If one thing is true, it’s that most athletes will suffer an injury at one point or another in their career or life. When this happens, they will turn to a physiotherapist for help, and this person must have knowledge regarding strength and conditioning so that they can help athletes return to their training routines and full performance.
The rehab and return to training process and exercise progressions are crucial aspects of recovery, and physiotherapists need to have an understanding of these if they want to work with athletes and active patients. A physiotherapist must help the patient slowly add loads to their routine and change over time by challenging the individual as they progress through their rehab program. Once the patient develops some work capacity, they need to develop strength and power in their athletic needs and coaches, and physios need to work together in this regard. There has to be an understanding of the exercises that are prescribed, and together, they need to plan the rehab stages and exit criteria for each stage, which should be based on performance outcomes and not time.
The goal is to help the patient ease back into their training, and this will only be possible if the coach and physio work together because the injury should not be handled by the physio alone. The plan needs to help train around the injury and must maintain as many aspects of the athlete’s performance as possible. As the athlete starts integrating back into training, a physio must work with the strength and conditioning coach to check on things like pain levels and swelling and to perform clinical tests if necessary. The process must involve shared decision-making practices, and there must be open lines of communication at all times, as this will allow for the best outcomes. Physios have to understand the importance of strength and conditioning and must work alongside the coach because this would be in the best interest of the patient.
The recovery process should include four phases, including physio, strength, and power and training integration, which would allow the patient to return to their sport. During the first phase, active range of motion will be improved, and any pain and swelling will be reduced. Correctives and exercises will be introduced, and these will not compromise healing. Phase two will allow the patient to use dumbbells, barbells and machines, and phase three will include exercises that will help build power. Certain criteria will have to be met before the patient can return to sport or integrate back into training, and this will be the focus of phase four. It's best to build up to full training over the course of several weeks as opposed to jumping straight back into full training after a few rehab sessions because this will put the athlete at risk of suffering additional injuries.
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