I'm finally out of my cast! Can I return to sport yet?
Returning to sport after a serious injury can be more of a mental battle than it is a physical one, depending on the injury of course! It is so very easy to have all of your hopes and expectations dropped on the floor when you build yourself up to believe that once the cast comes off, or the pins go in, that you'll be ready to show your competitors what you're all about again.
If you've read up to this part, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. We've all done it, had our check up with the surgeon and asked the infamous question "How long until I can play/ ride/ return to my sport/ again?""As if the surgeon is some kind of genie with a magic healing predictor specific for your injury. Of course, there are rough guidelines as to how long certain tissues and bones take to heal, but they are not exact and are based on averages. The date you are initially told you'll able to return to sport is generally actually the time it would take to heal if you were noncompliant with your rehabilitation and is often based on a worse case scenario to ensure the structures that were damaged have had plenty of time to heal naturally (with no outside intervention).
Unfortunately, the dates rarely coincide with your expectations, either because you thought the operation would be 100% of the fix or because you thought doing 5 minutes of the rehabilitation exercises that the physical therapist gave you to do every day (but you're only doing them 1 x per week) would give you the super powers to create instant strength way beyond what you previously had. Here's the reality. In my experience of rehabilitation, the most successful method of returning to sport is by making sure you use as much movement as available to you all the way throughout the 'immobility phase'. Meaning, if your elbow is in a cast, make sure your hand, wrist and shoulder are still moving regularly to prevent excessive shortening and weakening of the soft tissues surrounding them. Likewise, If you've injured your knee or ankle, what's to stop you training the rest of your body to keep it strong, so that only the injured areas have to play catch up, rather than starting your whole body training from scratch again. You're injured, not broken! The reason this is important is that the rate of flexibility and strength loss when you're immobile happens astonishingly quickly, so the more you can maintain (or improve) strength and fitness levels around the rest of your body, the less time you have to play catch up once you're out of your cast.
"Yeah, Yeah that's great... So how long until I can return to my sport again?" Firstly, you must understand that different people, heal at different rates. Just because you heard somebody returned to sport after 4 months post ACL rupture, doesn't mean you will. The hardest part is remaining patient, therefore I recommend that rather than get down about it and worry about the time lost from injury, focus on getting stronger and use the time away from you sport as an opportunity to return fitter and stronger than ever before! After all, the more commitment and dedication you give to your rehabilitation, the sooner you will be able to return to your sport. If you're carrying an injury, and would like to enquire about a ZEN Anatomy sports therapy rehabilitation plan then get in touch via email@example.com
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