Monday, October 24, 2011

Physical Therapists Help People of All Ages Avoid Sports Injuries

Playing sports safely is crucial to avoiding injuries that can keep you sidelined, say physical therapists from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

Despite the documented health benefits of physical activity, such as improved cardiovascular endurance, muscular function, and self-esteem, the potential for sports-related injuries exists. Because physical therapists are experts in restoring and improving motion, they are uniquely qualified to help people reduce their risks for various sports-related injuries.

Foot Pain in Runners
Physical therapists can provide a detailed analysis of your running style, often using a treadmill with special video equipment. Many physical therapists have advanced skills in prescribing proper footwear and orthotics.

To reduce the risk of running-related foot pain, physical therapists suggest starting slowly and increasing your runs in increments, in both distance and speed. Consider incorporating other types of endurance exercises to give your feet a rest and bring better balance to your fitness routine. Individuals with stiff feet and high arches typically need more cushioning in their shoes; those with highly flexible feet (usually low arches) often require a stiffer shoe with more support and control.

Bicycle-Related Injuries
Bicycle-related pain and injuries are commonly associated with poor bike fit. To help minimize the risk of injury, physical therapists recommend frequently changing your hand position and keeping a controlled but relaxed grip on the handlebars. When pedaling, keep your knee slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke and avoid rocking your hips.

Knee pain is common when bicycling. This can be caused by a saddle that is too low, pedaling at a low speed, using quadriceps muscles too much in pedaling, or muscle imbalance in the legs. Neck pain, also common, may also be caused by poor handlebar or saddle position. Lower back pain may be caused by inflexible hamstrings, low cadence, using quadriceps muscles too much in pedaling, poor back strength, and too-long or too-low handlebars. To help ensure safety, physical therapists urge cyclists to wear a properly-fitted helmet and use a headlight, bike reflectors, and reflective clothing.

ACL Tears
An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is an injury to the knee commonly affecting soccer players, basketball players, skiers, gymnasts, and other athletes. Extensive research on ACL tears has been conducted with female collegiate athletes because women are 4-6 times more likely to have this injury. Physical therapists can help design a preventive exercise program that improves balance, strength, and sports performance and can help correct faulty technique in jumping, landing, cutting, and running.

Pitcher’s Elbow
Pitcher's Elbow is a chronic inflammation of the growth plate of one of the bones of the elbow, which causes pain and swelling inside the elbow. Little Leaguers who continue to pitch through the pain can eventually cause the growth plate to separate from the bone, requiring surgery to re-attach it. Youth baseball players are at greater risk because their elbows (bones, growth plates, and ligaments) are not fully developed and are more susceptible to overuse injuries.

Risk factors that contribute to elbow pain include pitching too many games, throwing curveballs and breaking pitches, and improper mechanics. Physical therapists can help young players prevent overuse injuries by teaching proper throwing mechanics and exercises to stretch and strengthen the arm. Factors that help prevent pitcher’s elbow include being physically fit, not being fatigued when throwing, adhering to pitch count guidelines, and not playing the positions of both pitcher and catcher for a team. A strengthening program focused on the posterior shoulder may also minimize risk.

Concussion is a brain injury that occurs when the brain is shaken inside the skull, causing changes in the brain's chemistry and energy supply. Anyone exhibiting signs, symptoms, and behaviors of a concussion should be prohibited from further play or participation until he or she can be evaluated by a physical therapist or other qualified health care professional.
A physical therapist can provide a thorough evaluation and may prescribe specific exercises and treatment to reduce or stop dizziness and improve balance. Since neck injuries are common with concussion and can result in headaches and some forms of dizziness, a detailed examination of the neck by a physical therapist can help determine whether treatment to this area is needed.

For more information about how physical therapists can prevent and treat these and other sports-related injuries, please visit

Source: Article above provided by the American Physical Therapy Association

At Fauquier Hospital Outpatient Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation we have highly skilled, experienced clinicians who have a multitude of certifications and skills to treat your sports injuries. If you live in northern Virginia and would like more information to see if you may benefit from physical therapy, please call 540-316-2680to speak to a physical therapist. Or if you prefer to submit an inquiry via email, click on the button below.