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Returning to Sport After an Injury

Injuries occur everyday in youth sports and can range in severity. The most common injuries in contact sports are ankle sprains, muscle strains, ligamentous/muscular injuries to the knees and shoulders and concussions. Each of these types of injuries affect the individual differently and therefore require a personalized rehabilitation program and plan to return to sport safely. It is important that the athlete is taking time to heal, and not continuing to play through their injury. Playing through an injury leads to making the current injury worse and putting them at risk of a second injury as the body is compensating and not performing optimally. Though each athlete's return to sport journey will be different and personalized, below are guidelines to better understand the return to sport process and common barriers athletes come across on their journey.


Injury Assessment

  • If it is suspected that [you] the athlete has been injured the first thing is to determine the severity.

    • Check for immediate swelling, bruising, pain, difficulty moving the limb, difficulty walking, or concussion symptoms

  • Do not try to be the hero of the game and do what is best for you in the moment. Take a second, come off the field, get some water and have a coach or athletic trainer assess the situation further.


  • Listen to your body, your health is the most important. If you do not feel comfortable continuing to play, you do not have to and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

  • If you are continuing to have symptoms following the game up to 48 hours after you will want to consider medical assessment by MD or Physical Therapist.

  • Consulting a Physical Therapist that specializes in sports should be considered to best determine return to play as they can assess strength, agility and provide education regarding return to sport protocols for your specific injury.

Return to Sport

  • Returning to a sport after an injury should be a gradual process to ensure that you are ready to take on all aspects of the game including change of speed, change of direction, jumping/landing, and tolerance to contact by other players (if it's a contact sport).

  • There are various return to sport protocols that test speed, agility, maneuverability and strength. Each of these factors plays a role in readiness to return as well as risk of future injury.

  • If you under the care of a Physical Therapist and they are not using return to sport testing you need to find another Physical Therapist that will.

  • Another key to return to sport is also training the unaffected limb. As you are going through rehab for an injury the rest of the body is also becoming weaker as you are not participating in your daily activities. While going through rehab request that you perform the exercises on both sides to ensure the healthy unaffected limb stays strong.

  • Stay active during the rehab process. An active recovery has been shown to be more beneficial compared to "resting". For example if you have an arm injury you can most likely still workout the legs and vice versa. Continuing to be as active as possible throughout the rehab process will allow for quicker recovery and continue to promote a healthy lifestyle.

  • Depending on the injury, the return to sport process can be quick or last up to a year. It is important that you trust your rehab team and trust the process. The longer rehab processes in place to decrease risk of future injury. Though it may be frustrating at times, the best thing to do is have an open line of communication with your rehab team and continue to be an active member of your team. Continue to go to games, cheer on your teammates, and stay involved in any way you can.

I Have Returned to my Sport, Now What?

After you have completed the rehab process and you have returned to playing it is important that you continue to strength train outside of normal field practice. Having a good strength and conditioning program in place can help continue to build strength, improve performance, and decrease risk of future injury. Field training focuses on sport specific skills and often leave out basic strength training. An additional strength training program will can focus on improving power, speed, strength, endurance, among many other factors required to improve sport performance. Strength training programs should be personalized to fit your needs and help you achieve your fitness goals. Your specific sport, position, and career goals are all factors that should be taken into account when developing a program. As always, let's discuss further on the discussion board and please reach out with any specific questions. Together we can change the future of women's soccer!


*This is not medical advice*


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