The ‘return to play’ phase is one of the most delicate times in the rehabilitation process, and requires finesse in balancing the demands placed on the body with the body’s capability to take on the physical stresses it is exposed to.
In theory, for every training session missed, an athlete, regardless of their ability level, would require three sessions of graduated intensity to return to their previous level of performance.
The previous schools of thought surrounding return to play or return to sports have always emphasised establishing the capability of the athlete to perform tasks analogous to the sport.
However, it is very important to acknowledge that true return to training after an injury would involve addressing the neuromuscular effect of the injury on the individual’s movement and dynamic skills.
This therefore looks beyond simply healing and robustness of a specific injured structure in the body, but rather at fluidity of movement, removal of compensatory mechanisms developed by the body following an injury, and most importantly, prevention of further injury.
My tip to the individual seeking to return to training is to ascertain with their trusted physiotherapist their capability to master the movements and skills that constitute their sport of choice in a pain free manner and to return to their sport gradually, exposing their body to progressively higher loads of a period of time in a structured manner, guided by their physiotherapist.
It is only in this manner that sports can be resumed without any short or long-term issues.