I’m going to put myself out on a limb here and say that most sports injuries can be treated quite quickly when they are diagnosed and managed in the acute stage. That means within the first few days post injury.
Let’s quickly examine a few examples here. A muscle strain can be managed with rest, ice, compression and elevation in the first 2 or 3 days post injury. You may also need painkillers and anti-inflammatories and crutches as well. After the first few days you can start to stretch and strengthen the strain. A physio can give you the right exercises at this stage and progress them over the next few weeks. Your physio will also be able to guide you back to running and when you should return to your sport. With good management of a minor injury you can be back to sport in 4 weeks.
Another example might be shin splint that runner suffer from. There are a number of different problems that can cause shin splint such as pronated feet, week glutes and tight calf muscles to name but a few. Your physio can assess this and keep you running albeit with modified tempo and distance and get you back to full speed in 4-6 weeks.
Obviously if you have sustained a fracture or ACL tear then these injuries are going to take time to repair and may need surgery. These types of injuries can take 3-6 months of rehab to get you back to your sport.
However, if you have sustained a muscle strain, ligament sprain or some kind of biomechanical overload injury such as Achilles tendinopathy or shin splints early intervention from a sports physio can speed your injury recovery.
Most people who have an ache or pain think about going to their GP, I’m going to suggest that if you have sustained some kind of sporting injury then your GP should not be your first thought, instead think about the local sports injury clinic. Here’s why
1. GP clinics are often very busy and you may not be able to get an appointment for a week or so and you may need to take time off work to visit your GP. This wastes your time and delays your injury recovery time.
2. Unless your GP has a special interest in musculoskeletal injuries they will probably not have the advanced musculoskeletal examination skills that physiotherapists or consultant surgeons posses. Their training enables them to rule out serious injuries or illnesses and refer on to physiotherapists or consultant surgeons.
3. GP’s can only really prescribe anti-inflammatories and painkillers for sports injuries. Using these medications are usually very helping during the acute stage of a sports injury, however most people already know to take paracetamol and /or ibuprofen. There are also some occasions where these medications not the best idea in the acute stage of a sports injury. Your GP can refer to physiotherapy, which is very useful, however if you don’t have medical insurance you can be looking at a 2-3 months wait. In this time your injury can progress to a chronic injury, which usually takes much longer to resolve.
4. General advice from GP’s about sports injuries includes you taking an extended period of rest or stopping running or choosing another sport. This is not what you want to hear. A sports physio will get you back to your sport as quickly as possible.
This is not a dig at GP’s, they are extremely busy and they do a great job at helping people with medical problems. This is why we have sports physiotherapists, experts in sports injury who can take the burden of this type of health problem off the GP’s hands. All physiotherapists are trained to spot illnesses and injury that you should report to your GP or to your local A and E department so if you have sustained a sports injury think of your local sports physiotherapy clinic first.