When Can I Return To Sport after an injury?
As an athlete this is a question you may ask yourself ‘When Can I Return To Sport after an injury?’ post injury. However the biggest challenge to returning can be an injury that has sidelined you. There are a few factors to consider when planning on returning to sport. These can be: the time since the injury, the type of injury, or the effects of the injury on our body. So how will we know when it is safe to return to sport?
Timing of Injury
As our bodies take the time to properly recover from an injury, it is important to know what this means for our return to sport. Early on following an injury our bodies begin to protect us. It does this by creating inflammation around the area. This so you may noticed an increase in size. Along with this you may find you have less movement in the area. You may even notice a colour change of the skin/bruising. This is the bodies natural protective process which allows more blood flow and nutrients to enter the injured area.
However what a lot of us have probably noticed is that the area becomes a lot more sensitive to touch or movement. This may cause an increased levels of pain for something that should not hurt. This process of inflammation will typically start within the first 24 hours, and should last about 3 days.
Type of Injury
Now as we let our natural healing process begin with inflammation, the type of injury can have a huge impact as well. Each sport holds its own risks as to what area or structure will be injured. Some sports are more prone to different types on injury. Some are muscle injuries, while others we see ligaments being stretched or torn, and we may even see a bone break. With muscle injuries we can generally see a healing times of 2-4 weeks. This is dependent on the severity of the injury. While when we look at ligaments we may see healing time frames of 6-12 weeks.
However a ligament injury can sideline us for up to 9 months depending on the severity and which ligament. Finally looking at broken bones, healing times can range from 6-8 weeks for minor breaks. This can increase that duration to 30 weeks, depending on the severity.
Lasting effects of the Injury
As athletes, we want to return to sport as fast as possible. This means we may find ourselves asking, “when can I return to sport?” Although we see injury healing times or feel no more pain and think we are ready to return, however that is not true. With any prolonged time off, and potential surgeries or casting of our injuries there are other things to consider before returning. This prolonged time off and lack of use can leave our muscles weak, or our fitness at sub-par levels.
Although we may have met the time frame given to us for our injury to heal, it is important to get our body back to game shape. Returning to game shape is not always about lifting heavy weights and going for runs. It is using every aspect of the game to make our body function at its highest level. So the question still remains “When Can I Return To Sport after an injury?”
When can I return to sport?
Return to sport is variable for every athlete and injury, it is important to work with coaches, doctors, physiotherapists and anyone else involved to allow the optimal time to recover and return to game shape. Physiotherapists will give you a guideline as to how to progress through activities and exercises. Furthermore they will be able to better understand how the injury happened in the first place and provide a program that will prevent a future repeat of the injury and safely return you to the game you love.