Jack Wilson | BSc Sports Therapy
UK Personal Trainer
Having worked with a variety of athletes such as bodybuilders, powerlifters, swimmers etc over the years, injury has undoubtedly become a part of their lives from sprains to strains and the in between.
This article presents a guide for the athletes which have recently become injured or are currently injured!
Sports Injury Rehabilitation
Becoming injured is inevitable, however, overcoming that injury isn’t. Many people that go to the gym or participates in sport on a regular basis, have most likely come across an injury which has hindered their training or performance.
Being injured doesn’t mean that you’re out of the game; it’s an opportunity for you to get creative with your training programme!
There could be a variety of reasons why you became injured, such as over training/fatigue, muscular imbalances and incorrect technique, all areas which need to be taken into consideration when building a rehabilitation program.
As great as the internet can be, there is an abundant of information which can lead you to getting confused or possibly making your injury worse. I would highly recommend going to see in injury specialist so you can get safe and an adequate diagnosis and information in regards to your rehabilitation.
You may have been told to rest the injured area and withdraw from any or as little weight bearing activities as possible. Only do this if there is a substantial amount of pain and swelling which is restricting movement at the injured site.
To further help with a smooth recovery, I suggest following these stages of rehabilitation:
Phases of Sports Rehab
Stage 1: First Aid (If required)
Stage 2: Acute Stage
Control swelling, reduce pain and relieve muscle spasm (drink plenty of fluids, apply ice pack – only in the first 48-72 hours and rest in elevation).
Stage 3: Sub Acute Stage
Promote further healing with dietary intake, begin re-storing joint mobility, specific stretching and re-storing muscular strength with non-weight bearing exercises. When re-storing mobility and strength I suggest using non-weight bearing (NWB) exercises and for joint support use bandages or specialty splints.
Stage 4: Initial Stage
This stage will require mobilisation of the joint, re-developing muscular endurance and with the exception of light soft tissue massage. The exercises performed should be in relation to open kinetic chain (OKC) exercises and begin exercises which involve partial weight bearing (PWB).
Stage 5: Intermediate
Treatment modalities such as mobilisation, massage, RWB and OKC exercises are still to be utilised with progression methods and the beginning of strengthening the injured sight with light weight 30-50% of a one rep max if applicable, along with proprioception and co-ordination exercises.
Stage 6: Pre – Functional
Complete Weight Bearing (CWB) exercises can now be implemented into your programme with the continuation of mobilisation and soft tissue release techniques. Increase of strength and power is now a main priority, utilising 75%+ of a one rep max.
Stage 7: Functional
By this stage the athlete should be able to completely weight bear on the injured area with full range of movement and no pain and return to full functional capabilities.
Non Weight Bearing Exercises (NWB)
Natural movement of the injured joint and activation of the surrounding muscles.
Restricted Weight Bearing Exercises (RWB)
These can be performed with a light (green/blue/red/black) theraband. Once the black band can be used comfortable with full range of movement and no pain then weights can then be implemented.
Complete Weight Bearing Exercises (CWB)
>>> Open Kinetic Chain (OKC): Exercises performed where the hands and feet are free to move i.e. Isolation exercises
>>> Closed Kinetic Chain (CKC): Exercises performed where the hands and feet are in a fixed position i.e. Compound movements
I understand that you’re most likely eager to get back on the field or to start lifting some heavier weight again. However, the duration of each of these stages are going to vary from athlete to athlete as it will depend on the severity of the injury and the athlete’s lifestyle.
Each stage should be planned out carefully and not be rushed to avoid re-injury.
Dietary Tips for Recovery
If you’re consuming foods within your diet which are known as inflammatory then this can slow down the healing progress of your injury.
✓ Foods rich in Vitamin C
I would suggest foods that are rich in Vitamin C as it is a water soluble vitamin which your body doesn’t have the ability to make. Vitamin C plays an important role in the healing process by building new protein for the skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.
Foods that are high in Vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries and vegetables such as broccoli.
✓ Foods rich in Omega 3
To help promote the decrease of swelling in the damaged tissue, consume foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, nuts and seeds.
✓ Foods rich in Protein
The macronutrient favourite to all athletes and gym goers – Protein (amino acids bonding together in the body). I would suggest rich green vegetables such as spinach, beans, lentils, meats and animal and plant-based protein from supplements.
Incorporate some of these food groups into your diet to help promote recovery and fuel your body for the upcoming training!
Take Home Message
Injuring yourself is never a pleasant experience and can set you back on your goals – however, taking the right steps towards looking after yourself will ensure a quicker, safer recovery period!