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When can I return to sport after an injury?

When can I start running? Can I play this weekend? Is it safe to increase my walking distance or play an extra day of golf this week?

Injuries are common amongst the athletic population. After an injury, there are various factors to consider before returning to sport, including the type and severity of injury, age, previous injury history and type of sport and activity you intend to return to.

To minimise the risk of re-injury, your return to sport and exercise should be a gradual process that has been discussed with your Physiotherapist or other health professional managing your injury. If you and your Physiotherapist are discussing a return plan, you are most likely in the later stages of your rehabilitation and by this time, pain is well under control and you are working hard at maintaining range, proprioception, strength and endurance.

A complete Biomechanics Assessment compliments treatment and recovery, enabling clinicians to closely assess other possible contributing factors that may have caused the injury initially. Furthermore, we have specific return to sports tests and protocols providing us with confident, evidence-based functional measures which are then compared to normative data whilst monitoring pain response.

These results guide how ready you are to return, and again readiness will vary from each individual. For example, this could mean a person is cleared to be on the field that coming weekend, for others it may be a modified training session and for some it may indicate to progress their rehabilitation and introduce plyometric training. To put it in perspective, if you are unable to hop > 30 repetitions without pain after a calf injury you're more than likely not ready to start running at 100% effort or compete in a sprint event. But instead, you may need to continue building up calf strength and endurance and begin a modified and guided running program.

Returning back too soon can increase risk of re-injury and once you have returned back to sports the rehabilitation and training just doesn’t stop. Recent evidence reports that risk of re-injury for a muscle injury is up until 15 weeks post. In regards to an ACL injury, Melbourne Physiotherapist Mick Hughes expressed the importance of returning back to training with a reduced risk of re-injury after 9 months. Additionally, it is highly recommended to be cleared by the person’s orthopaedic surgeon and they must unquestionably meet all key Return to Sports Criteria. This was also supported by Physiotherapist Christina Le, reporting person’s who re-injured returned to sport at an average of 10.1 months following ACL reconstruction, whereas those who did not re-injure returned at an average of 12.7 months following surgery. Therefore, it is imperative that your return is graded and guided by your physiotherapist, together with a progressive and consistent rehabilitation program from day of injury, up to and well after 15 weeks.

Managing an injury starts from the day you injure yourself. Rehabilitation begins and must continue well after you have returned back to your desired activity. A graded return, appropriate timeframes and prevention of re-injury is critical. If you are unsure about whether you are returning back too soon or post any injury, check in with your physiotherapist to warrant a safe return back to your favourite activity.

Speak to one of our experienced Physiotherapists today about injury rehabilitation and an individualised program to get you back to the sport you love.


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