The footy and netball off season is generally the time when lots of beers are consumed. Did anybody else notice Josh Kennedy playing a drinking game at the Brownlow last night? He had to finish his beer each time he polled votes in a game. I bet he doesn’t feel as good as most of us do this morning. What people generally don’t realise is that although there are numerous footy trips and other antics after the season finishes, there is also a lot of time spent in rehab and injury prevention.
If most people think back over a footy season, they would not say that they played in many games where they went in feeling a million bucks. Injuries are very common in our typical winter sports and often result in many games lost per year. To improve a team’s performance, it is important to have as many available players as possible during the season. To have these players available we need to minimise their injury risk as much as we can. Once full training is resumed it can often be hard to complete a full injury prevention or rehab plan due to time constraints or overall training loads. That is why the off season is the perfect time.
Currently I and my colleagues at Lake Health Group are seeing a lot of patients who have finished the season and require either conservative rehab following in-season injuries, or rehab following a post season surgery. An area under-represented is probably injury prevention. A lot of the time during a season we will see people through the week who have had recurrent hamstring injuries, hip and groin pain, ankle injuries and the list goes on. These people generally disappear following a successful return to play. But do these people ever complete a full rehab??
Often the answer is no. For instance, most people don’t realise the compromised tissue continues to heal and remodel even after the player has returned to play. For this reason, there is often still a compromise and it is important that the rehab process continues throughout this period. A good way to look at an injury is by looking at how it affects our system. If we injure an area – let’s use the knee for a common example, we develop a range of deficits. The muscles supporting the knee will not be as strong as they were prior to injury, there may be changes in biomechanics and the way the knee is loaded during activity and secondary deficits may start to develop.
Often the area itself is treated, but these resultant effects on the rest of the chain are not fully resolved. For this reason, the person may now be at a higher risk of either re-injury or another separate injury.
At the highest level this is well acknowledged and for this reason the off season is still used for developing individual programs based on the person’s needs. I can’t imagine that a player such as Cyril Rioli is going to be using this off-season for a complete rest. He will be insuring that he remains diligent with a specific program that ensures he stays on top of his recurrent hamstring problems. The last thing that he and the Hawthorn football club could afford to do would be to let him lose his condition and again increase his risk of re-injury.
By all means enjoy your off season, but also reflect on the season that was had and whether you will enter next season with an increased or decreased chance of an injury.
Now would be the ideal time to meet with a Physiotherapist at Lake Health Group here in Ballarat to assess your current condition and if necessary develop a program to support you through the off season.
Dan Lewry is a Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor at Lake Health Group, Ballarat