For every athlete that sees us early in the rehab process, there are many more who come to us after their rehab has failed.
These walking (or in many cases limping) cautionary tales remind us that not all rehabilitation programs are created equal.
The signs of a bad rehab plan
Botched rehabilitation programs are not just a waste of time, money and hope, but can even end an athletes playing career.
So how does rehab go so wrong for many people? Here are the most common reasons:
- Athletes don't do their physiotherapy homework
- Calendar-based progression instead of competency-based progression
- Inappropriate return-to-play strategies
- Simple and effective exercises get ignored for showy and ineffective ones
Athletes often come to us well after they should have been back playing, and we repeatedly see these common issues in their original rehab plans.
All these problems can be solved, but most practitioners do not consider the full needs of a rehabilitation athlete. It is easy to set a plan for an athlete, but less straight-forward to follow through and ensure they achieve long term success.
What does a good rehab plan look like?
1. Athletes do their homework
It's amazing how many people tell me the exercises a physiotherapist gave them didn't work... when in reality the athlete didn't do them properly, or even at all. They are often pretty embarrassed when we make them do many of the same movements the therapist asked for and then they see results!
Realistically we understand that a bunch of scribbled exercises on a piece of paper is hard to understand, and without supervision and support it can be overwhelming to keep track of all the specific ways your exercises need to be done.
This is why the integrated physiotherapy team at Core Advantage makes rehabilitation so much better for athletes. At Core Advantage athletes get the supervision needed to execute the right exercises the right way. Athletes come to the clinic for their physio consultation, and then go straight to the gym floor for their workout where they can get expert coaching on the movements.
2. Competency-based progression
Often athletes come to us for the first time and say "it's been 12 weeks since my surgery so I'm starting running next week."
This is just crazy!
Calendar-based rehab is foolish and harmful and and we hate it.
Instead we use a competency-based rehab model in our clinic and gym.
It sounds obvious, but seriously: walk before you can run, squat before you can jump. Less haste, more speed.
Competency-based progression is how we get our athletes stronger, faster and better without the set-backs that occur when you progress arbitrarily according to a calendar.
3. Return to play like a pro
There are no shortcuts to long term athletic success, and returning to play like an amateur instead of a pro will set you back and can sometimes end playing careers.
It blows our mind how many people still follow this progression to sport:
Surgery > Nothing > Physio rehab > Contact sport.
This is not a safe schedule. If this is you right now, contact us immediately so we can help.
So what does returning to play successfully mean? It means you end up on the field or court fully prepared for the demands of your sport, ideally stronger and more robust than prior to your injury.
In our Sports Rehabilitation Program we ensure athletes progress through several stages of sports-specific dynamic movement and motor control training that properly prepares them for return to play.
4. Attack the low-hanging fruit
Think of a juicy apple hanging at head height rather than the one at the top of the tree requiring a ladder. You should obviously grab the one within reach! To translate that into rehab, we want to make sure to do the easy and simple things with the biggest impact first.
Not a week goes by without meeting an athlete where the low hanging fruit (high impact simple things) have been completely missed, but they are busy doing endless complex "rehab" movements with little impact.
This could be a junior athlete returning from a stress fracture of the foot doing endless fancy rehab exercises, but no one addressed the root cause which was their flawed running technique.
It might be the basketball athlete with a sore shoulder doing a ton of rotator cuff and scapular retraction work, but they have the tightest pecs in the universe.
Because our physio and coaching team work side-by-side, we get to pick up these low hanging fruit early in the rehab process.
Start your rehab journey the right way
Great rehabilitation programs involve diligent and supported athletes progressing by competency, mastering each level of their rehab before moving to the next, and returning to play with staged and strategic plan specific for their sport, picking up the easy wins of low-hanging fruit along the way.
We built our integrated physiotherapy team at Core Advantage specifically to solve these common problems in athletic rehabilitation. If you live in Melbourne, come and see us so you can return to play stronger, faster and better than ever before.