Being injured sucks. But having a chain of injuries, one seemingly after the other, is even worse. Injuries are commonplace in sport, and recently a bright light is being shone on re-injury rates. For athletes, coaches and even the fans, nothing is more frustrating than multiple successive injuries. The good thing is that research and clinical knowledge is starting to understand and address why this happens, and what we can do to prevent re-injury.
A recent editorial by Tim Gabbett, Igor Sancho, Bart Dingenen and Richard W Willy published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looks at one proposed model for the development of re-injury. It is clear that when an injury occurs and a period of reduced sports activity is undertaken during rehab, there is a loss of the sports specific fitness needed to participate in that sport, you lose the so called,”match fitness”. So not only are you dealing with an injury to a specific area *insert muscle, tendon, ligament name here, you are essentially unfit for your sport.
To address this these clinical researchers propose a framework that identifies the sports specific requirements required for maintenance or elevation of sport specific capacity during the return to sport, as well as developing the tissue specific capacities within the injured tissue. The key to this model is that a balance must be struck between these features to optimise both in a timely manner for return to sport.
What does this look like?
It suggests that rehabilitation specific to the injured area, including the development of strength, power, flexibility to the injured tissue should be coupled with sports training features such as skills training (at an appropriate intensity for the injury), game/sport conditioning (this may be done using cross training methods such as pool, bike, alterG running) and mental skills training. To develop such a plan requires coordination of health staff with preparation staff (strength/sports science) and the sports coaching staff. Although not an easy feat, this planning and structured rehabilitation will lead to an athlete that is prepared to a much higher level prior to return, and ultimately reduces the likelihood of re-injury.
So next time you have an injury, ask yourself whether you have the match fitness to play, as well as whether your injury has healed.
To access the abstract to the BJSM article head to : https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2021/04/14/bjsports-2020-103769