Return to Play
Return to play is the final phase of recovery where you are deemed fit to play a sport the way you did before an injury. Sports medicine experts help athletes return to play as early as possible. However, returning before adequate healing increases the risk of re-injury which usually requires an extended recovery time.
When compared to average athletes, professional athletes return much faster to play. This is because of their physical condition and fitness level. Being in good physical condition not only prevents injuries from happening but also lessens the severity of an injury and speeds up the recovery process. The following tips can also help speed your recovery:
- Remain in good physical condition even during the injury phase.
- Recognize your injuries early and treat them promptly.
- Join a rehabilitation program.
- Have a positive mental attitude.
- Acute phase: Involves minimizing swelling with the help of the RICE formula (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Serious injury may require surgery, casting or bracing. Concentrate on your overall conditioning during this phase and do not let the rest of your body go out of shape.
- Strengthening phase: Concentrate on regaining full strength and motion of the injured area during this phase. Your physician will outline a plan for you. It usually begins with protective range-of-motion exercises, simple strengthening exercises or electrical stimulation to maintain muscle tone.
- Functional drills: These are started once you regain your normal strength. They include jumping rope, brisk walking or light jogging for lower extremity injuries and easy ground strokes or light throwing for upper extremity injuries.
- Sport-specific training: In this stage you try to reach the higher levels of the sport under the guidance of a certified athletic trainer or physical therapist.
- Final phase: You are ready to return to play when you can perform without any difficulty and the likelihood of re-injury is minimal. However, it is important that you adequately warm up before and after the activity.