Don't Rush. How To Know When You're Ready To Return To Your Favorite Sport

April 29, 2022

If you are recovering from an injury, it can be hard to return to your favorite sport - both physically and mentally. Rushing back into play can take a toll on your health, and could lead to more pain. The orthopedic experts at Beth Israel Lahey Health provide tips on how to prepare for your return to play.

Have Reasonable Expectations

Whether you are a weekend warrior or a professional athlete, it is important to understand the timeline for your recovery. Based on your injury, it may take weeks or months for you to recover completely. An ankle sprain, for example, could take up to six weeks to fully heal ' and you will still need to be cautious once you return to your sport.

"Depending on your injury, you might not get back to the same activity level as you were before," says Andrew Banos, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Anna Jaques Hospital, a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health. "You need to set reasonable expectations and a reasonable timeline for yourself."

Do Physical Therapy

Your physical therapy plan will depend on your injury and treatment goals, and include a mix of exercises with your physical therapist, as well as at home on your own. You will work closely with your physical therapist to:

  • Improve your range of motion
  • Prevent scar tissue buildup
  • Reduce pain
  • Regain your strength, balance, mobility, and confidence

"Physical therapists, like surgeons, like to see their patients do well. Everybody wants to revel in a good outcome," says Steven Mattheos, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Anna Jaques Hospital. "Get your range of motion back, show progress and everyone is happy. But you need to do the work outside of therapy, too."

Work on Your Mind

When you are injured, it is normal to feel frustrated and disappointed. You may feel left out because you cannot play sports or perform other everyday activities.

An injury can affect the mind and body. Dr. Mattheos explains that you may experience depression and anger due to the loss of independence. He recommends seeking counseling or mental health therapy if you are struggling.

Part of your preparation to return to sports should focus on mental health. You may have to get used to a new normal for your body and make peace with any limitations. To help you prepare mentally, you can try:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Visualization

Wait for Your Doctor's Approval

You may be tempted to return to sports once you start to feel better. However, you should wait until your doctor approves your return before playing. It is important to take time off and let yourself heal to reduce the risk of another injury. Your doctor will provide you with a timeline for when it is safe to return to sports.

Are you recovering from a sports injury? Learn more about Orthopedics Sports Medicine services at Anna Jaques Hospital.