How to return to play after an injury that required surgery

Speak with a physiotherapist to assess your readiness to return to playing.

Those who have regularly played sports usually find it hard to stay on the sidelines after an injury. Injured athletes would immediately want to resume their regular activities the moment the pain is gone.

Unfortunately, returning to play, especially after suffering an injury that required surgery, is not always easy. One needs to be fully healed, not just physically but also mentally. However, the rehabilitation process before one can finally play again can be challenging. The length of recovery may be long or short, depending on different factors. Get the support of professionals who can give sound advice and recommend a recovery plan for the athlete.

What does return to play mean?

What does return to play mean?

There comes a point when the injured athlete is able to perform their sports. Generally, when the performance is at a level similar to the time before the surgery happened, then they can return to play.

However, one may be ready to participate in sports but has yet to attain a 100% level of performance. A person may feel that they can already start playing but is not psychologically ready to experience the game.

Every athlete who undergoes surgery aims to get back to their sports as soon as possible. When athletes return to play, they should be able to participate in their sports just like before or even better.

However, the decision to return to playing should not be made by the athlete alone. It is always crucial to seek the approval of the doctor (or the surgeon) and the physical therapist, as well as the athlete’s coaches and family.

Dangers of returning to play too soon after sports injury and surgery

Dangers of returning to play too soon after sports injury and surgery

One of the most common questions that athletes ask after a sports injury is when they can play again. Athletes feel frustrated, isolated, and even depressed sometimes after suffering from injury. The longer the recovery period, the more they feel negative about their condition.

However, one must understand that the road to recovery is often long, especially coming from surgery. Various factors affect one’s readiness to play, such as the severity of injury and the complexity of medical and surgical care. It is not always the same for everyone. Knowing that there are risks involved will help one to better understand why it is not advisable to hasten the healing process.

Some of the risks faced by players who return to sports too soon include the following:

Risk of re-injury

According to experts, when athletes try to immediately get back to playing before their surgery is fully healed, they run the risk of suffering the same injury again. Sporting injuries affecting the groin, Achilles tendon, and repaired anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) are among the most common ones where re-injury rate is high. Players returning soon may be due to the athlete’s own desire, pressure from the team or coach, lack of understanding, or a combination of these factors.

Long-term issues

A simple injury can become a long-term problem if the recommendations for treatment and recovery are ignored or rushed. Worse, in some cases, if the rehabilitation process is not completed, the athlete may not be able to participate in the game in the same capacity as before.

Longer time to achieve full recovery

Returning too soon slows recovery time. Therefore, instead of returning to play immediately, the athlete should religiously follow the recovery plan of the doctor or therapist.

How to return to playing after athletic injury and surgery

How to return to playing after athletic injury and surgery

Understandably, athletes want to get back into action immediately after their surgery, especially if they do not feel any discomfort. It is not recommended to jump into play as soon as no pain is felt. However, the following things can be done to ensure a safe return to play experience.

Be patient.

It is important to be aware right from the start that the recovery period may take quite a while. While waiting for the right time to start therapy, athletes can do other things to occupy their time. If moving is not yet allowed, reading self-motivation books can help them improve their mental health and outlook in life. They can also listen to podcasts of people who successfully returned to their game after suffering from injuries.

Talk to professionals.

The absence of pain does not necessarily mean that the patient is healed. The athlete should be checked thoroughly in all aspects of their health before truly going back to play.

There is a period to restore the body’s normal functions, and this cannot be rushed; otherwise, serious consequences can happen. Talk to experts to know the proper course of action to take. For example, some injuries require the athlete to start rehabilitation right away. In contrast, others require a person to be fully healed before physical therapy should be done.

Prepare mentally.

The person should also be psychologically ready to return to competitive play following the surgery. Research shows a clear link between an athlete’s psychological readiness to play again and their ability to go back to pre-injury level. Athletes with positive psychological responses are much more likely to return to their previous level of performance after surgery. They are also quicker to recover compared to those who respond negatively.

Enrol in rehabilitation programmes.

After major surgeries, patients are almost always required to undergo rehabilitation to speed healing and improve mobility. Furthermore, undergoing rehabilitation means being assisted by professionals who can properly guide and advise about recovery.

Get the support you need

Get the support you need

Recovering from surgery requires the support of one’s community. One of the most dangerous things that an athlete can do is to assess himself and decide to play without the help and advice of professionals.

If you are someone who wants to get back to your active lifestyle after surgery, we at Transcend Health can help you return to playing as soon as your body is ready. We have professional health practitioners who can give you advice and provide you with a treatment plan depending on your condition.

Our professional physiotherapists can help you with postoperative rehabilitation to rebuild your full body strength and get your ready to go back into action.

Get your body moving the way you want it. Get in touch with us at 02 4961 3399 or email for more details.

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