Basketball is one of the most popular sports in America, especially among kids and young adults.
From March Madness to the NBA finals, people love watching and playing basketball.
The love for playing the game doesn’t come without the risk of injury, though.
Whether played recreationally or in an organized league, injuries happen, even with the pros.
A big enough injury can keep you out of the game altogether, like James Wiseman of the Golden State Warriors. He hasn’t seen play in over a year due to a right knee injury.
Some injuries, like knee injuries, are more common than others. They typically involve the lower body.
Here we’ve ranked the five most common types in basketball:
Nearly half of all basketball-related injuries involve the ankle and foot. From “rolling” an ankle, to landing awkwardly, to getting stepped on, playing basketball leaves athletes open to injury.
A standard treatment for ankle injuries, specifically ankle sprains, often centers around a method remembered by the acronym RICE:
Most injuries can be treated without a trip to the doctor’s office with this practice. But if you have the following symptoms, a trip to urgent care might be better:
- Pain directly on top of the outside bone of your foot
- Inability to walk a couple steps
Physical therapy could be helpful, too, depending on the severity of the sprain.
Typically, with the right rehab plan, an athlete can be back in their sport in two-to-six weeks.
Getting a knee to the thigh can be one of the worst pains for a basketball player.
Because of this, more athletes are wearing compression garments with thigh padding. If hit hard enough in the thigh by an opposing player, the muscle can tighten up and bruise.
Typically, an athlete can play through bruising. But some deep tissue massage by a licensed therapist is helpful to loosen up the muscle.
Treatments for a thigh bruise might include:
- ICE: ice, compression and elevation
If you watch or play basketball with any regularity, this one is not surprise.
The three biggies include:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): ACL injuries are the most talked about of the knee injuries. The ACL is one of the bands of ligaments connecting the thigh bone to the shin bone at the knee.
Injury can range from a tiny tear to a significant tear. A bad tear, separating from the bone, generally requires surgery and months of physical therapy for return to play.
Go in-depth with our article on three ways to prevent ACL injury.
- Meniscus: The meniscus is the little brother of the ACL. Every knee has two, and often they are injured along with the ACL.
A meniscus is one of two rubber-like wedge-shaped cushions for each knee joint. Without them, the thigh bones would sit directly on top of the lower leg bones. Over time, this bone on bone condition causes pain as th bones rub together.
Treatment for meniscus injuries depends on the level of injury. It can vary from ICE, which we talked about above, to surgery and physical therapy, to just physical therapy.
- Patella tendon: Patella tendonitis – jumper’s knee – is a result of inflammation of the patella tendon which connects your kneecap to your shin bone.
Jumper’s knee can often be healed with customized exercise guided by a physical therapist. Here, too, the RICE method, with emphasis on the “R”, is quite effective.
Jammed fingers are exceptionally common (and painful!). They often occur when the finger, fully extended, hits the ball “head on” without bending.
This kind of finger jam can lead to immediate pain then swelling.
Although uncomfortable, this injury isn’t considered serious.
Jammed fingers typically heal without medical intervention or the need for a trip to the emergency room.
Buddy taping (taping the finger to the finger next to it) and icing can help you heal in as little as a week.
But if pain or swelling persists, a consult with your doctor or a physical therapist can determine if there’s something else in play.
Concussions make up about 15% of all sport-related injuries, not just basketball.
A concussion is a brain injury that occurs with a physical impact to the head or neck, like whiplash.
Most sports-related concussions can be managed by either an athletic trainer individual or in tandem with a physical therapist. Athletic trainers may also work in combination with a doctor and other health care professionals.
In basketball, a few examples of when concussion can occur:
- An athlete hits their head on the hard gym floor
- Head-to-head contact between two players
- Head-to-elbow contact
- Head-to-shoulder contact
- Any collision involving the head
When concussion is diagnosed, the athlete is unable to return to play for a period of time. This can be a 5- or 7-day waiting period, or until the treating health professional gives approval.
Concussion recovery can go slowly if symptoms linger. When this occurs, supervision by the health care provider is key for successful healing.
Working with a licensed physical therapist can help with the recovery of nearly all of these injuries.
Think you may have one of these, or another type of sports injury? Click the blue Request An Appointment button to find a physical therapy center near you.
We offer complimentary consultations so you can get back on the court.
By: Wyneisha Mason, MAT, ATC. ‘Neisha is an athletic trainer with RUSH Physical Therapy in Chicago, Illinois.
RUSH and Select Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.
Running can be a real rush – a bit euphoric, even!
The health benefits of a good run – long-distance or short runs – do the heart and mind good. That rush – a “runner’s high” – can give you a boost in mood and sense of accomplishment
For race runners, nothing beats that “mission accomplished” feeling after putting in the work and crossing the finish line.
If you run for health or sport, race running might seem like a lofty goal or dream. You can see the finish line banner in your head but then…
But with the right planning and commitment, it’s totally doable!
Our work with runners of all athletic levels gives us a competitive edge in helping keep them safe and running. We can help you, too.
It starts with some basic but important need-to-knows.
In this article we break them down into a series of four S’s of safe marathon training:
- Stress injury prevention
- Standards of progress
- Strength training
- Shoe (yes, shoes!)
If you’ve been thinking about pushing to a next level and running your first half-marathon, read on!
Stress injuries that can stop you in your tracks
Injuries to feet, ankles and legs are common for runners.
If you run on a regular basis, it’s likely you’ll have an injury at some point.
The most common are repetitive stress injuries (RSIs). They’re also called repetitive overuse injuries or repetitive strain injuries.
80% of running injuries are overuse, repetitive stress injuries.
~ PubMed Central (PMC), Injuries in Runners; A Systematic Review on Risk Factors and Sex Differences
These happen with movement that’s repeated over and over.
Think about the act of running and your feet hitting the ground.
The constant slap-slapping of shoes on pavement or other hard surfaces. Muscles pulling on bone to propel you forward. All of this works together to make our bones and tendons stronger.
Now add to that any increases in your running distance as you train. This pushes your body past the point of comfort; each bit more adding more stress to tendons and bones. The intensity stimulates collagen growth – the protein that helps joints flex and absorb impact.
