Sports Therapy is a 3 year degree that focuses on injury prevention and rehabilitation in order to get the patient back to optimum health and function (4). Sports therapists use research from sports science, physiology, pathology and rehabilitation to aid in diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions as part of an allied health team.
Sports therapists learn to assess, treat and provide rehabilitation for injuries and dysfunction of the musculoskeletal system. Due to their degree training, they perfectly placed to deal with acute and chronic injuries, sprains and strains, pre and post orthopedic rehabilitation, as well as activity specific rehabilitation plans. Sports therapists spend many hours of their degree understanding the principles and practicality of manual therapy along with the techniques, such as soft tissue massage, fascial release, trigger point and joint mobilizations. As a result, they know what soft tissue or articulatory technique to use based on the body part and stage of the injury.
Both Sports Therapists and Sports Rehabilitators use a detailed case history and examination, in order to aid in their diagnosis of musculoskeletal conditions. They will use a wide variety of hands-on techniques such as stretching, soft tissue, joint mobilization and manipulation that focus on reducing tension, improving mobility and optimizing function and tissue recovery. They may also use electrical modalities such as ultrasound and interferential. The Sports Therapist/Rehabilitator also uses sports and exercise principles to develop physical rehabilitation programs in order to improve injury recovery and progress into prevention of reinjury and added strength. The treatment plan is monitored and tailer made to the specific needs, goals and presenting issues of the patient in order to allow a holistic approach to patient recovery.
Taping is used in some circumstances to support a sports related injury, and to prevent further injury whilst it is healing. Medical gauze, tape, cloth or elastic bandages with metal fastening clips may be used. A bandage is wrapped around the injured part to reduce swelling and keep it stationary. This can be used on most joints- ankles, knees, wrists, and elbows. Having a sports related injury does not preclude you from exercising it.
It is not unusual to experience some discomfort in the area treated after your appointment, which can last 48 hours. Specialising in musculoskeletal injuries with the premise of getting the patient back to function in the safest and strongest possible manner, Sports Therapists and Sports Rehabilitators are ideally placed within a multidisciplinary team. Whether you have suffered an injury or just want to improve your physical performance, book into to see one of our clinicians today.
A 23-year-old footballer presented to our Sports Therapist after sustaining an injury to the front of the right thigh in a match 2 weeks prior. On examination, the area was still tender to touch, reporting 6/10 on the pain scale. Power was also reduced through the muscle. He was diagnosed with a grade 1 strain of the quadriceps. With appropriate soft tissue intervention along with ultrasound and progressive stretching and strengthening of the area, the patient was back to playing football 5 weeks later. He continued to see the Sports Therapist in order to improve other muscle imbalances that were discovered during his initial examination which then allowed the patient to improve his power during playing and reduce his injury occurrence.
A 47-year-old female presented to our Sports Rehabilitator 3 days after going over on her right ankle whilst walking to work. She was able to weight bear and could get to work, but her biggest concern was being able to get back to playing netball. On examination, there was clear swelling of the ankle, but testing ruled out the likelihood of a fracture and indicated damage to one of the lateral ankles' ligaments. Initial treatment involved ultrasound and strapping the ankle using specific tape, along with gentle soft tissue work to reduce the swelling. Over the 1st three weeks, treatment progressed from soft tissue, to foot and ankle mobilization. Treatment also involved progressive rehabilitation exercises, composing of isolated strength and proprioception exercises. After 6 weeks, the patient was fully weight bearing and progressing into specific exercises for netball. At 8 weeks, she was back on the 1st team and playing matches weekly.
The most common injuries are strains and sprains. A sprain is an injury to a ligament caused by overstretching or tearing. A strain is an injury or tear to the muscle. Other conditions treated through a sports rehabilitation programme are fractures, arthritis, joint replacement, pain or following surgery. As part of treatment, rehabilitation will involve a pain management treatment programme, including heat or ice, ultrasound or electrical stimulation. Ultrasound is a tool used to encourage the circulation to the affected area, which helps the healing process. Electrical stimulation involves the use of a TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine. Electrical waves are delivered to the muscles and can help relieve pain. As you can see, there are many areas of the body that Sports Therapy can help with, however, it is not unusual for physiotherapists to also help with Asthma and other respiratory conditions, as well as neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's (3). Through targeted treatment and specific physical therapy, the physiotherapist will aim to get the patient back to optimum health.
Muscle contraction through the base of the skull and neck have been shown to cause tension headaches. A small group of muscles, called the Occipital muscles, can be one of the main causes of this. These muscles can sometimes compress a group of nerves that travel around the head, this is called Occipital neuralgia. The sports therapist can help with these symptoms by releasing off the muscles within this area through soft tissue techniques such as trigger point, as well as gentle stretching.
