How Physiotherapists Deal with Sports-Related Problems

| March 10, 2016 | Reply

by the Team of Macquarie Street Physiotherapy

Playing sports can put the body under high physical strain and stress. Whether one aims for excellence in competition or health and wellbeing in recreation, we can exert ourselves to the point of illness or injury. This is when we require the help of a physiotherapist.

A Physiotherapist explained

Physiotherapists are professionals who have acquired academic discipline and extensive clinical training in physiotherapy. This is a field of rehabilitation medicine which seeks to help people maintain or improve their ability to use their body productively. Approach to treatment is based on an understanding of anatomy, neurosciences and physiology. It is focused on prevention and treatment of injury, and recovery or rehabilitation to as close to pre-injury status as possible.

Role of Physiotherapists in Sport

In sport, productivity is measured by our ability to effectively use our body. The body is like a tool which the sportsperson uses, and must be able to have strength and flexibility in order to move as fluidly and effortlessly as possible. An injury to a specific body part or parts can have a significant impact on one’s ability to play, and affect their ability to move forward in their chosen field.

Pain is a great inhibitor of effective muscle use. For example, knee pain inhibits the ability to use the quadriceps muscles. Because physiotherapists have a detailed understanding of the body, they may help to ease, lessen or remove pain, and assist recovery from injury, without having to resort to drugs or surgery.

Different sports use different body parts. Sometimes, in an eagerness to speed up the acquisition of a skill or to reach a certain level of proficiency, a foundation of stability may not have been reached. Movements may be made wrongly or be excessive, which can lead to joint or muscle pain or injury. When this happens, immediate attendance by a physiotherapist can help prevent the condition from progressing. Advice about safe return to the chosen sport is a big part of physiotherapy management.

sports physiotherapists

All body parts are vulnerable to injury, and some activities are more likely to result in pain in a certain region of the body:

Problems with the Cervical Spine (Neck)

Racing car drivers and gymnasts may have problems due to stress on their cervical spine. A physiotherapist would know which method to employ to provide the needed relief: massage, mechanical traction, joint mobilisation or exercise. This may be specific exercises, or general ones, such as Pilates (core stability exercises).

Problems with the Shoulder, Elbow

A swimmer may experience shoulder pain. This could be a rotator cuff tear or subacromial impingement which can be treated by massaging and strengthening the cuff muscles, electrotherapy and taping, along with swimming technique correction. Water polo and basketball players are more at risk of shoulder dislocation, and whether or not surgery is required, these shoulders require a lot of strengthening.

As a golfer, one wrong swing can find you with a golfer’s elbow, making it painful to pronate your forearms in the course of a golf swing. This is similar to tennis elbow which affects the tendons and muscles of the elbow and forearm. Your physiotherapist may recommend bracing, ice, massage, and strengthening exercises.

Problems with the Lumbar Spine, Hip

Nearly all sports require strength around the lumbar spine, pelvis and hips. These regions are critical bearers of the body’s weight and as such are prone to injury. Sports requiring running with changes of direction (racquet sports) or high load (eg weightlifting or gymnastics) or prolonged positioning (eg cycling) can all incur strain on these areas. Your physiotherapist has a variety of techniques to address problems involving the back and hip area. These include soft tissue massage, spinal joint mobilization, mechanical traction, dry needling, electrotherapy. Along with this they are experts in advice, such as level of activity, postural and technique correction, core stability training, and preventive spinal care.

Problems with the Knees, Ankle and Foot

Twisting/running sports require strength and stability of knees, ankles and feet These regions support the body weight, are the balance powerhouse, and have to allow for change in direction and repetitive load. Ligament strains are common, along with meniscal injuries in knees. These joints may be affected by arthritis in the older sports person. Treatment might include electrotherapy, massage, stretching, and rehabilitation exercises, and at a later date, balance re-training, and biomechanical gait analysis.

Sports Physiotherapy

Conditions needing the services of a physiotherapist require a specialised understanding of the particular sport itself and expertise in selecting appropriate treatment. Sports physiotherapy has evolved to keep up with wider interest in sports and health in the community, along with an aging sporty population. It relates to prevention, assessment and management of injuries resulting from sports. Whether your sporting interest is recreational or highly competitive, it is wise to have a sports registered, trustworthy physiotherapist in your contact list!

Author Bio

The physios at Macquarie Street Physiotherapy love the challenge of assisting with any and all sports injuries. This practice has been operating in the Sydney CBD for more than 30 years. They are a team of highly skilled and experienced physiotherapists, each with post-graduate qualifications. Call them for expert diagnosis and management: (02) 9221 1604.



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