Physical Therapy and Young Athletes – 5 Benefits

  1. Physical therapy helps prevent injuries and promotes quicker and safer recovery. For example, in aquatic therapy, young athletes perform various exercises in water to alleviate stress on their body. This form of exercise helps them strengthen their muscles and improve range of motion. In orthopedic physical therapy, your physical therapist targets injured areas to increase the blood flow there. Physical therapy in cases of injury can also target endurance, as with ACL injuries. Gradually, injured athletes recover and work to reach pre-injury endurance levels.
  2. Physical therapy boosts an athlete’s mindset. This is particularly true with injured athletes, be it an ankle sprain or a rotator cuff tear, as they get to see their progression when they rebound from an injury. Their hard work pays off in tangible ways, and they feel like they’re doing something important towards a specific goal. Physical therapy promotes active bodies and active brains, and athletes develop focus and a can-do attitude, which can do wonders for performance.
  3. Physical therapy builds strength and flexibility. If you want to improve your power, mobility, and efficiency, physical therapy helps you get there – stretching and strengthening are two of the keys of a successful physical therapy treatment plan.
  4. Physical therapy boosts endurance. Endurance is especially key in sports such as soccer, hockey and track, and our physical therapists can kickstart you on a home exercise program after your treatment is complete to help you boost your endurance.
  5. Physical therapy promotes blood circulation. If athletes want to perform at peak levels, they need the best blood and oxygen flow possible to critical areas of the body. Physical therapy helps to ensure that athletes are in a position to do that, and if they’re injured, the optimized blood flow helps them recover.

Our physical therapy department can get you back on the field or on the court quicker and help you to perform at your athletic best. Give us a call at 201.746.6577 to schedule your initial evaluation today. Keri Moran, PT, our Director of Physical Therapy has over 17 years of experience treating athletes and Bruce Buckman, PT, DPT specializes in athletic rehabilitation and performance, highlighted by a 2013 internship he did with the MLB San Francisco Giants.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even get to do some cool exercises like this and more as part of your rehab:

ACL Tears and Injuries – The What, The Why and The How

Everything You Need to Know About ACL Tears

DR. BRUCE JOSEPH BUCKMAN, PT, DPT

You no longer have to be an avid sports fan to hear about the ACL any more. If you are a parent of a young athlete, a recreational athlete, or weekend warrior, I would surely bet that you have heard of this ligament and its injury epidemic. In our practice, ACL injuries are becoming more common than ever before, with age ranges from children of 12 years old to active adults of all ages. But why? Why are ACL tears in athletes becoming more and more common?

We will get there, I promise.

But first… a little background. What is the ACL?

The ACL is one of the four main ligaments of the knee, along with the Medial (inside) Collateral Ligament, Lateral (outside) Collateral Ligament, and Posterior Cruciate Ligament that connects and stabilizes the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (big lower leg bone) and fibula (small lower leg bone). As a general rule, ligaments prevent or restrict motion to specific joints. The motions they restrict are determined from their origin and insertion.

  • Collateral Ligament
    • Collateral ligaments are outside ligaments, as seen below. These ligaments prevent valgus and varus (side to side) stresses to knee
  • Cruciate Ligament
    • Cruciate ligaments are found deep in the knee joint. The Anterior (front) cruciate ligament and Posterior (back) Cruciate Ligament cross in an ‘X” pattern to prevent front to back sheer stresses on knee joint.

The ACL, specifically, prevents anterior (or forward) translation, and internal rotation of the tibia on the femur. In other words, the ACL also prevents lateral rotation of the femur on the tibia.

How does the ACL play a role in my daily life?

Accelerating, decelerating, reacting, turning, twisting, and jumping, occur in almost every sport, and with these motions, our ligaments, along with muscles, prevent our joints from moving in unwanted or injury susceptible directions. However, when our muscles are broken down, our bodies are fatigued or malnourished, and our minds are not focused on the demanding task at hand, we put ourselves at risk for injury. Now, these are not the only reasons why ACL tears occur, but the fact is that an estimated 70% of ACL tears are sustained through non-contact mechanisms; the remaining 30% result from direct contact. This means, that 70% of the time, we cannot blame the contact sport, or another person for causing us injury.

So here are some facts:

  • The majority of ACL injuries (70%) occur while playing agility sports, most often reported in basketball, soccer, skiing and football.
  • ACL tears are most prevalent in patients 15-45 years old.
  • Female-male ACL tear ratio has been reported to be as high as 9:1 by NCAA statistics.

To explain the reason for females being nine times more likely to sustain an ACL injury than males, please see Figure 1. But, what else goes into that 70% non-contact number?

Fatigue

As touched on earlier, mental and physical fatigue can play an overwhelming role in injury. The concept of “overuse” is an educational piece for not only athletes, but many parents as well. Parents, think back to when you were growing up… what sports did you play, what seasons did they occur in, how many of your teammates had ACL injuries?   Many of the athletes whom I encounter in my practices who have had or are currently rehabilitating from an ACL tear report that they are a single sport athlete and play that sport all year round, on different teams possibly even at the same time. While not bad to build skill, our bodies need time rest, muscles time to recover, and minds to mentally decompress. Are the young athletes today, achieving this?

 The warm up and cool down

 The importance of the warm-up and cool-down cannot be overstressed. A warm up, should consist of active or dynamic movements that prepare and simulate game or practice-like situations, yes even contact movements. These movements and activities should aim to increase heart rate, initiate perspiration, and effectively warm up our bodies for the sport specific activities to come. Without a proper warm up, our bodies, muscles and joints are not properly acclimated to weather, external/environmental factors, or stretch/stress to come. A cool down should consist of static stretching and or foam rolling along with proper nutrient replenishing to allow our muscles, and minds to re-acclimate to normal.

 Finally, does field turf increase risk for injury?

The quick answer is that the jury is still out. While multiple research studies have been conducted, researchers have not found substantial evidence for or against field turf. Natural grass can yield many different surface types depending on the weather, while turf does not “give” as much as soil. My recommendations? When playing on turf, use a low cleat, to prevent planted feet from getting stuck when performing cutting, twisting, or jumping motions.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where I will talk about a few exercises for ACL prehabilitation or rehabilitation.

 Figure 1: Sex Differences in Females Compared to Males

 

Anatomical Differences Muscular and Neuromuscular Differences Laxity and Range of Motion
Wider Pelvis Diminished muscular force Greater range of motion
Increased flexibility Dependence on quadriceps muscle for stability Genu recurvatum (knee hyperextension)
Less-developed ACL Longer time to develop force Increased knee laxity
Smaller ACL in size Longer electromechanical response time Increased hip mobility/rotation
Increased genu valgum (knock knee position)
Increased medial tibia rotation

Wilk, K.E; Arrigo, C. Rehabilitation after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction in the female athlete. Journal of Athletic Training 1999;34(2):177-193

References