But add too much stress and the body can’t adapt quickly enough. The force of running and the extra miles is too much for the bones, tendons and joints and you can end up with micro-fractures or tears.
RSIs include other injuries too, some higher in the Ouch! factor than others. But any of them can all take a runner off course.
Not surprisingly, the knees, legs and feet take the top positions for injury to body parts from running.
Looking at the injuries themselves, RSIs include:
- Sprains - overstretched ligament with pain, swelling or bruising
- Stress fractures - hairline cracks in bone with bruising or tenderness
- Shin splints - pain in front of inner part of lower leg near shin bone
- Plantar fasciitis - pain under heel or bottom of foot
- Achilles tendinitis - inflammation of the tendon connecting calf muscle to heel
These injuries can take weeks of rest to heal, bringing your training runs to a screeching halt.
So slow your training down a bit. Giving yourself a few more weeks to train before adding to your weekly mileage can be the difference to successfully reaching your goal.
Let’s talk about how to do that.
Stress injury prevention that keeps you in running shape
Let’s look at a study.
Okay, maybe a study doesn’t sound fun…
But stick with us here.
We use them because the research helps us be better care providers. Research finds new ways to treat and prevent injury. That means we can better support your training or treat your condition or injury.
A study of risk factors of lower extremity running injuries (van Gent et al.) estimated that 60% of running injuries were attributed to preventable training mistakes. In half these cases, the mistake was excessive mileage.
Breaking that down a bit and it’s all about your training.
That may have you asking, How should I progress my mileage?
Standard of progress for safely increasing you running distance
There’s a rule for how to increase your running distance (we like rules!).
The 10% rule is the most cited standard to progress running distance.
It allows for increasing distance at a rate that gives your body time to adapt to the added stress.
Runners can do this two ways:
- Increase weekly mileage
- Increase total minutes by 10% week over week
Here’s how it looks.
Week 1: Distance - Run three 3-mile runs (a total of 9 miles). Week 2 run two 3-mile runs and one 4-mile run (a total of 10 miles).
Here’s an example using minutes.
Week 1: Time - Start with run/walk interval training. Run 20 minutes out of a 30-minute workout. Week 2 increase to 22 out of the 30 minutes.
That said, we work with runners individually. We want to learn about their experience and where they are in their running program and training.
It’s a partnership we build with you to reach your ideal parameters for getting to your distance goals. That includes injury prevention.
While it may not be as simple as applying the 10% rule to all runners, it’s a good place to start for an experienced runner.
We’ve created this chart for training with your sports medicine specialist or physical therapist. Click to download a copy of the training chart.
10-Week Half Marathon Training Program:
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Total Miles Week 1 Rest 3 Strength 3 Strength Rest 3 9 Week 2 Rest 3 Strength 3 Strength Rest 4 10 Week 3 Rest 3 Strength 3 Strength Rest 5 11 Week 4 Rest 4 Strength 3 Strength Rest 6 13 Week 5 Rest 4 Strength 3 Strength Rest 7 14 Week 6 Rest 5 Strength 4 Strength Rest 6 15 Week 7 Rest 5 Strength 3 Strength Rest 8 16 Week 8 Rest 4 Strength 3 Strength Rest 10 17 Week 9 Rest 4 Strength 4 Strength Rest 11 19 Week 10 Rest 3 Strength 3 Strength Rest Race day (13.1) 19.1
This 10-week schedule roughly follows the 10% rule. It’s a good plan for the runner who can already run a 5k distance at the start of training.
Scheduling rest days in your training gives your bones, muscles and tendons time to recover.
How should I focus my strength training?
Runners only have one foot on the ground at any time. That means you are constantly having to balance on one leg.
This is important for how the ankles and hips work while running. These body parts need to make quick adjustments to maintain balance and have both legs share the shift in your weight evenly.
Your training plan will benefit from working with your therapist’s single-leg balance and strengthening exercises in your workouts.
- Single-leg heel raises
- Single-leg squats
- Single-leg bridges
- Single-leg Romanian deadlifts
If the shoe fits
You’ve heard the phrase. But for the runner, the wrong size and fit can start all sorts of problems.
The running community has lots to say about footwear, and which type is best for preventing injury.
Some advocate for shoes with cushion and support. Others for barefoot running.
There’s research on both.
One study had Marines in basic training wear different shoes based on the arches of their feet. Each arch type – low, medium, high – got a different type of shoe.
The results, when compared to a control group who wore only one type of shoe, regardless of their arch type, showed no difference in injury between the groups. Now, if you like research, like we do, check out the full article on the Marine Corps shoe study.
The concept of barefoot running is based on the theory that, well…barefoot is best. The jury is still out on this one.
There’s also the argument that wearing shoes changes the way we run. Barefoot enthusiasts say that the human foot evolved to handle the forces of running without the need for the support of shoes.
But running on hard surfaces, like concrete or asphalt, barefoot may cause a higher amount of stress fractures.
With either choice, the best option is to choose what’s right for your run – what feels best to you and what keeps you safe.
If choosing a shoe, go a half size bigger than your walking or dress shoe. This will give room for your midfoot and toes to spread out as you push off. There’s also room if your feet swell a bit on longer runs.
Running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles or every six months to a year based on how much they are used.
Write the date on the inside tongue of your new shoes to track how long you’ve used them.
You might consider a gait analysis when you’re looking to buy running shoes. This can identify any movement patterns or bad running habits that could result in injury. You can schedule an analysis from one of our outpatient physical therapy centers or a local running store.
There you have it!
Four steps to build a training plan that helps you avoid injury, build up your strength and distance, choose your shoes and get out there and run toward race day.
Article research courtesy of Jasmine Fisk, P.T., DPT
Treating hand, wrist, arm, elbow and shoulder injuries in athletes
When you've got an injured athlete, what's your move to get them back in the game?
For some sports organizations, athletic trainers and team doctors are on deck to treat most sports injuries. But there's a variety of health professionals who help players get their pitch, swing or throw back.
