Students strive for speedy injury recovery

After the crack of a bone, the pop of a knee or the sprain of an ankle, an athlete’s focus turns from winning a game to recovering from an injury.

Whether it follows surgery or a diagnosis, recovery can be a long, painful process. According to the Bluetail Medical Group, recovery time for injuries can range from a few weeks to a few months depending on the injury, and in unique cases one may never recover. Most muscle or bone sprains take a few weeks to come back from, Bluetail Medical Group noted, while fractures can take anywhere from three to six months to recover and ligament tears can take up to 12.

Physical therapist Tara Keller said that most surgeries resulting from sports injuries require physical therapy.

“Sprains and strains mostly can be treated at home, but fractures, complete tears and other injuries would require surgery, then physical therapy,” she explained. “It is important for patients to gain muscle or range of motion through therapy.”

Keller said that the first and most important step to recovery is rest, but it sometimes gets disregarded. However, resting is the best way to kick-start a recovery plan, she said, adding that key factors besides physical therapy are keeping a healthy diet, listening to doctors’ orders and staying hydrated.

Junior Madison Lampke, a volleyball player who broke and sprained her ankle and had labral tears in both hips, said that the recovery process for both hips began four days following her first surgery.

¨I was in a rush to recover from my surgery, so I wanted to start physical therapy as soon as possible,” Lampke said. “It was very stressful trying to get back to where I was before I had surgery.”

The recovery time for the broken ankle was one month, and the sprain took six months, she said. She added that her longest recovery followed her hip surgeries, which took seven months overall.

“I had to graduate early from physical therapy because I really wanted to get back in time for high school volleyball,” Lampke said. “You need six months for recovery, but I had only healed for four months before returning.”

In most cases, athletes and patients must follow a timeline toward recovery; but in some instances, recovery times can vary, Keller said.

Freshman Fisher Ireland, who tore his meniscus and had surgery Sept. 18, said he believes that he will graduate early from physical therapy.

“When you come back from meniscus surgery, it takes five to six months to recover,” he said. “I’ve been doing well in my recovery, so I think I will be able to recover in four months.”

Typically, Keller said, patients follow a program that guides them through rehab. This begins with improving the patient’s range of motion, followed by strengthening and then focusing more on specific skills for one’s sport, she explained.

Ireland said that in his recovery program, he does a lot of stretching and strengthening and needs to pass a movement test.

“It’s really hard to go to physical therapy and to do my stretches and exercises at home, because I have little time on my hands,” he said.

According to Competitive Edge Physical Therapy, toward the end of most patients’ recoveries, they must pass an injury-specific test that ensures they can return to their sport. For ligament tears, athletes must pass a series of four tests in order to be able to return to their sport with the proper biomechanics, CEPT said.

Despite physical therapy being necessary for rehab, Lampke said that many patients are not enthusiastic about going. Lampke explained that attending physical therapy was the most difficult part of her recovery.

“If I missed one day, I would be even more behind than I already was,” she said.

A lot of the time, patients will rush back into recovery; however, there are things one cannot rush, Keller said. She added that specific injuries will continue to affect patients post-recovery and that there is always a risk of reinjury. Repeated concussions and ligament tears are two of the injuries that physical therapists are very careful about because they have higher reinjury rates, she said.

“Physical therapy was a difficult process for me,” Lampke said. “But after I finished, I was beyond happy that I was able to go back to volleyball without feeling different from before.”