Sport Specific Rehab

When sports injuries take a player out of the game, quick, efficient recovery and rehab is a must. Treatment is tailored to both the specific injury and the sport to minimize downtime and get the patient’s body back into condition to withstand the rigors of intense athletic training. 

Sport specific rehab is a form of physical therapy focused on recovery from an athletic injury. While other forms of physical and occupational therapy work toward a goal of restoring function of the limb or joint to a point suitable for regular everyday activities, the goal of sport specific rehab is to return the patient to active participation in the target sport as soon as possible.

Injury prevention is another aspect of sports medicine and sport specific rehab. During a sports injury rehab program, the physical therapist may suggest exercises to improve balance, restore agility and strengthen the muscles around the injury to help reduce the likelihood of future problems.

How Does Sport Specific Rehab Work?

Rehab after a sports injury typically begins as soon as possible after treatment to stabilize or repair the injury. In some cases, there may be a required period of rest before physical therapy can begin. The physical therapist assesses the condition of the injured area and develops a personalized, sports injury rehab program of exercises and activities to build strength and improve mobility without re-injuring the muscle or joint.

Therapy sessions might include stretching exercises, weight training and flexibility exercises. Massages to loosen the joints, encourage circulation and stretch the muscles are also often a part of sport specific rehab. Neuromuscular retraining may be needed to restore reflex speed and agility.

During the earliest stages of sport specific rehab, the physical therapist reconditions the area and introduces weight loading and stretching activities under controlled conditions. The first sessions may include manual stretching performed by the therapist. Patients later move on to performing stretches on their own. Weight loads are carefully monitored, and weights are increased as the patient meets specific benchmarks during their sport specific rehab therapy.

At later stages, more coordinated activities are reintroduced, and the focus turns to restoring the former level of skill. Sometimes, after a sports injury has seemingly healed, the athlete may feel ready to return to the field before full conditioning is restored. However, getting back into the game too soon could put the patient at risk for further injury. A good physical therapist can assess the athlete’s skill level and monitor use of the previously injured area to ensure the patient is truly ready to return to athletic activity after sport specific rehab treatment.

A physical therapist who specializes in sport specific rehab may also continue to provide treatments and monitoring after the athlete returns to the field. Athletes are typically advised to return to sporting activities gradually, starting with less intense activities for shorter duration before returning to full, active game play.

Are you a good candidate for Sport Specific Rehab?

  • Positive

    You want to recover specifically to participate in your sport of choice.

  • Positive

    You have sprains, fractures and other injuries that prevent you from participating in your sport of choice.

  • Negative

    Your doctor recommends rest for the injured area.

  • Negative

    Other necessary body tissues are healthy.

Frequently asked questions

How Is Sport Specific Rehab Coordinated With Training?

Professional and recreational athletes typically cannot afford to take time off training even for an injury, so a sport specific rehab program is designed to work in conjunction with maintaining other conditioning for unaffected parts of the body. In practice, this might mean developing a weight training regimen or exercise routine that works other muscles and joints effectively while reducing pressure on the area that is still healing. Exercises that work the core can help restore full strength and power after a sports injury.

Whether you’ve incurred a major injury during professional gameplay or need help recovering from a sprain incurred during a recreational weekend tournament, Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine can help you get back in the game. Fill out our contact form to book an appointment online at one of our many clinics in Monmouth and Orange County.


How Long Does Sport Specific Rehab Take?

The number of sessions required for sport specific rehab depends on the sport and type of injury, but the goal is always to get the patient back into the game as soon as possible. Some injuries incurred during athletic activity may resolve themselves in days or weeks, but severe breaks or tears may require months of sport specific rehab to return to normal activity.

The decision of when to return to active play is based on pre-established benchmarks, not a specific date on the calendar. To return to sporting activity, the patient should have regained a normal range of motion comparable to the uninjured side of the body, have no remaining pain or swelling and exhibit no noticeable limp or difficulty throwing using the affected limb. A detailed recovery plan with specific milestones can help improve the speed and effectiveness of a sport specific rehab program.


What Are Potential Side Effects of Sport Specific Rehab?

In most cases, sport specific rehab is designed to minimize the side effects from a sports injury or from the treatment after a sports injury. If a joint has been immobilized for recovery or surgery performed to set a fracture, inflammation and stiffness might cause additional mobility and strength issues on top of the original injury. Sport specific rehab takes this into account and includes activities designed to promote healing and reduce pain during the rehabilitation process.

During rehab after a sports injury, the patient might experience soreness and stiffness after a physical therapy session. Mental health issues might also need to be addressed, especially if the athlete is frustrated, depressed or anxious about missing practices or games. The athlete may also develop a fear of re-injury.

A physical therapist specializing in sport specific rehab can recognize signs of emotional and mental distress in an injured athlete and suggest ways to work through psychological issues that could prevent a full recovery. Including visualization, goal setting and other strategies to improve the athlete’s psychological outlook can help speed rehabilitation and reduce mental resistance.


What Is Sport Specific Rehab Used For?

Injuries can occur in any sport, and the specific treatment depends on the type of injury and the patient’s athletic goals. Athletes who may need sport specific rehab cyclists, football players, swimmers, fencers, basketball players and martial artists. Both professional athletes and casual weekend warriors can benefit from sport specific rehab.

Some injuries that benefit from sport specific rehab include: 

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Fractures
  • Ligament injuries, such as an ACL injury
  • Muscle and tendon tears
  • Joint replacements

Because the recovery process used to restore function in a baseball pitcher after a rotator cuff injury is different from the rehab process for a marathon runner with a hip injury, the specific activities and exercises used during rehab vary from person to person. 


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