Neck pain is common and occurs even without injury. With changes in posture because of continued computer and mobile device use, muscle tension within the neck and back can change. Changes in head positioning, causing more or a forward carriage, have also been shown to increase neck pain. By assessing the movement of the head and neck, along with further neurological and functional tests, the sports therapist can then rule out certain structures causing symptoms. Once the sports therapist has concluded it is a musculoskeletal issue, they will work on releasing the muscle tension through soft tissue techniques along with stretching and gentle mobilization of the cervical vertebrae. If symptoms are posture related, they will then work on improving your posture through home stretches, exercises and advice.
Shoulder pain can be very common and can occur due to various issues such as trauma, overuse, posture or even degeneration. Often the rotator cuff musculature can become affected with these issues which may compound the problem. The clinician will take a detailed case history as well as carry out orthopaedic testing, muscle testing and functional movement testing. A treatment plan along with a tailored rehabilitation plan will then be implemented to give the best possible outcome.
Tendons, ligaments, nerves, vessels and joints make up the structures of the elbow. With many activities requiring many hours of use of these structures, such as computer use, as well as sporting activities such as tennis and golf, the elbow structures can suffer undue strain and elbow pain. This can be exacerbated by poor movement of the wrist, shoulder and even neck. As age progresses and even after trauma, arthritis may become present within the elbow which then directly affects mobility. The role of the sports therapist /rehabilitator will be to identify the affected structure, such as ligament strain and medial or lateral epicondylitis (golfers and tennis elbow) and develop a progressive rehabilitation program using a multidisciplinary approach as required.The wrist is made up of many bones, ligaments and tendons. Pain in this area Often occurs as a result of an injury leading to a sprain or even fracture. However, pain can also occur due to arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain. Computer and mobile phone use, as well as racquet sports are some of the causes of these issues and can not only affect someone's work productivity but also their hobbies and activities. With the correct diagnosis, a treatment and rehabilitation plan can be put into place to help the patient return to healthy activity.
This may be caused by poor posture from modern day working activity along with mobile device use. Due to the attachment of the ribs to the mid back, pain in this area can all be caused by rib dysfunction. Pain and discomfort in this area can also be caused by bony changes due Osteoporosis, Spondyloarthritis, or other red flags which the sports therapist would look for signs of within their examination. The sports therapist would also examine muscle function in this area to assess for side to side imbalances due to one sided dominance potentially through handedness. Once diagnosed, they would use manual therapy techniques such as fascial release and active release to work on lengthening and inhibit the shorter overactive muscles as well as gently mobilizing the restricted vertebrae. They would then work on strengthening the weaker muscles to help maintain and progress the improvement made within the sessions.
Lower back pain can affect 84% of the population in our lifetime (5). There are some sports that may lend to this such as rowing which has a 94% prevalence (6). The sports therapist/rehabilitator will assess the patient's movement and muscle strength within the problematic area and look to reduced pain and then increase the strength and stability of the weaker areas.
Within sports, the hip pain is a common area of complaint and can be due to issues such as labral tear, snapping hip, piriformis syndrome, bursitis, muscle strain and osteoarthritis (7). These issues can also occur to the general public through repeated load and trauma. The clinician would examine the area and devise the most appropriate treatment plan in order to get you back to health and function.
Being the biggest joint in the body, the knees deal with significant in sposts and are therefore at added risk in damage. There are many structures within the knee that can become irritated or damaged within the knee. They may also become arthritic as well with time. The sports therapist/rehabilitater will use various orthopaedic and functional tests in order to diagnose what the cause of knee pain may be. Once this has been decided, and if deemed suitable, they will then put together a treatment plan for knee pain based on evidence which may involve manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue massage techniques with specific rehabilitation exercises which would be progressed to allow overload.
The foot and ankle must be mobile as well as stable and strong or could get ankle or foot pain. There are many bones, joints and connective tissue within this area that can be affected by poor mechanics and trauma. If foot function is not correct, then this can have an effect further up the body, as well as even being able to move around comfortable. Causes may include sudden changes in activity, poor footwear, arthritis and trauma. By examining the foot and surrounding structures, as well as assessing movement patterns such as walking, running and squatting, the practitioner can get an understanding of what is causing the pain and how it may be resolved. Once a diagnosis has been reached, a treatment plan would be put in place, which may include, manual therapy, electrotherapy, stretching and exercises. Taping may also be used in order to stabilise any mobile joint such as in an ankle sprain.