One of the worst things about a sports injury is watching from the sidelines as your teammates beat — or worse yet, lose to — an opponent. But as anxious as you are to get back to playing, keep in mind that returning too soon can lead to reinjury and even permanent damage. So how do you know when the time is right? Here are seven signs you’re ready to get back out there.
- You’re pain-free. You’ve been off pain medications for some time and there’s no pain at the site of your injury.
- The swelling is gone. There’s no sign of inflammation at the injury site, even after stopping anti-inflammatory medications.
- No one would know you’ve been injured. You’re not limping or favoring one limb over the other, and no one would ever guess you’re coming off an injury.
- You have full range of motion. You can move and extend your joints as far as you could before your injury without any pain or stiffness.
- Your joints are stable. You can bear weight on or use the affected joint without feeling like it might give out or buckle.
- Your strength has (mostly) returned. You can once again use the affected limb, and you’ve been rebuilding your strength with weight-bearing exercise. You’d say about 90 percent of your strength has returned.
- You’re mentally prepared. An injury can be tough on the psyche. You may have experienced stress, lack of confidence and fear over being reinjured, but you’re feeling mentally ready and confident about hitting the field.
This process doesn't happen on its own. The key to getting back in the game is actively participating in an individualized recovery program as soon as your doctor gives you the OK.
Your Comeback Starts Here
Ochsner Performance Training’s return to activity program takes a phased approach so you can gain strength and confidence safely. Sign up for your free trial!
Ochsner Sports Medicine Institute’s Athletic Training Outreach Program provides expertise at over 50 schools in South Louisiana. They help facilitate return to activity for athletes.
Look for a return to activity program that helps you restore functional strength, focuses on teaching proper technique to avoid reinjury, provides psychological support and utilizes sport-specific activities to ease you back into play. Work with your school’s athletic trainer on exercises and drills which will complement your therapy to get you back to game speed. Athletic trainers work on conditioning which will prepare you for full speed or full contact, depending on the sport.
All sessions should be facilitated by sports medicine specialists (who specialize in rehabilitation) and supervised by physical therapists and athletic trainers. Follow their instructions and you’ll be back in uniform in no time — maybe even better, faster and stronger than before.