Injury Recovery Vs Return to Sport

Updated: May 31

In a recent podcast I took part in, a great question was asked of me. What's the difference between being recovered from an injury and being ready to return to sport again.

I'm guilty of this one myself, thinking I am good to go after an injury with only minimal rehab because the pain is gone and I feel good only to cause another injury!

In my opinion there can be too much emphasis on returning to sport quickly rather than effectively and safe, and I'll discuss why as we go on.

Bridging The Gap

There is a gap between being pain free and returning to sport and we need to fill in that gap with the best possible rehab. This will give you the best possible outcome to return to your sport.

Too many people are quick to return without having any form of treatment or any key performance indicators.

Can you go through full range of movement ?

Can you load that muscle isometrically ?

Can you hop ?

Can you jog ?

Can you change direction ?

Can you increase the load and intensity of all of these ?

Just because your pain free does not make you ready. There are some key milestones we need to check off before we get you back sprinting for that ball in the last 10 minutes of the game.

So What Do You Do ?

You rehab the injury.

You carry out specific mobility, exercise, movement patterns at varying levels of load and intensity, you check all the boxes and you earn the right to get back onto that pitch.

This is a great image of that process in practice, I see so many people who will skip from pain free to back to play. As you can see you have just gone from level 3 to level 10 without asking the question - Am I ready for this ?

Lets take running for example

Out running you felt a pain, pulled up and stopped, rested up for a week or so and the pain is gone.

You go back out running but just can't get that rhythm back, can't shake that niggle, get sore after x miles or when you run at your old speed and eventually break down again.

That's the typical scenario and if you are reading this I'm sure you've been there, I know I have.

Here's what you should have done

Get treatment within a couple of days.

Introduce isometric exercise alongside range of motion work.

Start reintroducing loading movements to the joint.

Bring in some eccentric movements increasing the load and intensity

Start lunging and hopping in all planes of motion up to high intensity.

Re-introduce low intensity jogging timed and distanced.

Gradually increase the time and intensity to get you back to running.

Yes option 1 is easier but option 2 is RIGHT

Hit the milestones and you will have earned the right to run, don't and you are going to get injured again. Or you're going to lay down a pattern of movement compensation that at some stage is going to come back and bite you.

So as I said, there's a GAP, fill it, come back stronger.

Just because the pain is gone does not give you the right to return.

If you found this interesting or would like to ask a question drop me a comment below and I'll get back to you.

If you think I can help you drop me a message or book a free 30 minute online consultation here.


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