Did you know that occupational therapists play key roles in athletic injury treatment? With all the throwing, lobbing, pitching and twisting that comes with playing sports, the need for therapy is big.
Upper extremity injuries in athletes are common, sidelining them from play. As many as one in four injuries are to the hand or wrist.
Occupational therapists (OTs) specialize in these types of injuries and more. Their goal is to help the athlete recover and safely return to play.
How occupational therapists help athletes
Occupational therapists (OTs) work with all kinds of individuals to overcome physical setbacks from illness or injury. For athletes, this is key for a return to play after injury.
Just as athletes are unique in their play with their sport, injuries are unique to them. For example, athletic injuries can occur in all ages, from Little Leaguers to Silver Sneakers. Treating a specific type of injury, like a broken arm, will be different for a patient who's 7 and another who's 70.
An OT's role is to assess the impact of injury and the limitations it causes.
Therapy is then based on the skills the individual needs to recover to overcome those limitations.
OTs are specialists in assessing the impact of injury on many parts of the body's framework such as:
The level of an injury can vary from acute to chronic.
For example, an acute injury is sudden, like breaking a wrist.
A chronic injury is one that happens over time, like tendonitis of the wrist. Tendonitis builds up after long periods of overuse, doing the same movements over and over, like serving a tennis ball.
Whatever the injury, OTs are highly-skilled in treating a variety of injuries.
For the weekend warrior or a pro athlete, your path to recovery from a sports injury will be unique. And just like the role you play on the court, the track or the field, you'll play a major league role in your healing process.
Here's some inside baseball on what that will look like.
Expect your doctor and OT to talk with you about your goals for recovery. This is key for planning your way back to play and any restrictions you'll need to follow.
Your local physical therapy center will be your home base for therapy sessions. This is to ensure your safety during treatment.
Your therapist will guide you in proper movement and the use of any equipment to make sure you are doing each exercise right. This helps improve your range of motion and stay on track for healing.
Your therapy may include strength training with resistance bands or weights to improve dexterity and build strength.
If your therapy includes doing exercise at home between scheduled appointments, you may benefit from having your OT take a look at your personal equipment and how you use it. They can spot if it's appropriate for your use and goals for healing. They can also see if you're using it right and, if not, help you to correct it.
Each step of your treatment is planned to help you heal from the injury and get back to your goals.
Brace yourself for orthotic devices
For serious injury or bad breaks that take you out of play, your OT may want to restrict the motion or movement of your injury to help with healing.
The terms – splint, brace, wrap or cast – are pretty common, so, it's likely you've heard them before. In medical terms, though, you might hear your therapist refer to them as an orthotic device or orthosis.
The bottom line, whatever the device looks like, is that it will be fairly rigid or stiff to keep a joint or broken bone in place as it heals.
Orthotics can be made and fitted for:
For a less serious level of injury, there are a host of orthoses we can provide to support and protect to keep you in the game, no matter your game!
These upper extremity orthoses can be fit for thumb, fingers, hand, wrist, forearm and shoulder.
These are custom-fitted and made onsite at our center so you can leave your appointment with what you need.
Your therapist will ensure it fits right for comfort, support and protection.
At the ‘core’ of your injury
Your core is a complex series of muscles extending far beyond your abs. So if you’re thinking “six-pack” or “washboard” abs, think bigger!
The core is made up of 20-plus muscles at the center of the body. It includes major and minor muscles of the stomach, hips and low back. They all work in tandem, making the core part of nearly every movement we make.
Having a strong core (diaphragm, abs, glute and pelvic muscles) and good dynamic balance plays a large part in athletic activities. Weakness in either of these areas may be flagged by your therapist for you to get a movement screen assessment.
The core helps:
- Stabilize movement
- Transfer force from one extremity to another
- Initiate movement
If your core strength is weak, the strength and coordination of your upper extremity isn't at full potential.
Occupational therapists who work with patients on upper extremity recovery consider the whole body during treatment. Your OT will work on improving core strength as well as leg and hip strength as it applies to your sport.
The power of occupational therapy
Getting back to a well-loved sport or activity is important to anyone who's sidelined by injury.
It doesn't matter if you’re competing at an elite level or just want to retain an active lifestyle to get the benefits of occupational therapy. Our OTs know how to create a rehabilitation plan to meet your goals.
Our occupational and hand therapists can help you:
- Avoid injury
- Perform better
- Recover from injuries quickly and safely
We're here for you. Our proven therapies, along with compassionate care, offer the best outcome for your injury.
Take a look at all the sports medicine and injury prevention services we offer. Then click on any of our pages' blue Request an appointment buttons and come see us!
How the ravages of history launched two profound professions
When a doctor recommends occupational therapy (OT), rather than physical therapy (PT), many people don't at first realize there are two kinds of therapies.
It might also not be understood that there's a difference between them, or why a doctor prescribes one over the other.
As therapists, we get this question a lot.
For sure, there's a difference between the therapies and how they're used in healing and recovery. And the story is more interesting than you might imagine…
A short history of modern therapy
Movement and manual therapies can be traced back to ancient Asia, Greece and Rome. Those early practices included massage and hydrotherapy (water therapy).
In the 1920s and ‘30s, Franklin D. Roosevelt found relief with hydrotherapy (water therapy). FDR shown here receiving physical therapy or exercising with assistance in an indoor pool at Warm Springs, GA, 1928. Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
Fast-forward to modern-day therapy which began in 18th century Sweden with the practice of orthopedics — the medical focus on bones and muscles.
A bit later, Hanrik Ling, developed the Swedish Gymnastic System (also known as the Swedish Movement Cure). His motivation? Having experienced the benefit of improved body movement through his practice of fencing.
At its core, Ling's system emphasized physical conditioning for its ability to improve health and body function. It combined lesser intensive floor-style of gymnastics with manual therapy. Ling's approach brought wide acceptance of his methods.
In 1813, the Swedish government appointed Ling to start the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics (RCIG).
