Schedule Appointment

Keep Your Athletes Competing: How PT Can Help Prevent Sports-related Injuries

By: LSTC Clinical Staff

This time of year, it common for us to see an influx of athletes at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center with fall sports beginning and winter sports tryouts on the horizon. Athletes often try to get back on the field as quickly as possible after suffering from an injury in practice or a game OR they attempt to re-condition their bodies after being relatively inactive in the off-season.

No matter how well-conditioned your athlete is, though, injuries can still occur. Whatever the scenario, physical therapy is a very effective method to both prevent and rehabilitate a sports-related injury before it becomes a much more serious problem that could sideline the athlete for a prolonged period of time.

Knee pain is a very common problem we treat in athletes; the number one complaint is pain under or around the knee cap. This pain can greatly limit an athlete’s functional mobility. Even minor knee pain can cause difficulty walking, running or sprinting, pain squatting and kneeling. The athlete will also likely have trouble lifting, pushing or pulling objects. Think about a football player, for example, and how many times they have to perform these motions in either a practice or a game. Knee pain creates major problems on and off the field.

The most common cause of knee pain and dysfunction is weakness in the muscles that surround the hip and the knee because these instabilities result in abnormal joint mechanics. When the knee joint is not moving properly, there is unnecessary rubbing and pressure in the joint that will cause pain and inflammation. Pain and inflammation can cause even more muscle weakness and tightness and will result in further stress on the knee joint. Prolonged inflammation will delay the healing of tissue and can start to negatively affect the tendons, ligaments and muscles that surround the knee. The longer an athlete experiences symptoms, the weaker and stiffer their knees can become, further limiting their ability to perform on and off the field.

Injuries of your lower back and hips can also sideline your athlete. Many general lower back and lower body injuries can be prevented by maintaining good strength in some key muscle groups. One of the most important groups of muscles to focus on is the gluteal muscles. These muscles help provide a stable base for the legs and trunk. This group of muscles is also responsible for allowing the body to walk, run and jump. Without strength here, there is abnormal stress on the lower back and knees. This can quickly cause overuse injuries like tendonitis or a lower back strain. By gluteal strengthening exercises, we’re not just talking about squats and sit-ups,but isolating muscles against gravity without compensation from the lumbar spine.

We treat many athletes for shoulder injuries. The shoulder can be prone to overuse injuries depending on the sport. Think about what baseball or softball players, swimmers or volleyball players have to do. This pain can start in and around the joint and even radiate up to the neck and down the arm. Shoulder pain will also likely limit an athlete’s ability to lift or carry a weighted object, even something as light as a water bottle! Forget throwing a pitch, serving a ball or swimming! Shoulder pain can also affect the ability to sleep and get adequate rest, impacting the ability to perform. Needless to say, shoulder pain, even if it’s relatively minor, can really limit an athlete’s normal routine and become a serious problem if it’s not addressed early on. The most common cause of shoulder pain and dysfunction is poor mechanics of the joint. Movement mechanics in the shoulder joint can be negatively affected by poor posture, muscle weakness and impaired flexibility.

The good news with all of these injuries is that they can often be resolved relatively quickly or avoided altogether with an individualized treatment plan. Physical therapy will help decrease the athlete’s pain and improve their mobility regardless of whether they’ve been experiencing that pain since last night’s game or last season’s tryouts. Through specific strengthening and stretching exercises, physical therapy can help restore normal muscle balance in your upper and lower extremities and, therefore, improve body mechanics.

Loudoun Sports Therapy Center’s clinicians can:

Evaluate an athlete’s pain or injury and determine the root cause without a physician’s referral

Come up with a plan of care specific to their sport and activities

Treat the athlete for full recovery in the safest and most effective manner possible

Take them through a series of tests to determine and prevent their risk for future injuries

Take them through sports-specific drills so they are safely cleared to return to play

Teach them effective exercises to continue doing once they are discharged so they prevent future problems

CLICK HERE to schedule your FREE ASSESSMENT with Loudoun Sports Therapy Center. Our expert physical therapists can evaluate your condition and help you get back to normal!