Return to Sport – the when, what and how?
Returning to sport after a hiatus, or perhaps after an injury? Well, “when can I play again?” is the most common question we get asked! When you have some time off, or injure yourself during sport, exercise or just day to day life, the last thing we want is to be sitting on the sidelines watching on. So, what can we do about it? Well, there is lots! Read on to learn a bit more about approaching the journey to returning to sport, maximising your performance upon return, but importantly also reducing your risk of re-injury.
The return to sport journey should be viewed as a continuum, and broadly speaking this can be split into two categories:
1. Rehabilitation process
2. Performance spectrum
The rehabilitation process is all about decreasing pain, improving strength and power, and getting you back to moving better then you were pre-injury/pre-break. The performance spectrum is the fun part! Where we work to increase your overall ability to perform your chosen activity to the highest level possible, targeting small and specific areas to increase your performance.
How can we achieve this, and maximise performance? Well, one of the most important aspects of either returning to sport after a break, or from injury, is training loads. Research suggests that the training load of any given week should be 0.8-1.3 times the average of the training load of the previous 4 weeks. Increasing the load by too much too quickly could lead to increased risk of injury, but falling below the optimal amount of loading may not prepare you adequately for your chosen activity. It can be a tough balancing act, but slowly, and steadily increasing your training load is a fantastic way to prepare yourself for a return to sport.
When we assess a person’s readiness to return to sport, we can look at some fun tests. These can include various hop tests, balance exercises or even maximal efforts comparing strength from beginning of rehab to your current point of rehab. We assess if the injured side results are within 10% of the other side. This helps to predict the risk of further injury and whether further rehab is required.
Returning to sport after a break or injury can be complex! Be kind to yourself, and remember everyone’s journey is different, and each of us respond differently. If you are contemplating a return to sport, are in the process of returning to sport after a break or injury then make sure to book in with one of our physios! We absolutely love supporting people smash their goals and get back to performing at their best!