Ling's system became wider spread as graduates of the RCIG adopted its four core components:
- physical education
- massage, physical therapy, physiotherapy
- dance performance
One more fast-forward to the 1920s. The polio epidemic was raging in the United States, especially among children.
During the epidemic, two schools of thought emerged.
One used the practice of immobilizing the limbs of patients believing limb movement and stretching would impair muscle recovery and cause more deformity.
A second practice re-introduced the Roman practice of hydrotherapy. Here therapists used exercise in heated pools to improve a patient's muscle recovery and movement.
Polio paralysis spurred working with patients to improve balance and regain muscle strength. The benefit of warm water was helpful as well as buoyancy – water supports body weight and reduces stress on the joints.
The practice – active polio therapy – helped grow a population of physical therapy (PT) specialists who became instrumental in treating polio paralysis.
These early PTs developed methods for assessing and strengthening muscles – methods still used today.
This piece of history gave the push to establishing the profession of physical therapy in the U.S.
Turning now to the topic of occupational therapy (OT), its history doesn't stretch back as far as those of physical therapy.
But its roots in America began to grown in the late 1800s. This happened primarily as a way to help individuals with mental illness by engaging them in meaningful tasks. Examples include gardening, painting and arts and crafts creation.
The U.S. military also began recognizing the importance of mental health services for wounded and traumatized soldiers to help them resume daily living.
This marked an entry for OT services in the treatment of individuals with mental and physical needs.
Three movements of thought were significant in the development of OT:
- The consensus that mental health patients should be treated and not put in asylums or prisons.
- The reemergence of the value of manual occupation and vocational skills over mass production.
- The rise of thought that working with your hands to produce items of value can be beneficial to a person’s overall health.
During this time, mental health asylums changed to reflect these new ideas. They were ideas of humane rehabilitation and included craft and recreational activities to help patients return to society through their contributions.
These ideas were foundational for developing OT.
About 1915, a social worker named Eleanor Clark Slagle started the first formal OT education program at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Dubbed the "mother of occupational therapy" she trained more than 4,000 therapists and promoted OT within the medical community.
While PT and OT therapies were in their infancy on the two sides of the Atlantic, it was America's entry into the Great War in 1917 where they came together.
To summarize some of the above timeframes, it's worth a look at how it happened.
World War I and its transformation of therapy
World War I transformed medicine and contributed to the development of today's scope of medical care.
The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was about 40 million.. and about 23 million wounded military personnel.
With the staggering number of wounded worldwide, orthopedics and therapists rapidly advanced to meet the need.
The course of thought was that society had a moral responsibility to help these soldiers return to a normal and purposeful life. Thus, medical specialties developed to fill this need.
The U.S. military hired a small group of women, calling them "reconstruction aides." In their roles they provided treatment by teaching occupation skills to the wounded.
The initial 18 aides were trained in the latest European physiotherapy practices at the time. Aides were chosen from civilian women and women from the newly established profession of OT.
Both therapy groups expanded rapidly to help the soldiers with recovery.
Of the original 18 Aides, 16 went on to form the American Women's Physical Therapeutic Association. This later became the American Physical Therapy Association with McMillan as president.
– The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.
Soldiers recovering from severe wounds learn basket weaving as a form of occupational therapy, led by the World War Reconstruction Aides Assocation. Learning basket weaving (Reeve 000290), National Museum of Health and Medicine.
The work of these aides brought the military to begin seeing disability in terms of capability in function, and not as limitation.
Their successes were many, helping wounded soldiers learn to walk again and freely move about in their environments.
These early therapists gave training in the use of arm prosthetics, adapted home and work spaces and taught crafts and vocational skills for mental diversion and future employment.
The convergence of today's therapies and practitioners
After WWI, occupational and physical therapy continued to advance.
And with their evolutions came recognition for the benefits they each provided.
But sometimes there was division in which to prescribe: occupational therapy vs physical therapy.
What became clear over time, with advances in the professions, is the benefit to individuals when providing therapies in tandem.
Today's occupational and physical therapists work together in the shared goal of improving an individual’s function through movement.
As individual medical treatments, the therapies, when used together, can have profound results.
Because of this they are recognized as separate but symbiotic professions.
Working in a variety of settings
- Outpatient rehabilitation centers
- Home health agencies
- Nursing homes
Training in key disciplines
Using similar therapy techniques
- Soft tissue mobilization
- Functional activities
- Pain relief
Opposites attract, even in medicine
Even with similarities between the two professions, there are also key differences.
Physical therapy focuses on improving movement, flexibility and mobility. This includes improving physical motion required for a task.
Physical therapy has a unique approach to mobility – movement and muscle balance. It uses prescribed treatment techniques to maximize function, capacity and performance.
PTs work with patients before and after surgery to build strength and kick-start healing. Therapy uses movement to reduce pain, recover from an injury and promote balance to reduce the risk of falls.
The occupational therapy profession has a different focus.
That focus is on functional ability – the ability of an individual to do activities, work and tasks that are normally performed in everyday living and occupation.
That focus gives occupational therapy its name.
Occupation is defined as an activity that is meaningful and purposeful to the individual. It can include basic activities such as dressing, bathing or fixing a meal.
It can also include specific activities which are unique to the individual.
For example, you may be a high school teacher, home gardener, pianist or an electrician. Each occupation requires a unique set of activities. If those activities are compromised by illness or injury, OTs can help.
Your therapist will assess your current function and how to improve your ability to perform a task or modify it to help you complete it.
Now that you know more about the differences between OT and PT, should you need therapy you'll be able to spot the differences in what your therapist recommends.
Of course, it all depends on your condition, your needs, and personal goals.
But thanks to a long history of the disciplines, and more than a century of experience since WWI, PTs and OTs are specialists in your care.
Our job is to help get you back to enjoying the activities that matter to you.
If you or someone in your family might benefit from our therapies, request an appointment with us. We're here to help.
Sports medicine’s health care specialists on and off the field
You’ve seen them hustling across the football field or crouching beside a player on the sideline whose face is twisted in pain.
They don’t wear the black and white stripes of the referee, but their breed is just as easy to spot. And their presence on the field can be just as critical as a game-changing field goal, free throw or hat trick.
