Top class athletes have a short, sharp life at the top of their game. For those in high contact sports, the time spent at the top is even shorter – and that is dependent on escaping a career ending injury. Major sports like football, rugby, AFL, American football and baseball seems to be played at an ever higher tempo with the athletes increasing in power and size year on year. So how is it that those career-ending injuries are becoming less frequent and players seem to be stretching their careers out longer in spite of the increased demands on the body? Over the past two decades, professional athletes have become far more aware of the importance of properly caring for their bodies. The lifestyles and diet of athletes have changed radically in recent times, with every diet and training choice carefully tweaked to keep performance levels at their highest for the longest amount of time possible. However, diet and lifestyle choices only get you so far! Without question, the one factor that has contributed the most to athletes’ staying power has been the development of physiotherapy techniques over the past twenty years.
Research carried out through the Boston Globe in 2013 found that the trend was evident across all major US sports. In 1982 the starting rosters of all NHL teams saw only 4 players of 35 years or older; in 2013 that number had jumped to 56. The corresponding numbers for the NBA were 2 players in 1982 compared to 20 in 2013 and the NFL saw 14 players in 1982 and 40 in 2013. The research showed that across professional sports, on average, players were enjoying 5 extra years at the top of their sport. One of the biggest factors in the lengthening of careers comes down to the entire approach to injury rehabilitation.
Recurring injuries that were once the blight of professional athletes have been majorly controlled through extensive and prolonged research by physiotherapists across the globe.
This persistent approach to improvement has drastically improved rehabilitation success and massively cut the recurrence of injuries. Hamstring injuries were a real problem for athletes, particularly in football. They also had a large recurrence rate for players who were susceptible to them. In their 2004 paper published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, Marc Sherry and Thomas Best undertook a clinical trial with two different approaches for hamstring injury treatment. 24 athletes suffering with hamstring injury were randomly assigned to two different groups. One group would undergo the normal, traditional hamstring rehab programme of stretching, icing and progressive hamstring resistance training. The second group were given a radically new rehab programme consisting of trunk stabilization, icing and overall progressive agility exercises. The results were staggering. Rehabilitation times were of the same length for both groups but within the first two weeks of return to sport, 54.5% of the traditional rehab group suffered a recurrence of the injury as opposed to 0% in the new rehab group. In the first year, 70% of the traditional group had suffered a recurrence as opposed to 7.7% who underwent the new rehab regime.
Of course, it’s not just with hamstring injuries where improvements have been happening; the ethos of constant improvement and questioning the perceived wisdom runs throughout the physiotherapy world and is improving the lives of not only elite sportsmen but everyone carrying injuries.
At Wolli Creek Physiotherapy & Pilates, you’ll be looked after by highly experienced and passionate young physiotherapists with a range of specialist skills and qualifications. We treat and heal all injuries and pain problems, for all kinds of people.