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Physical Therapy Promotes Rehabilitation: Athletes and others get back in the game at Cardinal Hill Hospital

A common referral for rehabilitation – “rehab” for short – at Lexington’s Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital is sports-related orthopedic injuries of the back, shoulder, arms and legs, specifically the knees. Football injuries are typically knee and ankle injuries involving the ligaments. Charlie Workman says so, and he should know.

Workman is Cardinal Hill’s program manager for outpatient services. Physicians order rehab for the whole range of sports injuries, and Cardinal Hill provides services for the entire array, in addition to rehab for more traumatic injuries, such as breaking a leg after falling down the cellar stairs.

Almost all physical therapy (PT) is done with a medical professional’s referral. How long the patient stays in rehab depends upon the injury. A broken collarbone may take six to 10 weeks of PT, whereas PT for a pulled muscle may range from a few days to several weeks. No matter what sport someone plays, Workman says the most critical thing is to have a medical team that can provide consultation and develop a therapeutic plan for rehabilitation.

These days, physical therapists are seeing more women who have incurred sports-related falls, mainly because more women are playing sports than ever before. Women are more exposed to ACL injuries than men because of differences in body structure. The pelvis is wider in women, which changes the angle of the femur between the hip and the knee.

Workman also reports seeing more concussions. He says a number of studies are underway concerning concussions in soccer and football players. Recent research establishes a connection between concussion and other closed-head injuries and the development of dementia later in life. Concussions can be serious injuries that require proper medical management. One recently developed medical team available in Central Kentucky for diagnosing and treating concussion is the Multidiscipline Concussion Network facilitated by the University of Kentucky.

Workman says the most important advice he can give athletes is how to prevent injury. He gave four ways to do so:

1.Be physically and mentally prepared to play the chosen sport. “The weekend warrior routine results in injury,” he said. Anyone playing any sport needs a balanced training program to prevent overuse of various parts of their bodies. Workman says a physical therapist can provide training routines for specific sports.

2. Wear and use the proper equipment. Don’t play soccer without shin guards or ride a bicycle without a helmet.

3. Use what Workman refers to as “proper mechanics” while playing sports. Most injuries occur when players are fatigued or are playing when they are not properly conditioned. One example is the softball or baseball player who continues playing when his or her muscles are fatigued, resulting in overuse injuries.

4. Listen to your body. When you feel acute, unfamiliar pain, stop. Workman says people need to learn to recognize something that is potentially harmless and heed any unusual pain.

A frequent mistake athletes make is resuming competitive play before achieving maximum reconditioning, which can result in re-injury. “Other research has helped us to know when the body is healed adequately and the person is ready to resume full sport activity,” Workman said.

Children now play team sports as early as age 3. Workman emphasizes that these early ventures should be for fun, not for competition. He is concerned, as are others in the profession, that children may be specializing too soon.

“The focus needs to be on exposure to different activities, playing for relaxation and exercise, as well as social activity – interacting with other kids their own age,” he said. It is necessary to encourage good technique early, he added.

After graduating from Asbury University, Workman earned his master’s degree in physical therapy at the University of Kentucky, and is now program manager at Cardinal Hill. The hospital covers the entire spectrum of rehabilitation services, including pediatrics, adolescents and adults both old and young. Water-based rehab, stretching, strengthening, range-of-motion and sports-specific exercises are all available at Cardinal Hill. Because of improved research and best-practice protocols, athletes can receive precise rehab programs that meet their specific needs.

By Martha Evans Sparks, Staff Writer

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