If you have pulled a muscle or torn a ligament while playing sports, you may be surprised at how long it is before you can safely return to playing. While you may have thought it was no big deal and wanted to get back on the field, your coach probably made you see the athletic trainer. This person looked over the injury, had you perform a few simple movements, applied pressure, and then told you to sit out the rest of the game and see your doctor before returning to play. The doctor then took X-rays or had an MRI done. Even if you did not need any type of treatment with the doctor, such as a splint, surgery, or a cast, you were probably told you needed to have some sports injury physical therapy. Here are a few types you may undergo.
Manual therapy is done with the hands. Massage is done to relax the muscles, increase circulation, and reduce muscle or joint pain. Manipulation involves applying pressure to a joint so that it will move back into place. Once in place, mobilization may be necessary to keep it in place until it stays there of its own accord.
Physical therapy will involve two types of exercise, passive and active. During passive exercise, the therapist moves your body with no help from you. This is done to move joints and/or limbs to a certain degree or position that you may or may not be able to do on your own. These exercises, often called "range of motion" exercises help your joints and limbs relearn how to move correctly. They may also push the limits of what you can do yourself, increasing how well and far you can move. Active exercise will involve you doing the work yourself. This can include simple limb movements against a pressure, small movement exercises, and some that involve weights and machines.
Hydrotherapy can be used with hot or cold, even ice, water. It is often done after physical exercise to help reduce any inflammation or stress caused by the exercise. It will relax the muscles, ease some of the pain, and increase blood flow to an area so it can heal faster.
While you may think waiting for release from the doctor or physical therapist before returning to the playing field is silly, it really is in your best interest to follow this advice. Even though you may not be feeling the pain anymore, the internal tissues need to heal completely or they are more likely to be damaged again. It would be better to sit out a few extra games now than not be able to play at all next season or after.