Did you know that sports injuries during a match or training session could affect an athlete’s performance if not managed well? Also, how early or late one returns to sports is highly dependent on appropriate treatment and care received.
A research by Hitmat Dhillon (2017) on current concepts of sports injury rehabilitation stated that the average athlete is often left to manage his or her injury with little care from the sports team.
One of the trained medical personnel who could help manage sports injuries is the physiotherapist or physical therapist. The terms "physiotherapy" and "physical therapy" mean the same thing and are used interchangeably, as are the terms “physiotherapist” and “physical therapist”. What then is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a health care profession which assists people to restore, maintain and maximize their strength, function, movement, and overall well-being to the person’s full potential.
This is usually done through the treatment of disease, injury, or deformity by physical methods such as manual therapy, heat treatment, massage and exercise rather than by medications or surgery.
If you have a back or neck pain, or you fall and can’t really walk normally, a physiotherapist can help manage your pain and get you back to your active life. Physiotherapists work in a multidisciplinary team to achieve the success of an individual health care needs.
Physiotherapy includes rehabilitation, as well as prevention of injury, and promotion of health and fitness. Physiotherapists treat people of all ages from newborns to the very old.
How Do Physiotherapists work
A physiotherapist can help at any time in one’s life and in many different ways, depending on one’s needs and circumstances.
When you present your condition to a physiotherapist related to your muscles, bones, joints, sometimes nerves (such as back pains, neck pains, knee pains, stroke), he or she assesses you and your condition to find out what exactly is wrong.
After assessment, physical findings are deduced and depending on your condition, a plan is drawn to reduce your pain and swelling, to help increase movement at the joint, to increase strength at the area and general body fitness, and to improve your quality life.
Also, a plan is drawn to help you get back to your active lifestyle by teaching you how to transfer or move in and out of bed, how to walk after an injury and how to return back to previous activity with injury prevention strategies in mind.
The physical therapist educates you on the condition and treatments which may include exercises, using electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, manual therapy and soft tissue techniques (massage).
A physiotherapist can teach people the proper postures to assume when carrying out daily activities by showing the person how to lift objects safely and how to maintain a good posture in different situations.
This can lower one’s risk of getting injured or developing musculoskeletal problems. Physiotherapists can advise an individual on staying fit and healthy as one grows older through lifestyle changes like regular exercise and healthy eating.
If a person finds it difficult to climb stairs or get in and out of bed, the bath or car, a physiotherapist can teach that person how to get around those problems.
The main focus of a physiotherapist’s treatment is always to help remain as independent and active as possible.
PHYSIOTHERAPY AND SPORTS INJURY MANAGEMENT
Athletes normally require high level performance, which stresses their muscles, joints and bones to the limit which makes them more susceptible to sports injuries. These sports injuries can be managed by the sports medicine team.
The sports medicine is a specialized area that addresses challenges related to physical health and movement. It composes of the physician and surgeons, athletic trainers, the physical therapists, coaches, the parent or guardian and the athlete. Many people are not clear about what a sports physiotherapist actually does.
A sports physiotherapist usually has sport-specific knowledge that addresses acute, chronic and overuse injuries. Their services are generally available to sports men and women of all ages engaged in sports at any level of competition or games.
These may be in school teams such as basketball games, competitions among instrumentalists, social games in hotels and community fields, gym exercises and national sports among others.
Few case studies related to conditions seen by a sports physiotherapist includes; a 24 year old professional super-heavy weight boxer with shoulder pain, a 63 year old tennis player with hip pain, a 51-year-old professional violinist musician with shoulder and neck pain, a 29 year old runner with knee pain, a 20 year old student who gyms regularly with a lower back ache and a 14 year old athlete who swims with a groin injury.
ROLE AND COMPETENCIES OF SPORTS PHYSIOTHERAPISTS
Sports physiotherapists have advanced competent skills in the promotion of safe physical activity participation, provision of advice, adaptation of rehabilitation and training interventions for the purposes of preventing injury, restoring optimal function, and contributing to the enhancement of sports performance, in athletes of all ages and abilities, while ensuring a high standard of professional and ethical practice. These competencies and skills are discussed broadly under two categories below.
Sports Physiotherapists are involved in the management of a sports client or patient
Sports physiotherapists through the injury prevention assess the risk of injury associated with the participation in a specific sport or physical activity. They inform and educate athletes, coaches and other members of the multidisciplinary team in a way that helps reduce the occurrence and recurrence of specific injuries.
Sports physical therapists also rehabilitate athletes to return to sports by using clinical reasoning and therapeutic skills to assess and diagnose sports-related injuries. Physiotherapists further design, implement, evaluate and modify evidence-based interventions through current researches that aim for a safe return to the athlete’s optimal level of performance in the sport or physical activity he or she is involved in.
As part of managing an athlete, a sports physiotherapist contributes to the enhancement of the athlete’s performance through evaluation of the athlete’s physical and performance-related profile. The physiotherapist can advise or intervene to optimize performance in a specific sport, within a multidisciplinary team approach.
Sports Physiotherapist can act as advisors of the athlete
Sports physiotherapists are competent in working together with other professionals in the multidisciplinary team environment to promote safe participation in sports and physical activity for individuals of all abilities.
It is expected of physiotherapists to provide evidence-based advice regarding the optimal activity or sport for a specific individual as well as advice on the ways to minimize risk of injury and promote health through the promotion of fair play and anti-doping practices.
They adhere to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code of conduct on doping.
A brief case study of how physiotherapists work is discussed below.
In a case study involving a 23-year-old lady amateur power lifter presenting with hip pain, assessment revealed that the patient was unable to squat with weight above 20 kg with severe pains. Examination also showed decrease hip flexion and rotation, very weak gluteal muscles (muscles at the buttocks) and poor control of muscle movements.
She was also extremely hypermobile (very flexible) which can take longer to regain power in comparison to normal flexibility. Physical therapy included treatment working on the flexibility of her hip with joint mobilizations and stretches, and progressive strengthening program of loading in squat position with narrow shallow squats- progressing to sumo wide squats.
The physiotherapist also worked closely with the client’s powerlifting trainer with regular reviews and discussions of progression and issues. The progressive loading program continued for 6 months until the client was able to beat her personal best in full squat position.
Sports Physiotherapists are essential personnel in sports as their skills greatly improve a player’s performance. Substituting the role of a physiotherapist or not including them in a sports team at all would mean reducing the efficacy of a player’s performance. It is therefore vital for hotels, sports complexes, school teams, instrumentalists, gyms, tennis clubs, football, basketball and volleyball teams among other sports and exercise centers as well as hospitals to have sports physiotherapists in their centers for successful rehabilitation of an individual to active lifestyle and improve quality of life.
Holy Trinity Medical Centre