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But, I’ll never be as fast or strong as I was pre-injury!

This is a common mindset that I see when working with athletes who have had a major setback due to an injury, especially when surgery is involved. But it is usually far from the truth. In fact, most times I see athletes return to their sport following rehabilitation with more strength, speed, agility, power, and vertical than they had prior to their injury. Let’s look at why this statement is the wrong mindset to have.

1. We are always capable of building muscle and endurance despite your age or injury (unless you have a diagnosed neurologic issue or disease).

Here is an example of an article that shows research that has been done verifying the ability https:/to gain strength at any age:

Building strength and endurance helps us in many ways such as:

  • decreasing bone degeneration,

  • burning calories through a higher metabolism, and

  • decreasing the chance of chronic health problems.

From a performance standpoint, strength training:

  • Increases your joint stability which decreases bone compression with weight bearing,

  • Assists an athlete in jumping higher, throwing harder, and running faster,

  • Helps to decrease strain of smaller, endurance muscles, and

  • Helps us to maintain different postures to prevent injuries.

Increasing endurance takes time and LOTS of repetition of either a movement or an activity to build up what your body can tolerate. Depending on how long we’ve been out of the game and what kind of shape we’re in, it can take longer than you’d think. You may have once been able to run miles, but following an injury you find that you can only run 2 minutes before you feel like you can’t take another step. The best way to handle this when you’re coming back from an injury to return to your sport is to increase your tolerance a little each day. If you find that one day you can’t handle the increase because it either hurts or you’re fatigued, then stay at that level until you master it and then progress again.

It is important that you don’t just jump back into the level that you once were, pre-injury, so that you don’t re-injure yourself, strain something else, or do too much and fatigue to the point that you can’t do any more for the rest of the week. Each day focus to simply increase by 1 minute, 1 pound, or 1 step.

2. Working w/ PT to push you to what I know are your safe limits, will show growth faster and reach goals you didn't know you could. The physical therapist will know what pains are safe and which ones need to be addressed. For example, when you are returning to sport-specific movements following a knee surgery, you may have some aches and pains in the knee or surrounding muscles which might be ok to push through vs pain in your knee joint or surrounding tendons which are saying something isn’t right and a correction in your form or a step back is needed.

I have worked with many athletes post-knee surgery who report patellar tendon pain (pain beneath your knee cap). This isn’t a red flag, but it also shouldn’t be ignored so that it doesn’t turn into something more. The physical therapist can address why this might be hurting by assessing your movement and fixing your form or technique in order to decrease the strain being put on the tendon prior to progressing to the next step.

These minor setbacks can be devastating to an athlete focused on full return to sport if they don’t have the assistance, education, and motivation from their physical therapist in order to work past it.

3. Addressing deficits/weaknesses will allow you to push even harder than you did in the past and progress to levels you may have never been to before. You will learn how to use muscles you not only didn’t know you had, but didn’t know how to use which will sky rocket your strength, endurance, power, velocity, etc. A perfect example of this is learning how to use our glutes, or buttock muscles.

Many people, athletes included, have no clue how to utilize their butt! These muscles are so important even in basic, everyday tasks such as getting up from a chair or walking up stairs. If you don’t know how to activate your buttock muscles, you will find yourself straining your knees or back to do these tasks. Once I show them how to activate their glutes and know when to use them, they instantly notice a decrease in their pain and an increase in their ability to get up from a low surface and walk up and down stairs.

This same principle plays into sports. Once you learn how to activate your buttock muscles, you will see an increase in your speed, agility, and vertical jump simply by telling your muscles to contract. Then you can take this practice and put it into play during your strength training to grow the muscle so that it is even stronger to assist you and you will see huge gains in your sports performance.

So now it is time to reach out! I’m sure at least one of these aspects sounds like something you need to get to the next level or return to your sport. Schedule a time that we can talk by clicking the link here.

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