Today we take a look at what physical therapy really is, how it can be used following injuries and how it can be used to reduce the occurance of injuries in the first place.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers this explanation as the role of physical therapists and what physical therapy actually is at its core:
"PTs examine each individual and develop a plan using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles."
As the APTA suggests, there are a few main goals that come along with physical therapy and those are to improve mobility, reduce pain and ultimately improve function. This model serves as the foundation of physical therapy that allows PTs and other rehab professionals such as physical therapy assistants and athletic trainers to get your favorite Browns players back out on the gridiron as soon as possible. Physical therapy may involve a variety of different treatment techniques which may vary based on the patient, injury, severity and the therapist. The treatment provided by rehab professionals can be subdivided into four categories, they are: therapeutic exercise, functional activities, neuromuscular re-education and manual therapy. Each of the four categories serves a purpose in the course of rehabilitation based on the injury and contribute to the end goal of returning an individual as close to their pre-injury level as possible.
What a lot of the general public may not realize with regards to physical therapy is that PT services can be utilized prior to an injury in order to reduce the risk of said injury happening in the first place. For example, a reserach study was performed by Donnell-Fink and colleagues in 2015 that analyzed the effectiveness of an ACL tear prevention program on the rate of ACL tears. Through a meta-analysis this study determined that "neuromuscular and proprioceptive training reduces knee injury in general and ACL injury in particular". By utilizing an ACL injury prevention program, athletic teams are able to reduce the risk of potential knee injuries occurring and allow their athletes to spend more time on the field/court and less time in the training room. Now this isn't to say that an injury prevention program will prevent all injuries of any severity to any part of the body but rather reduce the risk of injuries occurring. So a better term for these programs would be an "Injury Risk Reduction Program".
Injury prevention or injury risk reduction programs should be incorporated into all strength and conditioning programs in order to reduce the risk of injuries. This is especially true at the level of professional football, as the ability of a player to play football is how he earns his living. If he is unable to go out and perform as well as he did before an injury then this could affect his ability to make a living. So if injury prevention programs aren't already in place for NFL teams, what's the hold-up? The NFL has access to all the latest and greatest medical technology in order to better serve its players, so why not have programs part of the strength and conditioning regimen. I don't think it would be hard to get the players, coaches and executives to buy-in to an injury risk reduction program as it would benefit all parties involved. Reduce the risk of injury for your players and improve your chance to be successful, seems like a win-win to me.
American Physical Therapy Association:
Donnell-Fink ACL injury risk reduction:
Brandon Bowers, PT, DPT, is a graduate of the University of Toledo, Doctor of Physical Therapy Program and currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. He is an avid Cleveland sports fan and has experience rehabbing athletes of all levels and from a variety of sports. Follow Brandon on Twitter for more Cleveland Browns injury insight and analysis: @blbowers12
The information provided is the professional opinion of Brandon Bowers, PT, DPT and is based on his clinical experience and the most current clinical evidence available. This information should not be interpreted as or substituted for medical advice for a specific condition or diagnosis.