienced physiotherapist. Sports in which injuries occur most commonly are:
Though there are various other sports that also require physiotherapy treatment like Basketball, Volleyball, Rugby, Badminton, Cycling etc.
Conditions/Sports injuries that can be treated using Sports therapy
Muscle Strain: Muscle strain or pulled muscle is one of the most common sports injuries that often take place when a muscle is overstretched and gets torn. Muscle strains mainly affect the quadriceps, calves, quadriceps, groin, lower back, and shoulder.
Tendonitis: Inflammation of the tendon is referred to as tendonitis, associated with overuse, but can also be developed when a traumatic injury creates micro-tears in the muscle fibers.
Stress Fracture: Stress fractures are also a form of overuse injury. It takes place when the muscles are no longer able to absorb the pressure, thus resulting in a fracture. Stress fractures usually affect the lower legs and feet and women athletes are more prone to such injury than men.
Contusions: Direct impact to the muscle causing injury is known as contusions. The faster the speed of the equipment that hits the player the more severe the injury is resulting in swelling and bruising of the area. RICE is recommended for treatment, and medical assistance may be required for more severe contusions.
Whiplash injury: Whiplash injury can happen by an abrupt or unexpected backward or forward motion of the neck. Falling suddenly or getting hit causes the head to jerk and the neck gets strained. It occurs commonly in contact sports, causing pain, numbness in the arms due to minor or major soft tissue damage to muscles and ligaments in the neck and vertebrae. The recovery of the player depends upon the severity of the injury.
Shoulder Impingement: Shoulder impingement occurs due to the repetitive overhead movement during playing. These repetitive concentric and eccentric movements place demand to maintain high levels of muscular control, required to maintain the stability of the shoulder joint. Initial physiotherapy treatment for these conditions is rest, ice, and Kinesio-taping. To increase the flexibility of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, range of motion and strengthening exercises are designed by the physiotherapist.
Acromioclavicular joint injury: The prevalence of shoulder injuries is high in hockey. The most commonly seen shoulder injury is Acromioclavicular (AC) joint injury, also known as shoulder separation. This injury occurs due to direct contact hit into the shoulder. The severity can vary from a sprain to a complete tear of the involved ligaments. The physiotherapy treatment includes immobilization by rest in a sling followed by isometrics and gentle ROM exercises.
Rotator cuff injury: The most common cause of a rotator cuff tear is repetitive microtrauma, which can occur over some time. Bruising or swelling occurs due to the repeated rotator cuff injury by pinching or straining, catching, or squeezing the rotator cuff tendons. Physiotherapist focuses on reducing inflammation and pain. The therapist recommends ROM exercises, isometric exercises, and capsular stretching, followed by isotonic exercises and aggressive pain-free strengthening.
Tennis elbow: Tennis elbow injury occurs to the tendons located on the outer side of the elbow, this overuse and overload occur from the serve and forehand stroke. Physiotherapy treatment for tennis elbow involves rest, ice and Kinesio- taping. A wrist brace or tennis elbow band can be used and special physiotherapy exercises for stretching and strengthening the muscles are beneficial.
Golfer’s elbow: Golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis is caused due to excessive use of topspin and due to overload on the backhand stroke-causing pain and inflammation. Physiotherapy treatment involves rest, ice, and Kinesio- taping. A wrist brace can be used, followed by stretching and strengthening exercises.
Wrist strain: Falling on an outstretched arm includes wrist sprains, wrist fractures, and shoulder dislocations. It can occur when the wrist moves in an abnormal position, suddenly twists, bends backward, or sustains heavy impact. The player feels tenderness, warmth, popping or tearing sounds, and difficulty in moving the wrist.
Carpal tunnel syndrome: These injuries occur due to the laid-back grip, rotation of the palm upward, and quickly turning the wrist to perform the topspin. Treatment for these conditions involves rest, ice, Kinesio- taping and range of motion, and strengthening exercises.
