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Returning to sport following soft tissue injury

Typically, once you feel better and no longer feel pain following an injury, you would begin to test your injury to assess whether you can return to sport.

However, the extent to which we test ourselves before returning to sport, for most of us, is underwhelming.

For example:

A competitive amateur runner who mainly competes at 1,500m and above might deem themselves fit to return after testing themselves at a maximum 1km distance.

A semi-professional footballer completing a 90-minute light jog and feels ready to return to matches.

The question you need to ask yourself is: ‘Have I tried and successfully completed the physical components of my sport?’

Prior to reaching the stage of full rehabilitation, you need to be confident the areas of injury are healthy and restored to a good functioning level.

Here is a list of components of early to mid stage rehabilitation:

  • Inflammation - Is the affected area still swollen; has it changed colour or does it feel warm?

  • Range of motion - Do the surrounding joints move freely and have full range as before?

  • Strength - Can the area/ muscle contract well, resist light bodyweight resistance?

  • Length - Is the muscle/ tissue flexible and capable of full stretch?

  • Functional abilities - Depending on the area but are normal activities such as walking, stairs, squatting, prolonged standing all okay? For upper body, gripping, holding, lifting, pushing and pulling, are these all okay?

If the injury is competent in the above basic components, then progressing with gym-based rehabilitation or beginning late stage rehabilitation may be feasible.

However, revert to the question above and whether you can truly answer yes. Be confident you have tested the true physical demands of your sport.

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