Advances in technology have enabled recovery time following a sports injury to be reduced dramatically. Jan Ballard looks at some of the current trends in sports injury rehabilitation
Recovery from a sports injury generally takes a lot of time. Those who suffer anterior cruciate ligament tears, for instance, need to take off at least six months. “What’s absolutely essential is to let the rehab take time,” explained clinical therapist Sussanne Beischer. “Every month’s wait represents a huge gain.” That being said, advances in technology are permitting huge gains, too, in terms of injury recovery. Sometimes these advances can even slash recovery time by days, if not weeks, or even help minimise further injuries. With that in mind, here at Orthopaedic Product News we have compiled three of the latest trends in sports injury rehabilitation. Let’s take a closer look at each one:
Virtual reality (VR) is now being used in sports. Mostly it is being used to enhance the fan experience. Sky Sports, for instance, is using VR during its Premier League coverage to enhance the fan viewing experience by giving them exclusive behind the scenes access. Professional clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United, on the other hand, have been using VR as a training tool to enhance players’ reflexes and resilience. Now VR is also being used in sports injury rehabilitation. The Independent’s post on ‘Five Ways Virtual Reality is Improving Health Care’ explains that VR is helpful in physical therapy. It puts patients in a virtual environment that can be altered to put them at ease. It also makes therapy exercises more fun, thus easing the burden of rehab. Just as important, the patients’ interactions with VR’s virtual environment helps physical therapists “design better rehabilitation applications.”
Icing aches and pains is nothing new. But cryotherapy takes that to the extreme. It’s akin to a full body freeze, and is extremely popular among athletes. It is also very effective. A feature on technology in sport details how Leicester City players used cryotherapy to help them win the Premier League title in the 2015/2016 season. During that magical season every one of Leicester City’s players spent at least five minutes a day in the club’s cryotherapy chamber, upon the advice of head physiotherapist, Dave Rennie. Striker Jamie Vardy swears by daily cryo sessions, noting how it helps players like himself recover a lot faster. The freezing cold is also very effective when used for injury rehabilitation. “It helps recovery and rehabilitation processes,” explained CryoAction co-founder Ian Saunders in an interview with The Guardian. The extreme cold causes vasoconstriction, and this “reduces blood flow to the extremities, which reduces inflammation around soft-tissue injuries, stopping them [from] progressing.” Additionally, the process releases adrenalin, which “relieves pain and generates the feelings of exhilaration that players report.” This is why more professional sports teams and rehabilitation institutes are using the technology.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy
Soft tissue injuries generally heal slowly. Reason being tendons and ligaments have poor healing properties. Enter platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, which involves taking a patient’s own blood, and putting it in a centrifuge. The centrifuge is then spun at very high speeds to concentrate the platelet level and growth factors in the blood. The platelet rich blood is then injected back into the injured area, where it promotes healing. But does it work? In 2014, we took a closer look at a study on PRP therapy, which conclusively proved that it works. PRP therapy, according to orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Michael Terry, “enhances the body’s biological healing process,” and has “shown good results for many conditions.” It is also safe, which is likely why top athletes from around the world continue to use it. Notably ex-England international Jermain Defoe, received PRP injections, when he was bothered by a pelvis injury. Other pro athletes worldwide, from Tiger Woods to Rafael Nadal, have tried PRP therapy for accelerated healing, and the results have been generally favourable. Granted it’s an extremely costly procedure, but it is a great option for injuries to tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.