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Rehabilitation Mistakes

March 20, 2007 03:06 PM

By Jim Brown, PhD, Executive Editor, Sports Performance Journal (athletesperformance.com), Author, Tennis: Steps to Success (Human Kinetics Publishers)

Tennis players don’t like to miss time because of injuries. As a group, they are as serious about their rehabilitation as they are about training and competing. Nevertheless, they occasionally make mistakes that delay the recovery process even further.

We asked a group of experts at Athletes’ Performance in Phoenix and at Children’s Hospital in Boston to share their thoughts on mistakes they have observed and how to correct those errors. They have treated, trained, and worked with professional and recreational athletes, men and women, young athletes and older adults. Here is a summary of their comments.

Quality of Rehab Exercises

“One mistake is poor quality or attention to detail during corrective exercises. Going through the motions to finish three sets of 10 will do you no good. Remember: quality before quantity.” – Sue Falsone, MS, PT, ATC, CSCS, Athletes’ Performance

“Unsupervised rehabilitation or self-prescribed therapy from someone other than a properly trained sports medicine specialist, certified athletic trainer, licensed physical therapist, or exercise physiologist.” - Brian FitzGerald, BSN, ATC, LAT, Children’s Hospital, Boston

“Staying within the athlete’s own ability. When athletes get advice from friends and fellow athletes, it is often from the other person’s experience and not applicable to the person who has been injured. Each athlete is an individual and needs specific rehabilitation protocols.” – Kathleen Richards, PT, Children’s Hospital, Boston

Not Doing Things You Are Able to Do

“Often people rehab an injured shoulder, but ignore their cardio work, lower body, and trunk. Work on the things you can do within the limitations of your injury. All body parts work together. Continuing to train with certain restrictions will help you avoid increases in body fat and loss of lean mass during rehab.” – Sue Falsone

Not staying aerobically fit with cross training.” - Pierre d’Hemecourt, MD, Children’s Hospital, Boston

“Not addressing the entire kinetic chain.” – Dr. d’Hemecourt

“Not following rehabilitation protocols, skipping therapy treatment, or not doing any therapy at all could lead to injury or re-injury.” – Brian FitzGerald

Too Much, Too Soon

“Avoid accelerating your rehab program to a level that could prolong rehabilitation time as well as lead to further injury or re-injury.” – Brian FitzGerald

Stretching

“Overstretching a strained or pulled muscle.” – Jessica Flynn, MD, Children’s Hospital, Boston

“Athletes stretch a strain in the acute stage, thinking tightness and pain is a signal to stretch more than do reps to heal it.” - Carl Gustafson, PT, ATC, Children’s Hospital, Boston

“Overstretching muscles is common problem. Athletes should be taught never stretch to pain. If it is painful, back off. Stretch to comfort, not to pain.” – Brian FitzGerald

Ignoring Nutrition

“For some athletes, all rules of nutrition go out the window. They sit around in splints, are bored, and they eat. Healing takes place at the cellular level. If you don’t provide your body with optimal nutrition as it tries to heal itself, recovery will be more difficult and take longer. Provide an optimal environmental for healing — inside and out.” – Sue Falsone

Failing to Follow Up

“Following the initial rehab program, some athletes fail to continue a maintenance program, which leads to recurrence, especially with issues like flexibility.” - Ellen Geminiani, MD, Children’s Hospital, Boston

Returning to Action

“Athletes have not only an on and off switch, but a volume switch. Once injured, athletes need to return to their activities in increments, not all at once.” – Carl Gustafson

Some athletes ignore warning signs, especially if they have a hard time distinguishing between therapeutic pain and dangerous pain. They are often not given enough instruction or guidelines to follow when returning to sport. Frequency, duration, and intensity should be discussed.” – Kathleen Richards

“If the athlete is at all apprehensive about returning to training or competition, he or she may hold back or become tentative. This can lead to injury.” – Kathleen Richards

 

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