Sport Safety

SPORT SAFETY: Physical Therapy When Coming Back from an Injury…

This is a given. If your son or daughter plays competitive sports, at some point in their career, they’re going to get hurt.

It might be an ankle sprain, a bump on the head, a jammed neck. Or it might be more serious, such as a sprained MCL, broken leg, etc.

The good news is that if your kid gets hurt, chances are they will first see a doctor for a diagnosis, and then be referred to a local physical therapist who will work with the athlete and guide them back to being healthy again and ready to compete.

Now, a little background. Back in August, I had an operation to repair my hip. The procedure is called hip resurfacing, which is in the same ballpark as hip replacement, but not as extreme.

After Dr. Edwin Su of the Hospital for Special Surgery worked on me, I knew I would be headed for several weeks of physical therapy.

And to that end, I attended ProClinix in Armonk, NY, where Dr. Brian Dombal is one of the principals and a terrific therapist. Brian, along with his colleague Dr. James Cassell, did an amazing job in literally getting me back on my feet and jogging and working out within a matter of a few months. These days, I’m happy to report, I’m back to my regular running schedule 3 or 4 times a week, whereas last year at this time, I could hardly stand up for more than 5 minutes. And running was simply out of the question.

Because I was so impressed with Brian and his staff at ProClinix, I asked Brian to come on my radio show this AM, because he sees young athletes every day in his practice, and he knows first hand  the worries that the kids have, as well as their parents.

Brian made some important points: first and foremost, it’s essential that there a clear line of communication among the physical therapist, the parents, the school coach, and the school’s trainer. In other words, there should never be any possibility of misunderstanding of how well the injured athlete is progressing, and what is his or her timetable to return.

Brian also made it clear that each athlete has to work at their own pace. That is, the physical therapist has to listen carefully to the athlete regarding their progress, and never give in to the pleadings of the parents or the coach who is eager to have the youngster return to action. Coming back too soon to play runs a serious risk of aggravating the original injury.

Along those lines, the issue of repetitive use injuries came up. “I see kids who are literally playing two or three sports in the same season,
Brian explained. The chances for injury when repeating the same actions over and over again is substantial. Problem is, kids these days are so eager to keep up and compete with their peers that they don’t want to take any time off from their sports, even if their body is telling them they’re hurt.

“That’s a real concern,” Brian points out. “Kids need to understand that, sometimes, they have to back off and let their body rest.”

But psychologically, that’s not always easy to do as kids don’t want to fall behind the others. And with only so many weeks in a season, the idea of sitting out is difficult for any kid.

At the other end, if a youngster is coming off a serious injury which involved surgery, it’s often on the physical therapist to help guide the individual and reassure him or her that they’re healed and ready to go. “This decision has to be made in direct consultation with the physician,” says Brian. “But to me, the key is whether the athlete clearly is able to run and perform at 100 percent. If there’s any holding back or gingerness, then he or she is not ready to go out.”

Here’s the bottom line: there was a time not long ago when physical therapists were around but not really a major part of the sports scene. The good news is that these days, they are. Be proactive. Before your son or daughter – or even yourself — need to find a physical therapist, do your homework now and find someone in your area who is well regarded.

Trust me, if you and your family are involved in sports, at some point you will need a physical therapist.