Finding a good sports physical therapist is key to rehabbing an injury and getting back to the sport you love. With the right rehab team and plan in place, we can reduce the risk of re-injury. In addition, we can work on strength & mobility limitations which can drastically improve performance specific to your individual sport.
At Onward, we specialize in sports physical therapy where our clinicians are known internationally as top-level performance PTs. We are regularly the second or third (or fourth…) opinion for athletes who are unsatisfied with their previous care. Surprisingly, many have previously been to a “sports specialist”. Carrying this title can give hopes of phenomenal treatment to get you back to your sport. On the contrary, unfortunately this isn’t always the case.
With athletes who have been through the gamut prior to seeing us, there are a few common issues we see contribute to poor progress. While it shouldn’t be your job to interview your provider, you do have the option to take control. Therefore, we want to help ensure you get the absolute best care to get you back to what you love. By sharing these key areas to keep in mind, we hope to accomplish a few things. First, help you find a physical therapist who’s prepared to fully resolve your issue. Second, get you back to the gym, field, turf, or court!
Sports Physical Therapy Fail #1: Not analyzing the movements you’re having trouble with
Let’s say you’re having pain while training for a 5k. On the other hand, the pain only starts to hinder you two miles into your run. Sure, we can look at your flexibility or measure your strength. However, we feel the best way to determine what is happening is obvious to us…we need to watch you run! What is it about that 2-mile mark that causes pain and a decline in performance? Does your form break down as you fatigue?
Failure to watch an athlete do the actual movements that cause pain is a huge red flag for us. In addition, this is something we pride ourselves on being proficient at. Has your physical therapist hasn’t taken the time to look at the movement or task you experience pain with? If not, it may be time to question if you’ve found the right fit for your athletic needs.
Fail #2: Not modifying the activities you want to do
Far too often in the sports physical therapy world, clinicians tell athletes to simply stop doing the things that hurt. For you, stopping absolutely isn’t an option. For us, it 100% isn’t either. We want you to continue working on your fitness, which is why we work with you to find ways to modify your workout routine to stay active.
A great example of this can be seen in how we address hip pain in an athlete during squats. Simple changes like moving from a back to a front squat (which stresses hip range of motion less) can often be an easy solution. For instance, you continue moving heavy weight without aggravating healing tissues. Ultimately, this option still allows you to achieve the stimulus of heavy squatting and reaching your long-term goals, but within the limits of your current symptoms while your pain dials down.
Sports Physical Therapy Fail #3: The exercises you are doing feel like a joke
We all know that to push performance, we must work hard. We have to sweat, breathe hard, and at times, push our body harder than we ever thought possible.
Rehab is no different. For example, if we want to stimulate the body to adapt, to grow stronger and heal, then we must put in hard work.
Maybe right now you can’t tolerate heavy shoulder presses and we need to do exercises such as TheraBand external rotations. However, good sports physical therapists know that even when light loads are all you can tolerate, we HAVE to push the intensity. To clarify, this may mean higher reps or incorporating the desired load into circuits to get your heart rate up.
As we like to say…” this is physical therapy, not sit on your butt therapy”. Ultimately, we’re here to make you stronger and improve your performance, not waste your time by under stimulating you.
Fail #4: Your physical therapist doesn’t exercise him or herself
We catch a lot of heat anytime we say this. As medical and health professionals, we think exercising is an absolute MUST for all physical therapists. Essentially, if we aren’t out there trying to push our performance to the next level, how could we ever relate to athletes like you? Further, how could we possibly preach to you ways to improve your movement and performance… if we’ve never actually done it ourselves? At Onward, we’d go CRAZY if we couldn’t exercise. We don’t just treat athletes, we ARE athletes, and being an athlete is a huge part of our identity.
Ready to experience what real PERFORMANCE PHYSICAL THERAPY looks like? Book an appointment today with our team of sports physical therapists to put your injury to rest for good and take your sport to the next level!