Sunday, 15 August 2010

Injury and the Rehab process

The idea of this post is to show what happens when an athlete gets injured, and how they get back to full fitness.

There are two types of injury that an athlete can get; chronic or acute. A chronic injury is often linked with overuse, and it is where a muscle, ligament, tendon or bone has broken down over time, resulting in an injury. Examples of this type of injury include shin splints and stress fractures. Acute injuries are injuries that have no pre-existing condition or warning signs, such as a broken leg from a bad tackle in football. Within athletics, the majority of injuries are chronic. Every day I have to evaluate my body for how it feels. I usually do this as soon as I wake up and move around, making a note of where things are sore. As I warm-up for training, I then pay close attention to the sore areas, making a decision on how bad the soreness is, whether it is an injury or just DOMS, how it will affect training, whether I need to modify training, and whether I need to get physio on it.

Most of the time, the soreness is a result of overloading a certain muscle, and eventually with some short-term management, they go away, with only a small amount (if any) of training modification required. However, sometimes they don’t improve, or sometimes an acute injury (like a sudden onset hamstring tear) might occur. Currently I am suffering from a slight hamstring injury. I am lucky enough to receive lottery funding, and so I get world-class sports medicine cover. In this instance, I spoke to my physio about my injury, who evaluated various things in and around the hamstring to see what the problem was, and referred me to a specialist sports doctor, who I saw within three hours of my initial conversation with the physio. The doctor then used an ultrasound scanner to have a closer look for damage within the hamstring (for bones/more complex injuries, and MRI may be required, which takes longer). From the scan, the doctor recommended that I have some injections. The most commonly used injections are local anaesthetic to reduce pain, traumeel, a homeopathic substance which may (or may not) improve heeling within a muscle, or cortisone, which is the last resort as it requires the athlete to take longer rest. Of these, I had a local anaesthetic, which took a lot of the initial soreness away, and cortisone.

So, that managed the short-term implications of injury. The next step was to look at longer-term recovery, of which rehab plays a large part. My physio again examined various things in my body, and we found that, due to the injury, I had lost some muscle bulk around my thigh and glute areas. To rectify this, I was given some exercises to help activate the muscle, and bring some bulk back. The idea is also to progressively load the injured area so it regains pre-injury levels of strength. That is where I am at right now – I hope to get back to running in spikes within two weeks, then I can have 2-3 weeks off before starting my winter training for next year.

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