As the baby boomer generation ages so has the interest in health and lifestyle changes that include participation in sports and other fitness activities. To go along with this increased activity level has come an almost epidemic increase in sports injuries and other orthopaedic related injuries. The physical therapy profession has since increasingly been involved in the systematic approach to treatment of sports injuries and related musculoskeletal problems through the development of physical therapeutic procedures based on researched documentation.
Physical therapists are the only health care profession qualified to provide physical therapy examinations, evaluations, diagnoses, prognoses and interventions. Physical therapists are educated and clinically prepared to treat patients throughout the life span presenting a wide range of health care needs and co-morbidities. They are skilled at treating patients of all ages afflicted with chronic diseases or conditions or individuals with multiple co-morbidities or illnesses requiring complex treatment plans.
Entry to practice requires at least 1100 hours of supervised clinical work and a professional masters degree. Nonclinical course work of physiotherapists includes anatomy, histology, embryology, orthopaedics, manual therapy, physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, statistics, and pathology. In addition, physical therapists receive training in the domains of neurologic, integumentary, cardiovascular/pulmonary, and musculoskeletal conditions. These courses are offered through the faculty of medicine at universities.
Physical therapists working with sports injuries will carry out a full assessment to determine the biomechanical cause and tissues involved in the injury. Physical examination of the athlete is guided by the history and complaints. The physical therapist will assess posture, patterns of movement, swelling, deformity, or asymmetry. Highly developed skills of palpation will identify crepitus, areas of heat, tenderness, or deformity. Physical therapists use quantifiable measures to establish baseline measurements to monitor progress, establish a diagnosis and guide treatment intervention for the athlete. Tests are used to determine the type of tissues involved in injury, hypothesize a pathologic process, and guide the selection of exercise. Therapists will use their clinical judgement with consideration of severity, irritability, acuity, and patient’s medical history when selecting tests for those patients that have sustained a sports injury.
Physical therapists will treat sports injuries in the immediate traumatic, acute, or chronic phases, can provide first aid and are often used to provide preparticipation screening for athletes.
Physiotherapeutic techniques used to treat sports injuries can include the following:
* Manual mobilization or manipulation of joints
* Passive stretching
* Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation techniques
* Soft tissue techniques such as myofascial release, deep tendon frictions, or active release
* Electrotherapy such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, inferential currents, or codotron
* Shockwave therapy
* Prophylactic or supportive taping, therapeutic taping, and kinesio taping techniques
* Bracing and splinting
* Spinal traction/decompression
* Active exercises in the whirlpool
* Medical exercise therapy programs
* Stretching and strengthening exercise programs
* Joint stabilization exercises
* Education and prevention.