Getting Back In the Game: Sports Injuries and Physical Therapy

School is back in session, fall weather is here and the kids are back to practice and games. It’s the season for football, soccer, tennis, dance, and volleyball. Unfortunately, when sports are in full swing, so are the number of sport injuries we see in the physical therapy department at Team Health Care Clinic. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE working with young people at our clinic, but seeing them miss out on their favorite activities is a bummer.

 

Some of the common sports injuries we see are:

  • Ankle sprainsAnkle sprain
  • Hamstring strains
  • Tennis elbow – sports that require gripping activity cause this, not just “tennis”
  • Hip flexor strain
  • Sciatica
  • Shoulder injuries

 

These most common types of injuries are strains and sprains. They are injuries that affect the soft tissues such as muscle, ligaments and tendons in the body.

Sprains are injury to ligaments. These structures connect bone to bone and give joints their integrity. These injuries are sustained when a joint is stretched beyond its normal motion causing tearing or disruption to the ligament.

Strains are injuries that affect the muscles and tendons. Tendons attach muscles to the bone. Strains are muscles that have been over stretched or over used with repetitive motions. Injuries can be caused by a trauma such as a collision or over training. There is usually pain, swelling, and an altered movement pattern when these tissues are affected.

 

You can reduce your risk for soft tissue injury by:

  • Warming up and stretching: this will increase the blood flow to your muscle tissues. Your muscle now responds like a warm piece of taffy vs. a cold piece of taffy. The muscle is going to be more flexible.
  • Condition for your activity: do some pre-season work outs to prepare your body and gradually increase your intensity.
  • Stop when you are fatigued: this reduces the risk of over use and abnormal movement patterns placing you at risk for injury.
  • Wear appropriate footwear and protective gear: contact sports without a helmet? You get the idea.
  • Cross train: this prevents over training and repetition injuries.

 

Fellow parents and coaches, we need to be attentive to our athletes. Child and teen athletes are especially prone to injuries, because they are still growing. During growth spurts, muscles are placed under more stress and stretch. Along with this they experience muscle imbalances and weakness. Look for signs of discomfort, a reduced desire to play or different movement patterns. This is a warning that could indicate something significant is going on. Pressure to participate can lead to decisions to play while injured, and put our athletes at risk for additional injuries. Continuing to play while injured prolongs their recovery and places them at risk. The biggest risk factor for a soft tissue injury is a previous or untreated injury. If an athlete has an injury and it is persisting, they need to seek care. Doing so early on will prevent further damage, and not delay their return to get back in the game.

Andrea Newport, PT

Andrea Newport, PT

Baseline Concussion Screening and Sports Physicals

At Team Health Care Clinic, we enjoy the opportunity to connect with our community in general but particularly our local athletes. To that end, our chiropractors, medical providers, and physical therapists created a unique sports physical not offered in other clinics.

Any local athlete who enters our clinic receives a baseline concussion tests that will be used to compare in the future should a concussion occur. Our clinic uses the Mayo associated King Devick eye test as well as a high tech medical device that precisely measures an athletes balance. King Devick Test

Mayo is impressed with the King Devick test because it is an objective eye test that athletes can’t manipulate. Since at least 55% of our brain is used for eye movement, many concussions are demonstrated as eye malfunction including difficulty with reading, computer use and screen use in general. The problem is the standard eye exam in a doctor’s clinic simply isn’t able to observe subtle eye deficiency.

The King Devick does this so well that 12 of 30 National Hockey League team trainers have now switched to the King Devick test over other outdated tests. The trainers get the player’s baseline score before the season begins then retest it from the locker room after a suspected concussion. It over rides the zealous athlete who wants to return to play and convinces the trainer before they are ready.

Symptoms of Concussions

In addition to eye movement deficiency, we often see concussed athletes lose their balance and spatial awareness. Think of a boxer who gets punched too hard and staggers to the corner. Sometimes it is that obvious and everyone in the gym can see they are concussed. This is an obvious cerebellum injury and can affect all aspects of brain function even though the imbalance is what catches our eye. But how do we determine when they are fully recovered and it is safe to return?

We use balance plates, a medical device that can measure their baseline balance score and compare after the injury. It also does a comparison to others in the same age group. It is more sensitive and objective than typical balance tests.

Concussion Treatment

Last year a few local athletes did return with suspicion of a concussion. We were able to retest them with the King Devick and balance plates tests to determine if they had a concussion. In those athletes that did, we were able to incorporate our team to determine the best course of therapy.Football player

The options may include vestibular (balance) exercises, eye exercises, light and sound therapy, interactive metronome and anti-inflammatory supplements for the brain to return the athlete to full recovery as soon as possible. In some cases, we will even do an EEG/Brain Map to determine if Neurofeedback or TMS is an option.

If you have an athlete who has not received a baseline test, schedule an appointment for a sports physical and the concussion screening is included. If your child is injured, don’t put them on the sidelines and just hope they get better with time. Consider an exam to determine the precise rehab protocol for the region of the brain injured.

Joe Bertsch, DC

Joe Bertsch, DC