SPORTS THERAPIST Ifan Thorne MSc, BSc, MSST
The term ‘Active Recovery’ is widely accepted as the principle of keeping the body moving in between periods of more intense physical activity, as with interval training. It can also refer to the bridging of more intense training days with lower intensity days, helping the body (and mind) to recover, ready for the next hard session.
With regard to injury rehab, I like to think in similar terms. There are three recognized stages of tissue healing. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to them here as the Early Stage, Middle Stage, and Late Stage. The key to successful rehabilitation is not to just rest completely and then “hop back to it”, but to apply the right amount of ‘stress’ to the healing tissues, at the right stages. Recovery from injury should always be active.
So, in the Early Stage simply gentle movement (sometimes after a short period of immobilisation) will help encourage circulation into the area, in order to get the right nutrients and building blocks ready to kick-start the healing process. The tissues are still very weak, so too much too soon will be counter-productive. Movement must be pain-free.
During the Middle Stage you will need to progressively overload the injured tissues in order to develop tensile strength, and to help align the scar tissue correctly along the directions of stress. Again, it is all too easy to rush this stage, and to risk re-injury...back-to-square-one!
Finally, in the Late Stage of healing it’s time to get functional or sport specific. So in a sports context you might start to reintroduce skill-based drills, retraining of the elastic-power producing properties of muscle and tendon, as well as balance and co-ordination elements.
If all goes well, by following my structured rehabilitation plan, you should return to sport better equipped than ever. My hope is that you will learn enough to stay relatively injury-free in future, with room perhaps for the odd maintenance session with me!