Enter the athletic trainer, or AT.
Often sporting khaki pants, a fanny pack and a polo or sports shirt in team colors, ATs are recognizable in how they look and, more importantly, for what they do.
But if in your mind’s eye you picture an NFL or NBA game, it might surprise you to know the diverse places where ATs work.
With March being National Athletic Training Month, we want to recognize ATs as vital practitioners of health care. This year, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) is celebrating the theme “Providing Health Care Everywhere.”
The theme broadly promotes ATs whose profession centers on injury prevention, treatment and ongoing wellness management. And while most often associated with sports, ATs work as health care professionals in many settings beyond the playing field.
Beyond just athletics
There’s high regard for the public work that athletic trainers do in helping individuals avoid injury and recover from injury.
Not surprising, then, are the national standards that trainers are held to.
ATs must graduate with a bachelors or master’s degree and pass the Board of Certification Exam (BOC) to work with professional athletes. There’s also regular renewals on that certification to demonstrate continued learning and competence.
All this is to ensure that athletes are healthy and performing at their peak potential.
But think about the word “athlete.” You may think of athletics in a traditional sense – youth and high school programs to college and professional divisions – on the playing field, ice rink, basketball court, you name it.
But ATs do their work in many job settings and treat a range of individuals beyond those traditional venues, such as:
- Doctors’ offices
- Hospitals and emergency rooms
- Urgent Care centers
- Rehabilitation clinics
Outside of clinical settings, there are emerging job settings where ATs are finding new opportunities in public safety, military schools and the armed forces, performing arts and aeronautics. These industries employ individuals who need certain levels of athletic fitness to do their jobs.
Add to those, various commercial settings like airlines, warehouses, hotel/resort and theme parks, and an athletic trainer’s scope of practice broadens even more.
For each of these sectors ATs are required to have specific training to provide medical care based on the unique activities, physical demands and requirements of the patients they treat.
No matter the type of athlete or athletic patient or the job environment, ATs work as an extension of and overall medical team.
Let’s break it down by key areas of an athletic trainer’s role.
Injuries are a part of life.
But if you’re an athlete or a weekend warrior, or you have a very active or physical job, you likely have more instances of injury than someone who’s not as active.
If you’ve been sidelined from work, missed out hanging with friends or playing your sport because of injury – or a repeated injury – there’s good news.
Working with an AT now can help avoid injury later. Put another way, you don’t have to wait until you’re injured to address the issue.
Your AT can identify any weaknesses or conditions that may be leading to your injuries and plan preventive measures to correct them.
Called prehab, preventive tactics are designed to decrease your risk of future injury.
- Functional movement screen. Done by an athletic trainer to identify dysfunctional or painful movement patterns. Exercises are prescribed to correct movement and any imbalances you may have acquired in compensating for pain. Exercises can be done on their own or as part of your warm-up before activity. For example, a proper warm-up using dynamic stretching can help increase blood flow to loosen your muscles prior to your activity, whether it’s working out or warming up before performing a concert or dance routine.
- Recovery planning. Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep are all needed to keep the body in the right state for exercise. But it takes planning and adaptation to adopt the right approach for your body and your activity level. Your AT can advise on the right balance for your wellness. This advanced planning helps produce optimal performance through brain to body communication. So get good sleep, stay nourished and hydrated and warm-up!
Post-injury. Return to play. Return to work.
The moment has finally come.
You sustained an injury (ouch!).
You completed the recovery process (hooray!)
What comes next?
The next stage in post-injury progression is your return – return to play (RTP) or return to work.
This happens after your medical care provider is satisfied with your progress and clears you to get back to sports and physical activities. Working with an athletic trainer is essential in getting to this stage.
Your AT has done functional tests and collected performance stats to gauge your readiness for activity, at what level and at what pace.
For athletes, and depending on the injury, tests can include sprints, cutting drills and jumps for lower body injuries, or lifting movements such as throwing and push-pulling for upper body injuries.
ATs use the stats to pinpoint any deficits remaining post-injury recovery, like limping or weakness, which could hinder you from safely retuning to play.
If testing is clear of any concerns, you’ll get the green light to return to full activity.
If there are areas of concerns, your trainer may plan additional exercises, or modify your activity level to help you improve on the deficits and continue toward full clearance.
Return to play is unique to each athlete and injury. The goal of functional testing and injury recovery is to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the playing field when returning from an injury.
Onsite emergency care
Although it’s not something we like to think about, medical emergencies can happen at any moment, in any environment.
Athletic trainers are skilled medical providers who are trained in first aid, CPR and automated external defibrillator use (AED) in the case of sudden cardiac arrest.
With their advanced medical education, ATs are prepared to handle emergency situations that may arise, especially on the playing field.
Whether its keeping up-to-date with the most current first aid and CPR standards, revising emergency action plans or drilling emergency situations with members of the sports medicine team, athletic trainers are usually first responders and initiate emergency medical care when injuries happen.
There’s a tactical side to AT work, too – critical need-to-knows in the face of emergency:
- Emergency phone numbers
- Ambulance access points at venues
- The integrity and working condition of onsite emergency equipment
Partner to parents, coaches and clinical team
If you’re an athlete, a parent, relative or friend of one, you may have crossed paths with a sports medicine team member at some point.
This team is a group of trained individuals who care for an athlete’s health in variety of ways.
At the center of this team is the athletic trainer.
The athletic trainer is generally the first on the scene and tends to the immediate and long-term needs of the athlete – injury evaluation through treatment and rehabilitation. But they also rely on the support of other experts.
Surrounding the athletic trainer are other talented individuals, often including:
- physical/occupational therapist
- strength and conditioning coach
- massage therapist
- sports psychologist, among others.
The athletic trainer coordinates care between each of these individuals. They also handle all communication with coaches and family members to keep everyone in the loop with the care of the athlete. This open communication is key to managing medical care and the expectations surrounding care.
Around the world, ATs are looked to as trusted professionals playing a crucial part in health management and health care.
Multi-skilled and holding advanced certification to help athletes, performers and patients across many job settings, athletic trainers truly do provide health care everywhere.
