By Dr Andrew Ullo (Chiropractor)
Re-injuries are a frequent frustration for anyone playing sports. The temptation to put your boots on after an injury is overwhelming. You’ve had your treatments, you’ve followed your rehab program and been given your recovery schedule, but feel that no-one knows your body better than you do and you want to return to play early. Not a good idea, according to a study on return to play research from the Football Research Group at Linkoping University in Sweden.
According to this study, injured footballers who missed a course of practice sessions before returning to full competition are more likely to aggravate their injuries – or even develop new ones – compared to those who were gradually eased in. And when it comes to the highest level of the game, professional matches have a seven-fold greater risk than practice ones for the returning player.
What Does The Research Suggest?
The research team examined data on 303,637 football matches involving Champions League teams, and that data included 4,805 matches involving players returning to the field after moderate-to-severe injuries kept them in the treatment room at least eight days.
Their results demonstrated that injury rate in the first match after return to play was increased by 87% compared with the average seasonal match injury rate. However, the study also discovered that with each practice session prior to the first match after an injury, players’ risk of another injury dropped by 7%. The same association was found for muscle injuries but not for non-muscle injuries.
The author states that the data suggests that if the injured player completes six training sessions after they have been the all clear by the medical team to fully participate in all team activities, but before they play a game, the risk of injury in that game is only marginally higher than the average risk in matches.
It should be noted that these results clearly demonstrate that rehabilitation alone may not be sufficient to prevent repeat injuries, due to the fact that most rehab procedures are conducted alone, away from the healthier members of the squad, and are no substitute for what they go through at the top of their game.