Sports medicine is a rather unique field that encompasses many different disciplines in medicine and health care. A sports medicine practice is generally centered around a physician who has special expertise in dealing with the unique problems of physically active people. But the sports medicine doctor is only one among many important players on the sports medicine “team”. Another very crucial player in the sports medicine game is the physical therapist (PT). By working with the sports doctor the PT plays an indispensable role in identification, management and rehabilitation of sports injuries.
The Sports PT is a specialist in the rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. They are trained to use a variety of physical modalities and exercise techniques to facilitate healing. The role of the PT on the sports team may be quite varied. In many cases they assess physical condition proper to athletic competition and can offer suggestions to improve the musculoskeletal system to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.
Physical therapists can also be an invaluable resource for the strength coach or fitness coordinator of an athletic team. They can provide suggestions on how to integrate strength, cardiovascular and flexibility techniques into team training that function to reduce injury.
Therapists may be involved in the primary management of certain sports problems. An example of this might be a condition known as patellofemoral (PF) syndrome. In a large percentage of cases, PF syndrome can be managed and often cured by a physical therapist. By using physical modalities and exercise techniques. PTs can often move the kneecap into an alignment and improve or cure the problem. Sports doctors often prescribe a trial of physical therapy as a first line of treatment for PF and other related sports medicine problems.
Therapists can assist in the management of acute, non-surgical sports injuries. Injuries that often sideline an athlete for days, weeks or months but do not require surgery are frequently rehabilitated by PTs. Therapists have techniques that can help to calm the inflammation, increase blood flow to the injured region, speed medicine to the affected area using physical methods and strengthen the joint through exercise.
PTs can help prepare a patient for an invasive procedure. For example, when a patient is going to have the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructed, a PT is commonly consulted to assist the patient in strengthening the muscles around the knee in preparation for the surgery. This sort of preparation makes the rehabilitation after surgery much more efficient.
Physical therapists are vital to the rehabilitation process following orthopaedic surgery. They use exercise, flexibility techniques and other modalities to guide the athlete back to health. The outcome of many surgeries is greatly improved by physical therapy compliance.
Physical therapists also deal with a variety of other orthopaedic conditions that are not necessarily sports related. They have working knowledge of many injuries and infirmities in occupational medicine, industrial medicine, trauma and general orthopaedics. For some problems, PTs may simply consult with a patient and demonstrate how to perform certain rehab exercises at home rather than supervise the patient at the clinic. Even for patients completing the majority of their rehabilitation in the PT clinic, home therapy is often utilized.
The therapists function as a teacher and monitor to ensure that the exercises are done properly and to ensure that the patient is making satisfactory progress towards recovery. Compliance is key to making physical therapy successful. More so than just taking a pill or elixir, physical therapy is time and labor intensive by its nature. For this reason some people do not comply with the therapy prescribed for them by their doctor. It is likely that these people will be much less satisfied with their recovery than the person who is religious about their therapy.
If your doctor believes that physical therapy is important enough for your recovery to prescribe it for you, it is imperative that you make every attempt to comply.