July 20, 2023

Physical Therapy for Athletes: What You Need to Know

How does physical therapy benefit athletes?
As an athlete, you know how important it is to take care of your body. You train hard to improve your performance, but sometimes that training can lead to injuries. One of the most effective ways to recover from (and prevent!) an injury is through physical therapy.

How can physical therapy help athletes?

Physical therapy focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. It can help athletes recover from current injuries, prevent future ones, and improve their overall performance.

Your first visit to a physical therapist typically includes an evaluation. During this evaluation, the physical therapist assesses your movement patterns, range of motion, strength, and any areas of pain or discomfort. They use this information to create an individualized treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs and goals.

Common physical therapy treatments for athletes include:

  • Exercise therapy: Performing a variety of exercises helps you regain strength and flexibility, improve your balance and coordination, and reduce pain.
  • Manual therapy: Your therapist uses their hands to mobilize the muscles and joints to improve mobility, relieve pain, and reduce muscle tension.
  • Modalities: Modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and heat/cold therapy can help reduce pain and inflammation and promote healing.

Physical Therapy for Athletic Injuries

Physical therapy can help athletes in all stages of injury. For athletes with an acute injury, physical therapy can help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation and speed up the healing process. For those recovering from an injury, physical therapy can help them regain strength and improve their mobility and function.

How long does it take to recover from an injury?

Recovery time from an injury as an athlete can vary widely depending on the specific injury, the severity of the injury, and the individual athlete. In some cases, an athlete may be able to return to their sport within a few days or weeks, while in other cases, recovery can take several months or even longer. Factors such as the type of injury, the area of the body affected, and the overall health and fitness of the athlete can all play a role in determining the recovery time.

For minor injuries, such as a sprained ankle or a minor muscle strain, recovery time may only be a few days or weeks. In these cases, the athlete can typically return to their sport once they are pain-free, have regained their full range of motion and strength, and are able to perform their sport-specific movements without pain or discomfort.

However, for more serious injuries, such as a torn ACL or a broken bone, recovery time can take much longer. In these cases, an athlete may need to undergo surgery and then go through a period of rehabilitation to regain strength, mobility, and function. This process can take several months or even longer and may require the athlete to miss and entire season or more. Even after an injury of this nature, an athlete may not be able to return to their pre-injury level of performance and may need to work hard to regain it.

Do I have to be injured to receive physical therapy?

Not at all! Physical therapy can -- and should -- be an essential component of your training routine. It can help increase your strength, prevent injuries, and speed up recovery if you get injured. Additionally, physical therapy can provide valuable insight into how to maintain optimal physical health and function throughout your training and competition schedule. Physical therapy can also improve your overall performance by addressing muscle imbalances and enhancing your flexibility, power, and endurance.

Using Physical Therapy to Build Strength

Physical therapy plays a critical role in helping athletes build strength and improve performance. A physical therapist can help design an individualized exercise program that targets specific muscle groups and addresses any muscle imbalances. The goal of this exercise program is to help you improve your power, strength, and endurance.

One of the most effective methods physical therapists use to help build strength. is progressive resistance training. This type of training involves gradually increasing the weight or resistance of the exercises as your strength improves. Progressive resistance training allows you to challenge your muscles and continue to make gains in strength. Additionally, your physical therapist may also use techniques such as plyometrics, isometrics, and eccentric training to improve muscle strength, power, and explosiveness.

Along with exercises to improve muscle strength, your physical therapist can guide you on proper form and technique, which is important to prevent injury. Physical therapists can also use techniques such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound to aid in muscle recovery and help you build strength and endurance safely and effectively.

Physical therapy can help you prevent injury.

Physical therapy also plays a crucial role in injury prevention. An athlete with a strong, balanced body could be less likely to get injured. Stronger muscles provide better support to joints, reducing the likelihood of strain or tears.

Include physical therapy as part of your training regimen.

Physical therapy can provide you with a host of benefits as an athlete, such as enhancing your performance, speeding the recovery from an injury, and preventing future injuries.

At Achieve Ortho Rehab, our therapists create a very specific treatment plan for you based on the components leading to the pain or issue you're experiencing. We look above, below, and along the chain to determine the best full-system treatment for you that gets you back to peak performance quickly and safely.

If you're an athlete and are currently experiencing pain, recovering from an injury or are interested in seeing what a treatment plan could look like for you, contact us here.