When Can I Return to My Sport/Activity?
Whether you are participating in a highly competitive sport league or having fun with friends, activities are important to you and your overall health. However, injuries happen all the time that could limit your ability to participate. Many of you may even undergo orthopedic procedures or attend physical therapy to get back to your favorite activities and sports.
One of the first questions patients will ask me after an injury is “When can I return to playing (plug your sport in here)?” It is important that when you try to get back to your sport, it is done in a safe and appropriate manner to avoid the same or additional injury.
A safe program will start with many of the basic low intensity movements required to participate in the activity and gradually build from this point. Of course, returning to your favorite sport will depend on your injury and the sport you are returning to. For example, a person returning to Pickleball or Racquetball may start returning to their sport with a progression like this for a safe return:
- Basic progression 1: 20-30 forehand/backhand swings (15 each) at 50% intensity with feet set off wall or delivered from ball machine/practice partner
- Basic Progression 2: 30-40 forehand/backhand swings (20 each) at 50-75% intensity with feet set off wall or delivered from ball machine/practice partner. Perform 10 serves at 50-75%
A good rule to remember is that it may feel good that day to perform the activity, but the real test is how you feel the next day! These are when some of the symptoms from time away from the sport will surface. Always take a day off to recover between progressions. In many cases, you may repeat the same workout multiple times until it feels very comfortable.
As the program progresses, the activities will get gradually more intense and incorporate more live game activities to get you fully back. If we go back to our Pickleball example, later sessions may look something like this:
- Advanced progression 1: 30-40 forehand/backhand swings at random areas on the court at 75-100% percent intensity. Perform 15-20 serves at 75-100%.
- Advanced progression 2: 20-30 all swings at 75-100% intensity with foot movement and stepping in to swings. Playing 1 full point x 3 at 75% intensity with practice partner.
Progressions like these will continue until you are fully participating back in the sport. Feeling confident to perform all of the moves required of you is a major component to not only performing your best, but also to avoid re-injury or new injury due to compensations.
This is just an example program. You and your therapist will be able to develop a specific “Return To Sport” program individualized so you feel confident getting back to your sport. AzOPT therapists will provide ideas to prevent further injury and improve your overall game as well! Physical Therapists are trained to understand the mechanics of the movements necessary for you to perform at your best!