Acute Sport Injuries: "What Should I Do and How Do I Return to Activity?"
As the Athletic Therapist at the Calgary Police Services headquarters, I work with a variety of clients including desk workers, active/ex Police Officers, and a large portion of recruits working their way through the physical demands of training. In most cases, my team is working towards getting our clients back to the high-level demands of their job, training, and/or recreational activities and sports. I had the great opportunity of working full seasons with the Men's Basketball team and the Women's hockey team at the University of Calgary while completing my Athletic Therapy program. During this time, I treated injuries from the moment they occurred until full return to play, with the emphasis of getting athletes back as soon as safely possible. With these experiences, I developed a passion for getting my patients back to high level activity, and this has been very relatable to my clientele at CPS.
When we are talking about acute sports injuries, I am using it as an umbrella term to encompass any kind of traumatic injury, regardless of severity, that occurs during a specific activity/movement, fall, twist, etc. This could be a sprained ankle, twisted knee, rotator cuff strain while working out, and many more. In sports, as well as with recruits and officers, we see a large variety of these injuries, from head to toe.
But what should you do when something happens, and how do you get back to your desired activity level?
1) Seek HELP Immediately and AVOID Aggravating Activity:
What you do during the initial, acute phase of any injury is very important. If any movement/activity is causing aggravation of your symptoms, it is likely hindering the initial phase of healing.
Often people are unsure of when or if to seek help. Early diagnosis of injury type, and education on proper care in the first 1-3 days such as Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, or simply activity modification is essential. The proper interventions early on can greatly impact the timeline and effectiveness of recovery. Find a trained professional such as a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, or Athletic Therapist to help guide you through the rehab process, and/or recommend diagnostic testing if applicable.
2) Manual Therapy, Home Exercises, and Progressive Overload:
Along with many effective manual techniques that therapists use to physically treat affected soft tissue or joints, we will also be able to provide proper strengthening and/or stretching exercises for you to further progress the rehab. One common error people make is doing too much too soon when they begin to feel better after the acute phase. If the activity type, load, volume, or frequency is not introduced in a progressive fashion, setbacks and re-aggravation are very likely. Our bodies are amazing at adapting and getting stronger to stresses placed on healing tissue, but if the load/demand exceeds our physiological capacity, then exacerbation of the injury will occur. Simply put, overload slows down the healing timeline. Balancing this load and capacity at different stages of recovery can be tricky, and proper guidance from a trained professional throughout this process can be extremely effective.
Activity/Sport-Specific Training, Testing, and Return To Play:
So, you're feeling "100%", but have not tried your desired activity or sport yet. It is essential that we "practice like we play” and return gradually to the very specific demands of an activity or sport. Relating back to progressive overload, we cannot expect to return to full capacity without taking incremental steps. The re-integration of activity-specific exercises/movements needs to be done properly.
For example, someone with a knee injury returning to competitive football needs to be able to run, but let's separate "running" into progressions of least to most demanding: Linear (forward), Linear (backward), S curves, Zig-Zags, Uncontrolled Cuts. We want to gradually progress through each of these running drills from easiest to hardest as well as from low to full speed/intensity. Any sport or activity can be broken into these types of progressions. It is important to work through these stages and functionally test for positive or negative outcomes. This helps determine readiness for someone to return to their activity safely and at full capacity.
This re-integration into sport and activity has become my passion. I truly enjoy getting people back to doing what they love, helping Officers get back to the strenuous demands of their duties, or helping recruits safely get through their training.
I hope this has helped with the understanding of acute injuries, treatment/progressions throughout the rehab process, and the benefits of professional guidance in getting you back to your desired activity, as quickly and safely as possible.
Brendan Warawa, BKin, CAT(C) Athletic Therapist, Kinesiologist
Brendan completed his undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at the University of Calgary and Advanced Certificate in Athletic Therapy at Mount Royal University. Brendan has worked with a wide variety of athletes, weekend warriors, and sports teams, specifically the U of C’s basketball and hockey programs. Brendan has a true passion for helping people return to their highest level of activity and meeting individual goals. In his spare time, Brendan enjoys spending time with his family, friends, camping, fishing, hiking, and anything else that gets him outdoors.
Brendan works exclusively with the Staff and families of Calgary Police Service at the headquarters at Westwinds Campus.