Lower Back pain
Players suffer from low back pain due to the fast weight transfers, jumping, and twisting, resulting in repeated flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion of the spine commonly required during cocking or loading phase of the tennis serve. The physiotherapist designs strengthening exercises for back and abdominal muscles to increase strength
Abdominal side strain: Side strain occurs in the side of the body involving the Oblique muscle. Due to the forcible contraction of the muscle the injury occurs on the opposite side of the bowling arm. Side strains also occur because of repetitive arm action. The player feels pain and tenderness associated with internal swelling. Treatment requires adequate rest. After examination of the injured part, for appropriate strength and conditioning, the player can gradually return to activity,
Femoroacetabular impingement: Femoroacetabular impingement can occur due to the multidirectional movement pattern, loading and abruptly starting, cutting, twisting, and stopping. This form of hip injury can be treated with the help of RICE and physiotherapy sessions under the guidance of a physiotherapist.
Groin pull: Groin pull occurs as a result of a pull or stretch of the muscles of the inner thigh. The player feels pain and tenderness in the groin and the inside of the thigh while raising the knee or while bringing the legs together. The player feels severe pain with a popping or snapping sound during the injury.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Iliotibial band syndrome occurs due to the overuse injury along the outer thigh. Due to continuous friction created by the IT band along the outer side of the thigh, during running. The player feels pain and tenderness on the lateral or outer part of the thigh and knee just above the knee joint.
Hamstring strains: A hamstring strain is usually caused when the muscles become overloaded, leading to a strain, or a complete tear. Hamstrings are usually injured during sprinting i.e during fast bowling while fielding or running between wickets as a batsman. The player feels a sudden or severe pain during exercise, pain or tightness while straightening or bending the leg, and weight-bearing. Physiotherapy treatment starts with RICE followed by progressive strengthening through exercise, soft tissue massage, scar tissue mobilization, dry needling, and taping.
Torn ACL: ACL or anterior cruciate ligament helps in keeping the knee joints together and brings stability. A Torn ACL is extremely painful and restricts the ability to walk. The injury takes place from a direct shot to the knees, or from incorrect landing and or stopping and changing direction quickly.
Torn MCL: It is another form of a knee injury, which takes place when the medial collateral ligament that connects the femur to the tibia is injured. It is caused when the knees are pushed sideways. This form of knee injury can be treated with help of ice compression, braces, and sports physical therapy sessions under the watchful eyes of a sports physiotherapist.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome: Patellofemoral pain syndrome or runner's knee is a condition in which the cartilage under the kneecap is damaged due to injury. It can occur due to strained tendons or misalignment in the knee. The player feels pain while exercising, bending the knee, climbing the stairs, squatting, and jumping. The player feels cracking or popping sounds in the knee while climbing stairs or after sitting for a longer duration with the knee bent.
Shin Splits: It affects the insides of the lower leg or shin area and is an overuse injury and also a common injury found among runners. Athletes having flat feet are more susceptible to this form of injury.
Pulled Calf Muscle: Pulled calf muscle injury occurs when any one of the muscles i.e gastrocnemius or soleus is pulled from the Achilles tendon. This occurs due to jumping or running. The player feels bruising, redness, mild swelling, and is unable to stand on the ball of the foot.
Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament that connects the heel to the front of the foot. Putting too much strain and stress are the major reason behind this form of injury and is usually treated with rest, ice, and stretching exercises.
Ankle Sprains: Medial ankle sprain can occur when the toes are turned out while the foot is flexed upward. Lateral ankle sprains can occur in soccer when a player kicks the ball with the top of their foot. Ankle sprains take place when the ligament that supports the joint gets overstretched due to incorrect stepping or stepping on an uneven surface or due to twists and rolls. Usually, ankle strains heal with RICE – rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Achilles tendon Rupture: Achilles tendon rupture occurs due to the partial or complete tear of the Achilles tendon. This can occur when a player performs a fast or jerky movement. Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments (surrounding the ankle joint) are stretched or torn.
Achilles tendonitis: Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation of the lower back of the leg just above the heel. Achilles tendonitis injury occurs as a result of overuse. Players perform sudden and repetitive movements that may eventually cause this injury over time. Physical activity worsens the pain and is usually treated with some rest, ice, stretching, and strengthening exercises.
More or less sports injuries treatment involves sports physical therapy along with proper medication to bring relief to the athletes. In fact, physiotherapy in sports injury has proven to be quite useful in the rapid recovery of athletes and is one of the most trusted forms of treatment