Injuries are unfortunately quite common for young athletes in high school and college. This is the time when players get serious about competition, and they might even have a scholarship riding on their performance. Reducing the risk of injury benefits everyone involved, including the athlete themselves as well as their teammates, coaches, and athletic departments. A pre-season physical therapy screening can help accomplish this.
JAG Physical Therapy understands the importance of pre-season physical therapy screenings for athletes. That’s why we are a trusted PT provider for athletes, coaches, and school athletic departments in the New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania area. Schedule an appointment today for a pre-season evaluation at your nearest JAG PT location, or read on to find out more on what you can expect.
Why Is Pre-Season Screening Important?
First and foremost, pre-season physical evaluation can identify and mitigate injury risks. A bad injury can put a student on the sidelines for weeks or months, and it could put a scholarship or college admission in jeopardy. Months or years of building toward a big season or key event can be lost, as can conditioning that has been earned with dedicated training. Teams become weaker when athletes are benched with injuries too.
Athletic injuries in young people are often compounded by the fact that they’re still growing. Their anatomical frame, balance, flexibility, and motor control can change as they grow, making them more susceptible to injury and turning many types of injuries into potential chronic problems that plague them into adulthood.
While screening can’t predict all injuries, they can identify athletes who are at risk of certain injuries based on their anatomy, fitness, and choice of sport. Then, the athlete can be given specific exercises to add to their training program to reduce the likelihood of injury.
For example, a basketball player might go to a pre-season evaluation and mention to the physical therapist (PT) that they sometimes get a sore lower back in the second half of many games. The PT, after performing further assessment, could discover that the athlete has been working hard on arm and leg strength but needs more core strength to support the back. They can suggest exercises, like crunches and planks, that the player can incorporate into their training regimen to reduce back pain and the chance that it could turn into a chronic problem or season-ending injury.
Another area where the pre-season screening can be valuable is in helping young athletes determine when they are in danger of overtraining or overusing certain muscle groups. They can be taught to recognize impending injuries from overdoing it. They’ll also be able to recognize when they’re ready to move up to the next level or attempt a new skill.
Pre-season screenings aren’t just about injury prevention either. Athletes can get tips on better performance through strength and flexibility exercises. They can start a new season ready to go, with an extra edge over the competition.
What Happens During a Pre-Season Physical Therapy Screening for Athletes?
Most athletes are required to complete a pre-season physical before participating in school sports. A pre-season physical therapy screening is a bit different from a regular physical at a doctor’s office. Physical therapy evaluations address the athlete’s musculoskeletal system — the muscles, bones, and joints and how they function together in a given scenario, like playing baseball or competing in gymnastics.
What’s involved in a pre-season screening for athletes? Typically, the following would be covered:
- Discussing previous injuries and how the athlete felt returning to sport
- Talking with the athlete about where they feel weak or experience pain
- Assessment of range of motion (joint mobility and flexibility)
- Muscle strength testing
- Evaluating anatomical symmetry for imbalances
- Reviewing the athlete’s growth and its effects on performance
Once the evaluation is complete, the physical therapist then makes recommendations tailored specifically to the athlete’s unique needs. For instance, a swimmer might be given stretches to prevent shoulder injuries. A soccer player could be prescribed exercises to strengthen ankles with laxity. Athletes whose sports tend to favor the use of one hand or side of the body (tennis, golf, field hockey, fencing, baseball, etc.) might need suggestions for how to balance strength on their weak side.
If the athlete isn’t experiencing any particular problems and doesn’t seem at risk for injury, the PT can still recommend additions to their training program to remain in good health. The goal of pre-season physical therapy screenings is to start off the season as strong as possible so the athlete has the best chance of achieving their goals and remaining injury-free.
Injury Prevention for Athletes
It’s vital for athletes to follow the suggestions given to them following a pre-season PT screening. These aren’t a “one and done” kind of recommendation but rather a season-long recipe for the most optimum results.
We recommend the athletes we assess follow up with JAG PT for injury prevention services and ongoing physical therapy sessions as needed. We offer a wide array of options, and students can learn even more stretches or exercises they can perform before or after training sessions. Our website is another terrific resource, with many informative blog posts and videos to help athletes stay in peak form and achieve their desired sports performance.
To schedule a pre-season physical therapy screening for yourself, your child, or your team, reach out to JAG Physical Therapy online. Ideally, screenings should take place about four to eight weeks prior to the start of a season so athletes have some time to make progress toward their goals. So don’t wait — schedule your appointment today!