Regaining fitness after a sports injury
Posted on 3 October 2016
For sportspeople or those with very active lifestyles, injuries often come with the territory. While you may be longing to resume your fitness routine as quickly as possible, sports doctor Dr Jann Killops advises making sure you’re making wise medical decisions and not pushing your body beyond its limits after a sports injury.
Before even thinking about getting back into the gym or onto the sports field after an injury, ensure that you’ve consulted with an appropriate sports physician or rehabilitation specialist.
Dr Killops, a sports doctor and manager of Mediclinic’s events department, provides some guidelines on making a healthy return to your sports regimen.
Fitness sports injury guidelines
According to Dr Killops, the new guidelines for soft tissue injury are summarised in the acronym POLICE.
- Positioning correctly to promote healing.
- Optimal Loading: gentle motion can, and should, be started and progressively increased to avoid sports injury recurrence or delayed recovery because of joint and muscle tightness or muscle atrophy.
- Icing to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Compression through the use of bandages or tape to reduce swelling and for soft tissue support.
- Elevation to reduce swelling.
‘These decisions are always best made after consultation with your sports physician and rehabilitation therapist,’ she advises.
Medication dos and don’ts
It’s important for a medical professional to monitor your use of pain medication and other remedies so as not to impede the natural healing process. Dr Killops suggests avoiding the following:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs for the first 48 hours to allow the body’s natural response to kick in to promote healing. But after two days anti-inflammatory drugs help to control swelling and pain.
- Certain herbal medications, which also have anti-inflammatory properties so it’s best to apply this advice to them too.
- Aspirin, which acts as an anticoagulant and can also increase bleeding and bruising. So unless there is a reason to use aspirin, for example, heart disease, it is best avoided.
In terms of regaining your fitness, taking small steps and listening to your body is key to prevent aggravating existing injuries. ‘Pain should be used to guide the limits of activity,’ says Dr Killops.
‘Don’t rush your return to play or exercise; be guided by your rehabilitation therapist or physiotherapist to avoid chronic injury. It’s also best not to exercise after taking anti-inflammatory medication. But depending on the severity of the sports injury, slow increments in exercise can aid healing,’ she adds.
‘However, complete rest may be advised for the injured muscle group, but that doesn’t prevent you from, for example, exercising your uninjured upper body to maintain cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. Make these decisions under the advice of sports medicine professionals.’