Get back in the game! Maybe you’re a competitive athlete, a weekend warrior, or the average person trying to keep up with the sport of life. Whatever your sport, we want you to get back to it ASAP.
A few definitions:
Sports Medicine: the field of medicine concerned with the prevention and treatment of injuries and disorders that are related to participation in sports.1
Orthopedics (AKA Orthopaedics): The medical specialty concerned with the preservation, restoration, and development of form and function of the musculoskeletal system, extremities, spine, and associated structures by medical, surgical and physical methods.2
Therefore, many sports medicine injuries fall under the larger “orthopedics” umbrella. A few exceptions would include concussions, dehydration, cardiac, respiratory, & organ injury. Here’s what you need to know to return to what you love: Understand your Injury, Find an Expert, Establish a Plan.
Understand Your Injury
A sore knee can hurt for many different reasons. If you’re like most people, you’ve Googled your symptoms and already self-diagnosed it. The trouble is, symptoms alone don’t always distinguish one pathology from another. For example, maybe your knee is swollen and painful on the inside of the joint after you landed after a jump. What’s wrong with it? Well, that presentation could be a meniscus tear, a medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear, or just a simple joint sprain. How do you determine which it is? An accurate diagnosis considers several factors:
- Mechanism of injury: understanding the mechanism of injury is very important to rule in/out conditions. We know certain structures have a higher likelihood to be injured with twisting, some with pivoting and landing wrong, others with a collision or jumping.
- Symptoms: The location of symptoms, and a good description can help lead us toward a diagnosis: Swelling, stiffness, ache, sharp pain, shooting pain, numbness, weakness, etc.
- Health history and demographics: A specialist’s understanding of your full health history and demographics is critical in helping diagnose your injury. Hip pain during running in a very lean 16-year-old female who has stopped menstruation could be a stress fracture.3 Whereas hip pain during running in a 40-year-old with alcohol dependency could be avascular necrosis.4 The age, sex, and health history are key differences when symptoms look identical.
- Clinical Examination: A thorough clinical exam by a professional (see “Find an Expert” below) is required to test anatomical pathologies and movement pathologies. An anatomical pathology is something wrong with your tissue (bone fracture, torn muscle, sprained ligament, etc) where as a movement pathology would be pain associated with poor mechanics, poor tracking, instability, muscle weakness, etc. Our clinical examination includes:
- Observation: looking at position, symmetry, discoloration, swelling, and altered movement or mechanics with an activity.
- Tests and measures: assess range of motion, evaluate joint mobility, measure strength, etc.
- Selective Tissue Tension Testing: This type of assessment uses passive, resisted, and overpressure techniques to test each specific muscle, joint, ligament, tendon, etc. It requires a sound understanding of anatomy and biomechanics, but also solid technique.
- Special Tests: Specific tests and test batteries are used to help clinicians rule in/out certain diagnoses. The meniscus, the labrum, high ankle sprains, the Achilles tendon—these are a few examples of body parts with literature supported special tests.
- Palpation: This is a hands-on assessment to assess movement quality, tissue texture, and point-tenderness, among other things.
An accurate diagnosis is made when a skilled clinician can test and organize all this information. So, who should you see for care?
Find an Expert
Broadly, Doctors, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, and Massage Therapists are all healthcare providers who may treat sports medicine injuries. But within each of these health care fields, there is also further specialization. For example, Medical Doctors may have a focus in heart issues (cardiologist), cancer (oncologist), or neurological issues (neurologist). Physical Therapists also have different training and areas of focus—some work with neurological disorders, others focus on amputee and wound care. We believe you should see a provider who is a specialist in your specific injury rather than a generalist or specialist in another area.
Our Physical Therapists specialize in orthopedics and sports medicine. Here are some tips on finding the right provider:
- Look up a provider’s bio and read about them. Their education, certifications, philosophy and treatment approach may alert you to their specialty areas. Our sports medicine physical therapists have these advanced certifications:
- OCS—Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy
- CMPT—Certified Manual Physical Therapist
- ITPT—ImPACT Trained Physical Therapist (Concussion rehab)
- ASTYM cert.—ASTYM certified for soft tissue treatment
- DPT—Doctorate of Physical Therapy
- Use the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists (ABPTS) search directory to find a specialist near you. Since most sports medicine injuries you would see a PT for are orthopedics, selecting the “Orthopaedic” specialty category will likely be the most useful.
- Use the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Find a PT directory to search for PTs and read about them.
Establish a Plan
Once you fully understand your injury and have found a specialist, you and your care provider should establish a plan specific to you. Shared decision making is an approach we use where provider and patient discuss options and come up with a plan including treatment, and follow-up options together.
At our physical therapy clinic, we only offer treatments that are shown to be effective through scientific research. Some treatments include manual therapy, GameReady cryotherapy compression, ASTYM, cupping, and specific exercises to improve strength, range of motion, motor-pattern-sequencing, inflammation, and loading tolerance.
As you move through your specific plan of care, your provider should guide you in sport re-integration. At our physical therapy clinic, we perform regular re-testing of the body part and progression of sport-specific exercise to determine how your body is progressing. We also use force dynamometry to objectively measure strength gains, return-to-run programs for systematic progressions, and an evidence-based Return-to-Sport test.
If you have any questions regarding your injury, we would love to help. Feel free to contact us at any time. Our purpose is to help you excel at life!