This week we’re looking at rehab. It’s something that the majority of players are going to have to go through at some point in their playing career. I’ve turned to my colleague and Head Physio at The Edge, Helen McElroy. Helen’s a chartered physiotherapist who specialises in lower limb injuries and has a PhD in hip and groin injury in Gaelic football, so when it comes to rehab advice for GAA players it was a no-brainer to ask for her guidance!
What’s your initial advice for players after picking up an injury?
The first thing is to protect it from further harm, this may mean withdrawing from the game/training and get it assessed by your team physio/doc. Getting on the right track from the outset is key to not making it worse and not losing precious time in the rehab process. The other basics to consider here are adequate hydration, avoid anti-inflammatories unless medically advised; The sympathy beers are also not a good idea, alcohol should be avoided in that acute phase!
How does the approach change for those who have season ending injuries and those who many only miss a few games?
In a lot of ways it doesn’t change, the end goal is always a fully rehabbed athlete returning able to cope with the demands of the sport, so that never changes whether that’s a 6 day or a 6 month return.
All rehab should involve a criterion based return, that is you have goals that your physio wants you to meet before they deem you fit to return to play.
It’s not sufficient to say that you’re out for 6 weeks with no structure to the return. Eg. If you have sustained a shoulder injury we will want you to pass certain criteria in relation to strength and movement but also assess your ability to catch the ball overhead, tackle with the affected arm and give and receive a shoulder tackle with confidence before we feel you are ready to return. These goals will be reflected in your rehab plan and your on field work.
With those guys I always ask, “Consider the biggest/strongest guy on your team – Are you confident in your shoulder if you run into him at training tomorrow?” If the answer is no then there are gaps in your rehab that need addressed. The same with lower limb injuries, can you get to full speed, can you decelerate and turn adequately and pain free without your marker turning you inside out? If not, you’re on the bench!
Those who are injured on a more short term scale need to consider keeping themselves ‘fit’ so if running isn’t an option can you get that cardio kick from cycling/ski erg/aquajogging or if you’re really lucky to have access to an alter G it’s a fantastic piece of kit for some injuries. Work with your physio and S&C coach to keep the rehab process as closely aligned to team training as possible.
The other big consideration with a longer term injury is mindset. Pessimistic expectations are often associated with suboptimal outcomes and a worse prognosis. Stay realistic but optimistic. Rehab is a long, sometimes lonely road for anyone who is out long term.
There may be setbacks along the way, facing these is often the tipping point between success and failure. Use your support network, speak to your manager, ask what you can do to assist in your rehab. Set yourself some personal goals to keep you motivated, this might involve working on other aspects of your game, improving your mobility, strength goals in the gym or anything that makes you tick and keeps the process interesting.
Main things to consider;
• Communication with your physio is key – Ask questions, make sure you understand the process and the goals/targets. If you don’t ask again!
• Don’t rush it, we will push you as hard as we can but you have to respect the natural healing process.
If you’re dealing with an injury, make the above your rehab bible til you get back on the field and you’ll not go too far wrong!
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