Here’s all you need to know about Sports physiotherapy…
Due to the revolution in sports media and the emergence of first television and then, online streaming services, the popularity of sports has sky-rocketed like never before. Although helping fuel the sports economy, it has also brought a severe drawback. More attention means higher stakes which, in turn, intense competition. Sports has never been so demanding, both physically and mentally. When players try to perform over their limits, it leads to injury. This is where Sports Physiotherapy comes into the picture.
Sports injuries are not easy to handle. The medical staff is under immense pressure to help the injured player recover at the earliest and in the right fashion. After all, the performance of the team in the competition or the career of the athlete is at stake. While doctors have been associated with sports since a significant time, there arose a need for medical professionals specialized for sports injuries for this exact reason. Sports Physiotherapy fills this void precisely.
What is Sports Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy, also popular as Physical therapy, is an allied health science branch. A physiotherapist with his expertise in exercise therapy and prescription, joint mobilization, manual therapy, and electrotherapy rehabilitates various musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary and neurological conditions. The aim of physiotherapy is to improve quality of life and enhance performance.
Sports physiotherapy is a specialized branch of physiotherapy that deals with injuries and other problems associated with sports.
According to Sports and Exercise Physiotherapy, New Zealand, a sports physiotherapist is defined as-
“A recognized professional who demonstrates advanced competencies in the promotion of safe physical activity participation, provision of advice, and 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.”
What does a Sports Physiotherapist do?
A sports physiotherapist works as a part of the larger team that looks after the complete health and fitness of the team or an athlete. The primary team members involve the athlete and the coach. However, a physician, a masseuse, sports scientist, video analyst, a strength and conditioning coach and a sports nutritionist play a key role in building the team stronger.
Sports physiotherapists assess the athlete, perform a detailed evaluation and devise a plan of action. The exercise programs incorporate tackling the weaknesses, working on the imbalances and certain workouts to reduce the chances of re-injury.
Roles of Sports Physiotherapist & Competence Areas
In India, especially at the grass-root level, sports physiotherapist might be the only medical personnel available on the field in training and tournaments. In such situations, the sports physiotherapist need to have sound knowledge in first aid and essential life support. Additionally, in endurance events, a sports physiotherapist may have to give advice on subjects like nutrition.
It is a critical part of the on-field sports physiotherapist’s job to take the crucial decision of whether the athlete continues to play post an incidence of injury. Sports physiotherapists are often aware of the rules and regulations of the specific sport and the norms set by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) in order to ensure fair play.
The assessments mainly involve identifying muscle strengths, muscle lengths (flexibility), faulty postures and movement patterns. This can be achieved by performing manual physiotherapy assessment tests, on and off-field tests, posture and movement video analysis. With the advancement in technology, newer, more sophisticated equipment are available, that provide quantitative data.
As we all know, some injuries are common to a particular sport depending upon the demands, repetitive nature of movement, and position of the player in the sport. Most of the injuries arise due to the demands of the sport and the training done for the same on and off-field. Since none of the athletes simply trains, there are many demands placed on the body that goes beyond the sport. Let us consider an example of bowlers in cricket. The demands placed on the bowler are significantly different when you are a fast bowler and a spin bowler. The injuries that could arise due to the demands of bowling and off-field training also vary. This makes the work of sports physiotherapists more challenging as they have to customize programs for each player separately!
What are the benefits of Sports Physiotherapy?
Sports physiotherapists help minimize the risk of overuse injuries. Suppose you are a footballer, you are most likely to injure your knee ligaments (the most common being the Anterior Cruciate Ligament [ACL]). A sports physiotherapist will help you reduce the chances of developing a tear in this ligament. We will do so by strengthening your appropriate group of muscles and lengthening the others to bring about a bio-mechanically correct movement with lesser loads on the ligament. This, in turn, will help you to increase the length of time you can perform well on the field!
To execute it in a better way, the modern approach is to develop a structured exercise plan that includes working on your weaknesses all the while aiming to maintain your strengths. The structured exercise plans consist of adequate proportions of strength, flexibility, endurance and balance, just like in a balanced diet. We all know there is no alternative to exercises. But to maintain this balance, specific modalities like Wireless Pro and Variable Muscle Stimulation add external inputs. This helps in voluntary muscle contraction to increase strength.
A sports physiotherapist specializes in planning an effective ‘return to sports training’ that helps an athlete return on the field after an injury. This program also helps reduce the incidence of re-injury to reduce dropout rates. Post an extensive rehabilitation program; the sports physiotherapist focuses on incorporating sports specific and goal-oriented drills in the plan of care. Sports-specific routines mainly contain exercises that mimic the whole or a part of the movement necessary in the respective game. The sports-specific movements are re-analysed to bring about pattern correction.
These seemingly minor corrections are essential to reduce the risk of injury. Especially in sports with tremendous repetitive movements like cycling, swimming, running (track and field), etc. correction of the faulty pattern becomes crucial to prevent injuries. Pattern corrections in such events also help enhance performance by changing muscle efficiency.