By: Joshua Cramer, DAT, LAT, ATC, CSCS, CES, area sports medicine director for southeastern PA, and Katie Olenek, M.S., LAT, ATC, PES, area director of sports medicine for central PA.
How to stay in play and on the court
What is pickleball? And why are people raving about it?
Pickleball is an improvisation of badminton and ping-pong. The game is played on a court using a softball-sized, hard-plastic ball with holes – like a wiffle ball – and paddles similar to table-tennis paddles.
Conceived in 1965 as a game that families could play together, pickleball grew in popularity. By 1972, a corporation was founded for the sport.
While there is debate around the origin of its name, there is none about how fun, fast, competitive and entertaining the game is.
With a smaller court size than its cousin sport of tennis, it’s an ideal way to stay active and fit for just about anyone.
And pickleball has taken the country by storm.
The first pickleball tournament was held in 1976 in Washington State. And while not what’s called an overnight sensation, the explosive growth of the game in the years since has led to pickleball courts popping up everywhere, and the formation of amateur and professional leagues.
There’s even a professional pickleball tour.
When injury puts you in a pickle
With the rise in popularity of pickleball, physical therapists throughout the country are seeing an increase in injuries that are similar to those found in other racquet sports.
New pickleball players sustain approximately 50% of injuries during their first year of play.
The most common pickleball injuries include:
- Pickleball elbow
- Ankle sprains
- Knee sprains
- Shoulder sprains
- Achilles tendonitis
- Wrist fractures
- Concussions from falls
In the case of older players, many are predisposed to injury, often due to prior injury, limited flexibility and range of motion and deterioration of balance, or have recurrent injuries.
So if you are looking to start playing the game … or stay in the game … keep these prevention tips in mind to reduce your risk and avoid injury:
Warm up Pickleball is a fast-paced game, and the excitement starts right away. So it's important that you warm up before you get on the court. Try a light 5-minute jog, a slow walk with high knees or some side shuffles to loosen up.
Stretch As part of your warm-up, make sure to stretch. Shoulder stretches, calf stretches, hamstring/quad stretches and wrist and neck stretches are all important to incorporate into your routine.
Choose proper footwear Pickleball requires moving side to side and back and forth. Choose a good fitting athletic shoe for this type of movement.
Pivot Similar to tennis and other racquet sports, you will be executing groundstrokes, volleys and serves. Remember to pivot your hips and shoulders as you face the approaching ball.
If you are injured, stop playing!
Don’t try to tough it out, especially if it is a head injury.
Contact a physical therapist to help you heal and recover before you return to play.
Pickleball is as fun as it sounds, and you’ll want to play for years to come.
If you’re in a pickle with pain or injury of any sort, click now to request an appointment to find one of our centers near you.
By: Deborah Santiago, P.T., DPT. Deborah is a physical therapist and center manager at NovaCare Rehabilitation in New Jersey. NovaCare and Select Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.
Select Medical is proud to be the official physical therapy partner of the PPA Tour.
If you clicked to read this, it’s likely because you or someone you know has long COVID. Or maybe you’re now hearing people talk about long-lasting symptoms of COVID-19.
With research now being published, millions of people having a COVID diagnosis will experience “long” COVID – post-COVID syndrome or long-haul COVID, earning some who experience it the nickname of “long hauler.”
Putting aside that bit of levity, long COVID is no joke.
So if you are struggling to read this because you’re dealing with “COVID brain fog,” you may be thinking, How did I get so unlucky?
It’s a fair question to ask.
But in reality, long COVID is more common than most think.
According to Penn State College of Medicine researchers, more than half of the 236 million people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 worldwide since December 2019 will experience post-COVID symptoms.
Months after recovering from COVID-19, millions of people are still suffering one or more debilitating symptoms like:
- Brain fog
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pain
- Dizziness and more
If you or a loved one is suffering, don’t give up. There is hope and help.
Physical therapy is medicine for long COVID
Professional physical therapists, like me, understand what you are going through. Indeed, if you have long COVID, physical therapy can help.
Yes, physical therapy.
As physical therapists, we are specialists who are trained in identifying the clinical symptoms and effects of long COVID. For example, the profound fatigue you’re feeling? Reminiscent of chronic fatigue syndrome, it’s a post-acute leftover of the viral COVID infection, and we can help.
That joint pain? We’re trained also to understand musculoskeletal conditions that can be causing your pain. We can assess the pain and determine the appropriate treatment for it.
I work in an outpatient physical therapy center and help treat patients with long COVID. Our parent company Select Medical collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on an important clinical study regarding the long-term impact of COVID-19.
The study validates our Recovery and Reconditioning program which focuses on specific deficits in patients recovering from COVID-19 and other debilitating illnesses and conditions.
Our Recovery and Reconditioning program helps, specifically, with:
- Labored breathing
- Joint and muscle pain
Our program was developed in partnership with leading physicians, infectious disease specialists, physical and occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists to help those impacted to heal, gain strength and return to an active, full lifestyle.
We hear all the time that people suffering with long COVID don’t feel heard. Feel misunderstood. Feel like giving up.
If that sounds like you, then trust me, we understand.
We are proud to offer the Recovery and Reconditioning program to you, your loved ones and/or friends – anyone who may be dealing with lingering effects of having COVID-19.
Together, we will address your specific post-COVID symptoms and create an individualized treatment plan for your road to recovery. During care, you will learn ways to pace yourself throughout the day and move your body so that you don’t tire so quickly.
As part of your treatment, we will track your vital signs and symptoms to ensure your safety and progress. We will be there every step of the way back to a healthier you.
You deserve a medical professional who understands you. If you’re tired of feeling alone in your recovery from long COVID, let a physical therapist help.
Schedule a consultation with a physical therapist trained in treating long COVID. Click the blue Contact Us button below to request an appointment at a center near you today.
By: Corey Malone, P.T., DPT, OCS. Corey is physical therapist, center director and Recovery and Reconditioning program champion with KORT in Kentucky.
KORT and Select Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.
