It's now the third week of High School football and for many Seniors this could be their last opportunity to showcase their skills for colleges and earn that possible scholarship they've been working for all these years. An outstanding senior season and what was once a possible scholarship offer now becomes a window of opportunity to sign that letter of intent. But what happens if you get injured during the early part of the season. Do you risk playing injured throughout the year or do you take time off to heal and hope to play later in the season? This is one of the toughest decisions an athlete and their families need to make.
Some of the questions that come to mind are: How serious is the injury? Can the athlete play through the pain without sacrificing performance and greater injury? What will scouts think? How will this affect the athlete's future? What choices does the athlete have? I can't answer the first four questions listed above, but can give you some insight on the last question; "What choices does the athlete have?"
Being in the sports performance industry and working with athletes of all levels, I've witnessed numerous sports injuries from minor sprains to major surgeries over the past decade. It's never an easy thing to swallow as an athlete to accept an injury and sit on the sidelines. Sometimes you have no choice but sometimes you do. Here are some things to consider the next time you experience and injury and are faced with a tough decision to play or sit.
- Always, get a second opinion. Sometimes it's best to seek out a second opinion. Professional athletes do it all the time and as a parent I myself would seek out a second opinion. Don't get a second opinion in hopes to hear what you want to hear, but get a trusting & honest second opinion from a professional you know is credible. If you get 2 mixed reviews then always go get a third opinion.
- Determine the severity of the injury. Once you get a second/third opinion, determine the severity of the injury and what are the pros vs. cons of playing. It's never a good thing to cause more damage then is necessary, but as an athlete you need to really sit down and analyze the situation.
- Find the best qualified professional to perform surgery. If the injury requires surgery, go find the best professional that has the reputation of getting athletes back on their feet the fastest and safest way. In the sporting world most athletes have heard of medical guru's such as Dr. Andrews from Alabama or Dr. Steadman from Colorado. Not everyone can afford to go to those experts, but there are many local experts in your area that have been successful at specific surgeries and it's your job to seek and find them.
- Search for alternative methods for healing an injury. This should always be the first choice for any athlete. Sometimes surgeries are not always the solution but if you never seek out a second opinion then an athlete will never know. There are many different practices to help athletes recover quickly from injuries such as Active Release Techniques (A.R.T.), acupuncture, chiropractic care, naturopathic medicine, prolotherapy, graston techniques, massage therapy, physical therapy and the list goes on. But once again it's the athlete's responsibility to research these practices and find out what best works for them and their specific injury.
- Post surgical treatments. If surgery is truly necessary than an athlete must find what and where is the best place for them to perform their post surgical rehabilitation. The traditional ice and heat with some ultrasound and electrical stimulation is prehistoric and have been replaced with manual therapy and functional core exercises. However, just because a rehab center does manual therapy or functional exercises doesn't instantly qualify them for your athlete. Research each facility and see which one has experience with the specific injury the athlete is experiencing.
I would like to use one of our High School Athletes as an example. Notre Dame Prep Standout Linebacker Ryan Reardon is on the scouting radar and is battling to earn a scholarship to a D1 school. He currently has several schools interested in him and his drive and desire to solidify his spot on a team is second to none. However, on opening week the worst thing an athlete could imagine happened…an injury in practice. Wednesday night practice and everything is going well until all of a sudden "wham" one of his teammates runs into him and drives a knee deep into Ryan's knee and thigh. Ryan goes down and grabs his leg immediately. At this moment in time the worst runs through Ryan's mind. "I thought I really messed my knee up and did some damage because the pain was unbearable," reminisces Reardon. "I immediately went to the trainers to evaluate my leg, and luckily they said that there was no signs of ligament tears and that my knee was stable but I could barely put pressure on my leg and I couldn't bend my knee." Ryan was given the advice to stay off his leg the next day, keep it elevated and ice the area that was in pain. Ryan took their advice went home and followed the directions he was given.
The very next morning Ryan woke-up in extreme discomfort and pain. He could not bend his knee and walking was very difficult. So now he starts to panic and wonders how he is supposed to play tomorrow night especially when he needs the game film and the rumor around the school that Coach Jim Harbaugh (Stanford Head Coach) might be in attendance at the game. Luckily his mom allowed him to stay at home because he couldn't walk and took him to Ikei Performance. "I had been training at Ikei Performance during the off-season and was being treated by their medical staff. Dr. Andrew Chavkin is the team Chiropractor and has been working on my body keeping me healthy throughout the year and realized that I needed his professional help in order for me to get back on the playing field." Dr. Chavkin performed a series of medical tests which ruled out ligament tears and found that the trauma to Ryan's leg was causing the surrounding muscles to tighten up creating more tension around the injured area.
"Ryan sustained a deep front and medial thigh bruise. The surrounding muscles were trying to protect the area and in doing so caused more tension around the injured area causing pain and immobility of his knee. We treated specific muscles utilizing Active Release Techniques (ART) and performed some hip manipulations. ART allowed me to flush the muscle of any scar tissue development and increase blood flow to the damaged tissue to help speed up the recovery. I also recommended that Ryan go through some active dynamic range-of-motion exercises to enhance his neurological response as well as pump more blood to the tissue," explains Dr. Chavkin.
"It was amazing; I went from feeling paralyzed in my leg to walking out of Dr. Chavkin's office. My range-of-motion dramatically increased almost back to normal and the pain had decreased as well. I got excited when he told me that I'd be back playing by tomorrow," says Reardon. "I immediately took his advice and went onto the training floor with Coach Chad Ikei who started to put me through some crazy dynamic movement drills. We started with anti-gravity squats using bands as assistance, I could still feel some pain but Coach Ikei worked me gradually until the point that I was able to perform full range-of-motions squats. He also worked me into doing some dynamic agility drills focusing on my knee bending. Man it ended up being a workout because I was sweating my butt off and breathing hard, but at the end I could walk, do high knees and even some light running. I ended the session with some ice massage and then they gave me some cream that their team Naturopath created and told me to rub some on the injury 4x in the day. I later came back that evening to do more work with Coach Ikei and continued to do some contrast ice and heat. When I woke up Friday morning and got out of bed I jumped up and started to grin. My leg was much improved and I knew I'd be good to go by game time. I still had some discomfort but I can play with that, but if it wasn't for Dr. Chavkin and Ikei Performance there was no way I would have been able to play Friday night."
Ryan was an individualized case and not everyone responds to treatment the same, but the objective of how Ryan and his mom sought out a second opinion made all the difference in the world. If he chose to stay off his leg and kept it immobile the entire day his symptoms would have gotten worse and his chances of playing would have been a lot less. It just goes to show that before you make your final decision to sit or play, always seek out a professional second opinion.
Active Release Techniques (ART) is a medically patented soft-tissue technique where a practitioner provides a fixed tension on a muscle while actively moving muscles through a specified range of motion. For more information on ART visit www.activerelease.com. If you are interested in visiting with Dr. Chavkin or would like a consultation to learn more about how ART can help you visit http://chavkinchiropractic.googlepages.com or call 480.657.6937 to schedule as session. Dr. Chavkin is located inside Ikei Performance at 9525 E. Doubletree Ranch Road, Suite 104, Scottsdale.