I think by now we’ve established that our knees are quite important to our everyday functioning. Without them we simply cannot move, and “without movement there is no life”.
That is a paraphrased quote that my professor commonly used to describe the importance of our job as therapists and trainers. Injuries directly affect people’s lives, they have the ability to end dreams and even destroy the human spirit.
As morbid as that may sound, it’s the harsh reality of life changing injuries. However, this isn’t always the case. Because despite the bleak prognosis surrounding so many injuries, sometimes it works out in the end.
Take the story of Alex Smith, for example. The American football quarterback who plays for the Washington Football Team in the NFL, had a career ending lower leg injury in 2018. Everyone wrote him off, they all said he would never play football again. Fast track to 2020, 17 surgeries and almost 30 months of rehabilitation later, Alex Smith returned to football once more. A true comeback story.
How did Alex do it? Discipline, unwavering commitment and one of the most intense rehabilitation protocols in modern orthopaedic history.
And that is the power Physical therapists, Athletic trainers and coaches poses. The ability to not only fix but restore what was lost.
Which brings us to the point of all of this:
Knee injuries. More specifically injuries of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament and the Meniscus.
Arguably, two of the most common and potentially life altering knee injuries sustained by people all around the globe.
This is a three part article that will cover the following topics:
So let’s crack on and get right into it...
The importance of rehabilitation after an injury.
Whether your injury was minor or so severe that it required operative treatment, rehabilitation after an injury remains of utmost importance. Why?
In addition, rehab also improves patient education and awareness of their shortcomings that could potentially increase risks of injury in the future.
How Does Rehabilitation Work?
Rehab or in this case orthopedic rehabilitation is defined as the therapeutic approach to recovery. It’s a supervised (usually by a physical therapist) program designed to assist people in recovering from musculoskeletal injuries.
A rehab program uses physical activity, specialized exercises and techniques to restore functionality lost due to injury. Certain biomechanical abilities are often negatively affected or completely lost due to the injury and or surgery.
Rehab addresses loss of joint stability, balance and proprioception issues as well as restoring muscle strength and size lost due to atrophy.
(Note: Atrophy is the breakdown of cells and or tissues of the body)
Rehabilitation may be implemented as soon as 24 hours post injury and last up to 24 months. The individual timeline depends on the severity or complexity of the injury being treated.
Who Facilitates Rehabilitation?
Musculoskeletal injuries are confirmed and diagnosed by a doctor or specialist orthopedic surgeon. Doctors identify and treat the problem or this case the injury.
But after their job is done, the responsibility now falls onto the shoulders of the physical therapy department. Physical therapists or physiotherapists (depending on the area of the world you find yourself in) are specialized healthcare professionals that use physical activity as a treatment tool.
They facilitate the rehabilitation and recovery process from the time of injury up until their return to normal activity.
Physical therapists use a combination of calisthenics and resistance exercises to restore mobility and fix any bio-mechanical shortcomings.
The Dark Side of Rehabilitation
We feel that it’s only fair for us to highlight the fact that rehabilitation isn’t always sunshine and roses. In fact, sometimes rehabilitation and everything that goes along with it leads to significant psycho-social trauma. Now I know that, that statement sounds extremely pessimistic but it really isn’t, in fact it’s actually just us being realistic.
Let me explain, an injury itself is an extremely traumatic experience. Now this gets compounded ten fold when you're a sports person and or a fitness professional. More often than not your sport is your career and identity. And when you go through an event that threatens that you tend to suffer severe psychological trauma.
This makes the rehabilitation process ten times more difficult for the therapist.
Why? Well, sometimes the rehabilitation isn’t successful. Sometimes the client is over zealous and returns to his or her activity too soon and ends up re-injuring themselves or injuring something else. Sometimes the rehabilitation program is to restore functionality only. And not necessarily to get the client to perform at his or her pre-injury levels.
In short, during the entire rehab program it's vitally important to manage expectations. Because in the end sometimes, even though not often, it doesn’t work out.
And you need to be ready for that reality.
The Bright Side of Rehabilitation
Okay enough sad stuff! Let’s talk about the good and the great side of rehabilitation. First of all, Physical therapists are amazing individuals. Their skill set is so well rounded and specialized that they usually get the job done ahead of time. And this comes from almost 10 years of personal experience working alongside and being treated by PTs.
Secondly, rehabilitation has decades of solid science backing its efficacy. In fact, in the last ten years the area of orthopaedics specifically the area of injuries and rehabilitation, has made some groundbreaking strides. This had led to newer, niche and progressive methods that have allowed therapists to almost “guarantee” a full recovery.
All in all, the odds are truly in your favor! Because despite the bleak prognosis surrounding so many injuries, just like the story of Alex Smith, most of the time it works out in the end.