Originally posted 3/21/2018 by Dorothy Lehr, DPT, OCS, Cert. MDT updated 2/3/2022
Major snowstorms have a way of causing major headaches…and major muscle aches!
Snowstorms have already hit many parts of the country this winter, with more on the way. And while there’s beauty in a landscape covered in white, there’s potential for back aches and muscle strain in the chore of removing snow if not done safely and with preparation.
So before powering up that monster snow blower and pushing it along the sidewalks or layering up with hats, scarves and gloves, read on for tips to keep you safe and healthy while out in the bluster.
Beware the Shovel
- While a shovel with a standard handle may be cheaper to purchase, beware! Shovels with “bent” handles – ergonomic handles – are a better choice for reducing back strain. Choose one with a cushioned grip too.
- Look for a shovel that also has a sharp bend in the shaft. This type of shovel is made to decrease back strain as you push and stoop to scoop.
- The weight of the snow makes a difference in snow tool choice. Snow tool? That’s right!
Today’s shovels have come a long way from the standard shovel and come in a range of blade features (the scooping or chiseling part) to lessen strain and injury.
- Light and fluffy? Aluminum is the way to go.
- Heavy and slushy? Polycarbonate, shatter-resistant gets the job done.
- Icy and compressed? Galvanized steel chips away with lower impact.
Tame the Technique
Proper shoveling is just as important as the correct shovel.
Keep your back straight.
Bend at your hips and knees.
Avoid twisting your body when dumping snow. Instead, pivot your legs to turn your whole body.
Wear shoes or boots with good tread to avoid slipping on slick areas or black ice. Applying pet-friendly salt, sand or kitty litter gives traction and decreases the risk of slipping.
Snow shoveling can be as physically demanding as a gym workout and should be treated like a day in the gym.
Don’t overexert yourself, especially when the snow is wet and heavy. In deep snow, take a few inches off the top and tackle the job by dividing it into thirds, with one-hour rest breaks.
Prepare and Prevent Injury
Snow shoveling is a cardiovascular and weight-lifting exercise. So just like you need to stretch before working out or exercising to get its great benefits, stretching before and after is important.
If you need to tackle a big snow that will take more than a few minutes, taking a break and stretching in between clearing snow or drifts will help prevent injury.
This stretch helps balance in any forward-bending movement while shoveling. Choose a standing or laying position.
Extension 1: Stand and bend back as far as is comfortable and hold for three to five seconds. Do 10-15 repetitions.
Extension 2: Lie on your stomach and bend back as far as is comfortable and hold for three to five seconds. Do 10-15 repetitions.
While standing, use your right arm to pull your right leg up toward your buttocks. Keep your trunk straight and use opposite arm to hold onto a sturdy object to maintain balance.
Duration: Hold each stretch for 20 seconds doing five reps on each leg. This will stretch out your quad muscles that you’ll be using to lift while shoveling.
Hip Flexor Stretch
In a half-kneeling position and while maintaining an upright trunk, lunge forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip.
Duration: Hold position for 20 seconds doing five reps on each leg. This stretch will help to stretch the muscles you’ll be using while moving snow and helps to keep your spine in a neutral position.
Beyond Shoveling Safety Tips
Sometimes, there will be a winter storm where a snow shovel isn’t enough.
While a snow blower can certainly help with snow removal, snow blower injuries and accidents do happen. Burn injuries, lacerations, fractures and even amputations are the biggest reasons for ER visits from snow blower injuries.
"The Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that 3,000 persons are treated in emergency rooms in the United States for snow-blower injuries each year."
Practice these to stay safe while operating a snow blower:
- Never put your hands down the chute or around the blades of a snow blower. If you need to clear wait 10 seconds after turning off the engine for the blades to stop spinning. Use the handle or a broom, a stick or another tool to clear any clogs.
- Keep hands and feet clear of all moving parts of a snow blower.
- Avoid hanging scarves and loose-fitting clothing which could become tangled in the moving parts and pull you into the machine.
- Direct the discharge chute away from you, other people or areas where any damage can occur. The blower can throw hard objects, such as salt, sticks and ice.
Winter can be brutal, even when you do prepare and follow safe practices.
If you’re feeling nagging aches and pains or you’ve suffered an injury during your winter clean-ups, we’re here for you.
Click the Contact Us button below to request an appointment with a nearby center. Stay safe and keep thinking spring – it’s coming!
By: Dorothy Lehr, DPT, OCS, Cert. MDT. Dot is a physical therapist and center manager with NovaCare Rehabilitation in Willingboro, NJ. A treating clinician for 12 years, Dot is a board certified orthopaedic specialist and McKenzie credentialed therapist, specializing in spine treatment.
Posted on 10/25/2021
Did you know that knee osteoarthritis affects nearly 14 million adults in the United States1 per year? Or that meniscus tears are present in 60-90%1 of those with knee osteoarthritis? With symptoms ranging from knee pain, swelling, stiffness and limited range of motion, medication, injections, surgery and physical therapy are all commonly prescribed to manage knee pain. Medication and injections, however, may simply serve to mask your pain. Surgery can be costly and taxing on your body. Physical therapy, on the other hand, emphasizes a more holistic approach to the body with emphasis on education, pain management and strength and conditioning.
At first glance, it can be frustrating when you are referred to physical therapy for management of knee pain related to structural issues like osteoarthritis or a knee joint tear. Is the physical therapist going to magically reverse your arthritis or heal your meniscus? Shouldn’t you address the structural problem head-on instead of just “strengthening around it?”
Surgery or osteoarthritis physical therapy?
If we dig deeper, a better question to consider might be, “Do I need to change the structure of my knee in order to resume the activities I enjoy?” There are several studies to suggest that abnormal findings on X-rays and MRIs can be common, even in persons without knee pain. In fact, a 2020 study2 of a population with a median age of 44 and no knee pain found that an astounding 97% of knees had abnormalities on MRI. In addition, when comparing physical therapy management to surgical intervention, there are many cases with similar outcomes.
