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Bridging the Gap

Written by Jess VandenBerg MS, AT, ATC, CSCS
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RS924 shutterstock 84331045 resizeIf you have ever rehabilitated an athletic injury, you know there is a big difference between completing your rehab, and returning to competition.  You are pain free, have full range of motion, and are completely functional, but are you prepared for the true demands of your sport, both mentally and physically?

Bridging the gap between rehabilitation and competition is an important component to recovery that many people do not consider. Strength deficits, motor control, speed, agility and reaction time are often affected by an injury. When we have reached our rehabilitation goals we sometimes still fall short of where we need to be to return to sport.

This is where a Return to Play program comes in.

Return to Play (RTP) programs take an athlete who is healed from their injury, and re-introduces their bodies to the demands of their sport. Every RTP program is different, and designed specifically for that athlete, but some common components are:

RS943 shutterstock 83274430Strength Training: The RTP should consists of an overall strengthening program to recover any strength lost while injured, and regain confidence in the weight room. Proper form is the number one goal, followed by strength gains.

Speed, Agility and Plyometrics: RTP teaches proper running, cutting and jumping form before demanding higher speeds of activity. By ensuring that an athlete learns proper mechanics you reduce the risk of a non-contact injury such as an ACL tear, while improving on their agility and speed.

Cardiovascular Conditioning: Depending on the demands of the sport and severity of the injury, the RTP may be the first time the athlete has stressed their cardiovascular system since their injury. If the athletes cardiovascular level is not equal to the demands of their sport, the athlete runs the risk of tiring faster, and being more susceptible to injury.

Sport Specific Training: RTP should spend time focusing on the specific demands of the sports, to help the athlete regain confidence in their ability to perform. By reinforcing a reaction to a stimulus, the action of the athlete becomes second nature again, therefore increasing the athlete’s confidence in their skill level.

RS948 shutterstock 53949424At The Academy for Sports and Wellness, located within our Southeast clinic, we offer Return to Play programs for athletes of all ages. Our Return to Play programs are collaborated on between physical therapists, athletic trainers, and strength and conditioning specialist to best design a program that fits the needs of each individual athlete.

For more information about our Return to Play Program visit http://www.pt-cpr.com/academy/return-to-play

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