Following injury, the way in which a sportsperson returns to their activity (both training and competition) can affect the path of the injury (duration of injury, eventual outcome of injury (full recovery/permanent effects). The input of the sports massage therapist into the rehabilitation process can only ever be as a guide or advisor as the sportsperson themselves will normally be the person who makes key decision based on the information available. It is often useful to consider rehabilitation in the form of 4 stages:
The time when the limb or injury is immobilised (whether using crutches, a sling or conscious effort). During this time it is likely that exercise of the unaffected parts may be possible however the affected area will be protected and risk situations avoided.
During this period the affected area progresses from non-active through partial activity (e.g. weight bearing) through to full use (e.g. full weight bearing for the leg may include walking rather than running for example).
During late rehabilitation the affected area is gradually reintroduced to the full range of stress it experienced prior to the injury occurring. Early entry to late rehabilitation is common as the sportsperson pushes to get back to normal. This can lead to reinjury or regression. Careful evaluation of recovery and re-establishment of normal range of movement, such as walking, prior to more dynamic exercise are very important.
Ensuring that the sportsperson is able to achieve their full range of activities for the sport so that they can be considered “fit”. The injured part may need to be subjected to the types of stresses they would experience during activity and it may be important for the patient to be comfortable approaching this final hurdle. This stage can take some time as early return to the sport may lead to the injury recurring and an increased risk of long term problems. A successful pre-discharge phase should minimise these risks.
The sports massage therapist can assist in all these phases.
Other Techniques: Diagnosis and identification | Massage techniques | Sports massage and warm up advice | Sports massage and stretching | Integration with sports