Injuries are becoming more common, both in professional and amateur athletics. A study published by Frontiers in Sports and Active Living has found a threefold increase in athletic injury since the onset of COVID-19, a reflection of decreased fitness from time spent away from the field and, undoubtedly, ultra-compressed sporting calendars. Tellingly, these injuries are not confined to amateurs. With new injury challenges comes a demand for new and more effective therapies; understanding how rehabilitation can evolve to counter injuries, and developing new techniques to match, is a process underway in the world of sports medicine that will help to safeguard patient health.
The holistic approach
Lower overall activity has created issues where perhaps they weren’t before. If you imagine the daily activity of the average athlete, it probably doesn’t include much sitting around at home. Looking to the movement system, which the Journal of Physical Therapy highlighted in a March 2021 study, can be informative. Looking at the four forces involved with the movement system – motion, force, energy and control – and then applying it to the movement system model is effective in narrowing down potential zones of injury. For instance, extended periods spent sat down can create hip flexor issues, whether posterior or anterior. Taking a whole-body approach, and trying to identify areas of weakness before embarking on typical therapies, is crucial.
Psychologically informed therapy
Sports therapists are increasingly turning to psychologically informed physical therapy, or PIPT. This form of sports rehabilitation aims to help athletes build acceptance and understanding of their injury. A study published by the journal of Pain Reports found that this can have a positive feedback impact on recovery, as psychological wellbeing is undoubtedly related to rest – a huge factor in any successful recovery. This can include simple mental health techniques, like mindfulness, through to cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy. There is potential for this form of therapy to be even more effective in the current age; the nature of injuries related to the 2020 layoff are often new to athletes and can be confusing or disheartening. Building mental resilience alongside physical strength is a good tactic to combat this.
Frontiers in VR
Perhaps most excitingly – especially for those who love technology – is the prospect of virtual reality (VR) therapy. A study published on Hindawi found that the use of VR rehabilitation training technology had a greater impact on rectifying lower back pain issues than similar isokinetic training. This could be important for athletes – back pain issues are often associated with extended periods spent sitting down and not making full use of the hip and back muscle region. With VR technology it’s also a more fun way to complete training, with full exertion more likely.
A blend of these new techniques is key to recovery. It’s important not to take for granted the way the body works, and how muscles and bones in one area impact others. With injuries becoming more complex in nature, altering therapies and sports rehab approaches to suit will result in better outcomes.