Sports Injuries: A guide to Recovery

When you have sustained an injury, it can be a daunting time. You may be wondering what you have done and how you can best manage it to get back on your feet as quickly as possible and return to normal function. This is where Physiotherapy can help you.

We are qualified and highly experienced at the assessment of any musculoskeletal condition, the management for and the expertise to get you back to the highest level of function in a timely fashion.

During any acute injury, at the level of your tissues, there will be a level of disruption. Some of the tissues in the area, whether ligaments, tendons or muscles may have sustained a degree of tearing or compression. As a result, we experience pain and swelling local to the area of concern.

The best management for your acute injury at this stage is to cease participation immediately and to follow the following steps:

  1. Apply ice to the area. This may take form of an ice pack, a bag full of ice and water or melting an ice cube directly over the skin (but not over a wound). Apply the ice until the area feels very cold, but not painful;
  2. Apply some form of compression. If you have sustained an injury to your foot, it may be best to leave your shoe on to support the foot and to minimise the swelling. If you have a leg injury, then donning a pair of compression tights will assist you in relation to swelling;
  3. Keep the area elevated. If you have an injury to the hand, wrist, ankle or knee, elevating the limb above the level of the heart will help to reduce the swelling and fluid around the injured area; 1
  4. Avoid applying heat to the area. This will promote bleeding to the area, which in turn will increase the swelling and pain of the injury;
  5. Avoid running or excessive movement to the area. This will increase the blood flow to the area and increase the bleeding, pain and swelling;
  6. Do not consume alcohol. This will expand the blood vessels and lead to increased bleeding, that will slow down the injury process

It is important to follow these steps as soon as you have sustained your injury. The sooner you act, the higher the chance of enabling your body to move on to the next stage of healing. If you have great concerns about your injury, it is integral that you liaise with your Physiotherapist or Doctor as soon as possible.  If you require the fitting of crutches or a sling, general guidance and/or reassurance, it is crucial to make that phone call straight away.

If you have a deep skin tear, a gross deformity at the area of the injury, excessive and uncontrolled pain, it is critical to seek the medical attention at the Emergency Department of your nearest hospital.  You will be able to receive adequate pain relief, attention to any wounds and imaging, if required.

Once you have survived of the first 24 to 48 hours, it is important to meeting with your Physiotherapist. They will be able to assess you, determine the type and severity of the injury and devise an appropriate rehabilitation plan.

From this point, your Physiotherapist will seek to minimise the pain, swelling and inflammation of the area and commence work to restore normal movement. These factors will involve a combination of many treatment modalities including hands on treatment, taking you through certain movements and exercises, taping techniques or bandaging, fitting of a brace or walking aides, etc. You will also receive a program that you will be advised how often to partake in, to actively assist in the recovery process.

Any soft tissue injury can take a minimum (with minimal tissue disruption) of three weeks to recover and upwards of six weeks.  This will typically be the case if you have a very complex injury, or it involves structures that have a poor blood supply or under a great load in the body (such as the intra-vertebral discs or a nerve) 3. It is important to be aware of things that you can do to reduce the risk of delays or setbacks. During each of your consultations, your Physiotherapist will continue to progress your program, to put gradually increasing stress on the scar tissue that is healing, to help lengthen it and strengthen it.

When your body is ready, you will be given progressive exercises to help strengthen the area and the surrounding structures, to ensure your body is not compensating for the original injury. These compensatory strategies are an easy habit in which to fall, and can be very difficult to break.  Your body may have other mechanisms that require attention during your rehabilitation, such as your balance, or components of your balance.  You should be regularly taken through mini-assessments of each component that has been affected by the injury, to ensure there is reasonable progress and an adjustment of your exercises and home program to match accordingly.

During the recovery progress, your Physiotherapist will continually liaise with you, as to your goals for returning to particular levels of function, aspirations with your sporting, social and working environments.  They will also make recommendations for the steps you can take to reduce the chance of injuring yourself again.

If you would like more information, or have a question about your recovery, be sure to speak with your treating Physiotherapist today.

Written By Sophie Halsall-McLennan, Fresh Start Physiotherapy

  1. Website: https://www.ausport.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/380426/SP_32434_Incident_Management.pdf
  2. website: sma.org.au/resources-advice/injury-fact-sheets/soft-tissue-injuries
  3. website: highered.mheducation.com/sites/dl/free/0078022649/…/Prentice15e_Chap10.pdf

 

About The Author

Sophie Halsall-McLennan is the owner of Fresh Start Physiotherapy and has a special interest in Hand Therapy and Shoulder Rehabilitation.  She has a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from Charles Sturt University, over 13 years of clinical experience as a Physiotherapist and is registered with AHPRA. She is also a lecturer at Deakin University.

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Sophie Halsall-McLennan is a mother of two, has a passion for rowing, skiing, classical ballet and spending time with her family.

Staying continually up-to-date with the latest evidence-based practice, including treatments and rehabilitation programs keeps Sophie at the forefront of Physiotherapy. With these skills and knowledge, she can equip her clients with the best available information and treatment.

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