As we plan to get back to full sports training, how can your physiotherapist support you?

With news this week that sports training can resume we know many sports men and women will be rushing back to do what they love; training and playing their favourite sports. As a Physiotherapist all too often I see athletes who play catch up and put training into overdrive in a bid to get their match fitness up or to join training sessions beyond their capacity. Unfortunately, this act of catch up can have unwanted consequences of overuse or soft tissue injuries.

A multitude of evidence exists that shows the most resilient and impactful athletes are the ones who have an appropriately high training load. This leads to both greater fitness, and reduced injury risk. Evidence also shows that both under training (too much recovery between sessions and not enough volume) and over-training (too little recovery, or too much volume when measured against long term chronic workload) are associated with an increased risk of injury. This manifests as athletes suffering a host of different types of injuries in the last weeks and days of preseason. The injuries suffered often range from hamstring or calf muscle tears to shin pain, bone stress injuries like foot metatarsal bones, or Achilles tendinopathies. The costliest and most feared is the dreaded ACL injury. Nothing can derail the excitement of an impending sports season like an injury.

To add insult to these injuries, the athlete who has less than 18 weeks of workload under his/her belt prior to an injury is at far a higher risk of sustaining a subsequent injury after they return to play. If you’ve missed a chunk of your preseason you now have to worry about getting through the rest of the year without further injury!

So, what to do if you find yourself in this situation?

Firstly, don’t fret, it’s important to realise there is assistance out there. Physiotherapists the world over see this year after year, in every sporting code. We understand that life sometimes gets in the way of our best laid plans. Our position is to not judge or blame, but gather facts and implement a plan. Most people often see physiotherapy as being a service to utilize when they are already injured. Your physiotherapist is actually ideally placed to help you to navigate the pathway to a successful season and through the period of increased injury risk you find yourself in. Your physio’s skill set includes musculoskeletal screening to identify potential sources of injury before they occur and thus be addressed. Most importantly they are skilled in exercise prescription and have conditioning expertise to prescribe appropriate training volume, progressions and recovery advice.

There is no silver bullet to injury prevention, and while you may find yourself in a high-risk phase, a high risk does not guarantee you will suffer an injury! So put the odds as far as you can in your favour and seek guidance from your physiotherapist to save you time, money and suffering and set you up for enjoyment, success and good health! 

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Steve Dow
Steve DowPhysiotherapist
Physiotherapist for the Essendon FC VFL Mens team