This post is not for the sports physical therapist. The concepts below are just part of business as usual for us. But, if your profession is not medical, these are important.

This means if you are watching your child rehab, if you are supervising a player’s recovery as a coach, or if you have to rehab one of your injuries, the following components should be included in a successful, high level program. You don’t have to be the expert in a rehab scenario, but the more you know, the more you can insure a full and complete rehab or training process. And, as with most rehab principles, they can be used for injury prevention and performance enhancement programs as well.

1. Rotational components. We cannot just train or rehab in one direction. Straight up/down, straight to the side, and most weight lifting machines are fine movements but we need to train in the transverse plane or side to side rotation. This is realistic in sport so we must train it. It also combines multiple complex movements which will help replicate sport. Certain tissues are much more vulnerable when doing rotational training which is why we start with isolated, single plane movements and progress to integrated patterns with rotation. BEWARE!

2. Change of speed. Except for maybe track, athletes move in different speeds constantly throughout a competition. We need to replicate this for training or rehab. All exercises and activities can’t be at the same speed. We need to alternate between fast and slow. Between smooth and explosive. And between heavy and light. If your training is not changing speeds with different movement patterns, you are not maximizing your effectiveness.

3. Change of attention. In training and rehab, the athlete is usually focused on the exercise or movement, often with feedback from the physical therapist. When the athlete is in sport, the focus is on the game including the ball, opponent, etc. They are not focused on their positioning and movement patterns. They are playing the sport. So, in rehab we want to change the athlete’s attention so they regain (or train) the ability to do an activity while catching a ball, swinging a stick, closing their eyes, or any of a number of other ways to change attention. This is more realistic for return to sport. This is done in later stages or rehab or higher levels of training once they have mastered movements and exercises with singular focus and attention for instance on proper exercise form.

There are many others like the necessity to lift heavy to replicate load on the field and increasing overall volume also to replicate game conditioning. I just always like to at least see the above things included in any high level rehab or training program. Single direction bicep curls and lat pull downs have their place for foundational strengthening, but if we are preparing athletes for the field, we need to make sure the above principles are included.

Just some things to look for you in your athlete’s training and/or rehabilitation program! Or, call me, I can help!

Kash Eagleton, DPT, SCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Sports Physical Therapy Specialist
Fredericksburg, VA

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