Now, this is not to say that everyone with knee pain should get physical therapy instead of surgery. Sometimes, surgery is exactly what’s needed to improve your overall quality of life. However, including a physical therapist on your health care team – before and after surgery – is beneficial, even without changing the structural abnormalities that are often presumed to be the problem.
If physical therapy isn’t changing the “structural problem,” what exactly is the benefit?
People are more than pictures, and pain is far more complicated than what that picture shows. X-ray and MRI findings can absolutely be helpful in developing a plan of care; however, they are only one piece of the puzzle. While physical therapy is unlikely to result in a change in the X-ray or MRI findings, it can identify and help modify factors contributing to your knee pain and functional limitations.
Focusing on your unique condition, a physical therapist can work with you to determine the following:
- Health and lifestyle factors contributing to your knee pain
- Activity modification so you can safely perform activities of daily living
- Stretches and strategies to improve motion and strength
- Swelling and pain control
- How and when to appropriately get back to activities that cause you pain/discomfort
This combination can help patients to better understand their condition and develop a plan that assists in recovery. Doing all of this may greatly enhance your quality of life and ease the pain and symptoms you are currently experiencing.
Now, if you and your doctor determine that knee surgery is necessary, remember, physical therapy is a vital part of preparing for your procedure and recovering after it. Before surgery, we will work together to get you as healthy and strong as possible, which will enable your post-surgical recovery to be that much more successful and faster. Following surgery, we will focus on helping you to restore your strength, balance and flexibility.
No matter what, physical therapists are committed to helping you be as mobile, independent and pain-free as possible. Our goal is to build a relationship in which you feel comfortable asking us questions, are an active partner in your care and we’re able to work together to ensure the best outcomes possible.
If you have knee pain, contact us today and experience the power of physical therapy.
- Bhushan R. Deshpande, BS, Jeffrey N. Katz, MD, MSc, Daniel H. Solomon, MD, MPH, Edward H. Yelin, PhD, David J. Hunter, MBBS, PhD, Stephen P. Messier, PhD, Lisa G. Suter, MD, and Elena Losina, PhD. The number of persons with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis in the United States: Impact of race/ethnicity, age, sex, and obesity (2017)
- Horga, L.M., Hirschmann, A.C., Henckel, J. et al. Prevalence of abnormal findings in 230 knees of asymptomatic adults using 3.0 T MRI. Skeletal Radiol (2020)
By: Patrick Smith, P.T., DPT. Patrick is board-certified clinical specialist in sports physical and orthopedic physical therapy, a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists and a treating physical therapist with NovaCare Rehabilitation in Philadelphia, PA.
Select Physical Therapy and NovaCare are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.
Posted on 10/18/2021
Technology has brought many wonderful things to our fingertips. However, an undue side effect of all this technology and connectivity is a condition known as tech neck.
If you have a stiff neck, experience headaches or feel frequent muscle tension around your neck and shoulders, your technology-using habits are likely a contributing factor. Physical therapy exercises can help to alleviate your pain.
Many suffer unnecessary pain due to poor posture when using a computer, tablet or smartphone. Poor posture greatly increases the amount of pressure placed on your muscles. Sitting straight up, the weight of your head is 10-12 pounds. Slouching forward with head dropped down, the weight of your head is more like 50-60 pounds to your neck. It’s easy to understand why your muscles are hurting when you imagine them supporting five times more weight for several hours each day.
If you’re suffering from tech neck, the good news is that it’s often reversible and treatable. Here are five strengthening and stretching exercises to combat it:
You may often find yourself sitting slouched forward with your head well in front of your shoulders. This is the starting position for retracting your head.
Pull your chin backward while looking directly forward. You should feel a “double-chin” forming under your jaw. Repeat this forward/backward exercise 10 times once every hour or two while working.
Perform this daily while sitting at your work space.
What about neck exercises for computer or laptop users? Tension in the upper trapezius muscles, which span the back of the neck and shoulders and are responsible for moving the head and shoulder blade, is common. The trap stretch can be performed any time, and you only need 20-30 seconds to help release tension on one side of your neck.
To stretch the right side, place your right hand on your waist or lower back, tilt your head to the left while looking back to the right. Place your left hand on top of your head and gently pull toward the left until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold this stretch for as long as 60 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Perform this daily while sitting at your work space.
Lean forward in your chair as if you’re smashing a pillow between your belly and thighs. Place your hands with fingers crossed behind your head.
Reach your elbows toward the ceiling while keeping your belly close to your thighs, causing only your upper back to straighten. The thoracic extension reverses the forward bend and slouchy posture so many assume throughout the workday.
Perform this daily while sitting at your work space.
Lie face down on the floor with your arms at your side, hands near the hips.
Keep your neck straight (do not look upward) and simultaneously lift your chin, arms and knees off the ground. Hold the position for 2-3 seconds and release to the floor. Repeat 10 times for three sets.
Perform this exercise 2-3 days each week to promote strengthening of the muscles across the back of your neck, shoulders and torso.
Lie face down on the floor with your arms reaching upward and slightly outward from your head.
Keep your neck straight and simultaneously lift your chin, arms and knees off the ground. Hold the position for 2-3 seconds and release to the floor. Repeat 10 times for three sets.
This exercise emphasizes the lower trapezius muscle between your shoulder blades due to the overhead arm position. The prone scaption should be performed 2-3 days each week to promote strengthening of the muscles across the back of your neck, shoulders and torso.
Finally, sit up straight. It’s not a complicated tip, but it is easy to forget that we need to maintain good posture when working with technology. Elevate your computer screen so that it is at eye level. If you’re working on a laptop, generally you’ll have to direct your gaze downward while keeping your posture upright, but do your best to comfortably elevate the computer. If you’re on a phone/tablet, simply make an effort to hold the device higher in front of your face.
If you have pain that persists and is impacting your daily activities, contact us today to request an appointment with a licensed physical therapist. A physical therapy plan of care can efficiently and effectively strengthen your body, reduce pain and prevent injury.
By: Joe Zucco, P.T., DPT, FAAOMPT, center manager for Select Physical Therapy in Sarasota, FL.
Select Physical Therapy is part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.