From runners and cyclists to team members of competitive sports, nearly all athletes are at risk of some kind of injury. For all that athletes do to avoid sports injuries—like warming up, wearing the best gear, using the best technique, and not playing through pain—sometimes accidents happen. Strains, sprains, tears, dislocations, fractures, and breaks can all put an athlete on the sidelines.
Fortunately, physical therapy specialists can help athletes dealing with sports injuries. Physical therapists diagnose and treat issues with movement in order to help an athlete maintain or restore as much of their original function as possible. Regrettably, some younger athletes underestimate the importance of physical therapy, associating it largely with older people, or people recovering from surgery, or thinking that they will be fine without it. However, physical therapy plays a very important role in healing us and avoiding further issues.
1. Without Physical Therapy, Your Injuries Can Worsen
It can be tempting to ignore an injury and continue on with your daily life, especially with your favorite sport calling your name, but without treatment, your injuries can worsen. For instance, a mild concussion can turn into a much more serious brain injury, or a mild sprain can turn into a torn ligament. A small issue can turn into a larger one pretty quickly in the world of sports, so it’s important to meet with a physical therapist before injuries worsen.
It’s not just worsening existing injuries you have to look out for, either. If you’re injured but try to carry on as normal anyway, you risk doing damage to other parts of your body, too. In an effort to protect an existing injury, you may move in an unnatural way, putting the rest of your body at risk. Plus, a previously injured bone, joint, or muscle is more prone to injury, especially if it was not able to heal correctly. Never try to play through the pain; instead, alert your coach and seek out medical help.
2. Pain and Swelling Can Become Chronic Issues
Swelling is an important tool our bodies use to heal, but excessive swelling can be dangerous. Swelling occurs when white blood cells and enzymes are sent to an injury to break down and then rebuild the damaged area. This rush of blood can cause our skin to become red and hot, and it can also cause further pain. This pain, caused by the excess blood compressing nearby nerves, is also an important tool for healing, as it encourages us to leave our injury alone and not use the injured part of our body.
But if swelling is good, why are we told to elevate a sprained ankle, for instance? It turns out that swelling immediately after an injury occurs is good, but sometimes our bodies overdo it. The enzymes our body sends to break down damaged tissue to make way for new, healthy tissue are good at first, but eventually, they’ll start attacking healthy tissue, too. Plus, prolonged swelling can turn into chronic swelling, causing affected tissue to become rigid, in turn making that part of the body even easier to injure in the future.
Physical therapists, however, know how to treat and prevent these issues. With a treatment plan tailored to you, they can walk you through exercises and give you massages to decrease pain and swelling, increasing your comfort and decreasing your risk of future complications.
3. Physical Therapy Can Help You Avoid Surgery
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of physical therapy to athletes suffering from sports injuries is the avoidance of surgery. For many athletes, the mere thought of surgery can be overwhelming; just as an injury can take you out of a game, so can a lengthy recovery. The above issues of new injuries, worsening injuries, excess swelling and severe pain can all lead to avoidable surgeries.
These outcomes can be avoided. By accurately assessing, diagnosing, and treating your pain, a physical therapist can stop some conditions from progressing or even reverse them entirely, eliminating your need for surgery. While there are severe cases in which surgery can’t be avoided, typically physical therapy can go a long way in keeping you out of an operating room.
4. You’ll Want To Get Back in the Game
Ultimately, if you’ve suffered a sports injury, chances are you’ll want to return to your sport or activity as quickly as possible. It’s important to remember that, at best, participating in your favorite sport is dangerous and uncomfortable, and at worst, it could take you out of the game entirely, especially if the injury goes untreated. However, by understanding the importance of physical therapy and meeting regularly with your therapist, you’ll be able to work on restoring your strength, mobility, and balance, giving you the control and confidence you need to make a full recovery and triumphant return.
If you’re looking for a physical therapist in the Pittsburgh area, try . is a board-certified orthopedic and sports medicine specialist who can help you with your sports injury. or call (412)-661-5500 to schedule an appointment today.