How can I get back into active sports again after my injury?

Your physician has cleared you; now it’s time to realign. Depending on your injury, your body has changed during your down time. Some muscles have been working overtime to protect your injury. This may have caused a muscle and joint imbalance that can lead to you re-injuring yourself if not addressed. Use a foam roller frequently to expose muscles that are tight and painful. Make sure when using the roller you do not experience sharp pains, for this may be a reason to pay your physician a visit. Continue inhibiting these muscles with the roller until 70 percent of the pain subsides, or for 20, 40 or 60 seconds or longer. Make this a daily habit. Begin a stretching program that addresses the same muscles to help with muscle lengthening. Now gradually work your way back into your active sport with a consciousness that all movement is integrating without restriction.

Once you have been released by your physician, I would recommend starting with core (all muscles surrounding spine between neck and hips) exercises to ensure your body is stable; like building a house starting with the foundation. These exercises may also include functional training/movement specific to your sport. Once you are able to control balance and core strength you can add more resistance/weight training. With a strong core you will find you are much more powerful. Depending on your sport, you may also be incorporating speed and agility training. Again, I recommend core strength to start. By having the stability your body will be more controlled and less likely to sustain injury.

Assuming you have been cleared by your doctor and any other health care professional’s care you were under; it will be a slow and steady process. Not only does your body have to recover, but so does your mind. Participating in a sport-specific training program will help your body prepare and help prevent future injuries. That will seem like the easy part. The harder part will be overcoming fears of the injury re-occurring. This is a crucial step in recovery because if you are not mentally focused, you are at risk for re-injury. Not only is a strong body needed to return to sports, a focused mind also plays an important role.

Returning to an active sport after an injury is possible. You'll want to get the "all clear" from your physician first. You will also want to make sure you are physically able to perform the moves necessary. Provided there are no contraindications for its use, a foam roll session (aka Trigger Point Therapy), prior to and after your sport goes a long way towards preventing some types of injuries. Dynamic stretching of the muscles involved in performing the sport is also very beneficial. Overcoming any mental obstacles is also important. Fear of re-injury can change the way you perform and lead to a decreased performance and possibly another injury. Take it slow and easy. Remember what they say, "Slow and steady wins the race."

Aaron Nelson , NASM Elite Trainer
Sports Medicine Specialist

Returning to active sport after an injury involves both physical and mental healing. You need to make sure you are physically able to perform the criteria asked of the sport you want to play. Being able to move in a pain-free state is important so that you reduce your risk of re-injury. Overcoming any mental obstacles is also important. Return to sport after injury involves regaining the mental focus you once had prior to the injury. Fear of re-injury can change the way you perform and lead to a decreased performance and possibly another injury. Make sure you have let yourself heal mentally and physically by giving yourself ample time and slowly return to the sport you love.

First of all, any activity or sport that you did before your injury is possible to do again. Any!

You may need to find adaptive equipment and some folks to support you to learn and be safe, but anything is possible. Go online to and plug in your zip code and the sports you are interested in playing or trying, and it will download the programs that are closest to you that offer activities, camps, clinics or learn-to days in your surrounding area! Some of the most popular sports and activities are kayaking, canoeing, road biking, hand cycling, skiing (both alpine and Nordic), rock climbing, swimming, ice hockey and sled hockey, track and field, and many more.

Starts with attitude and willingness to get back in the game. From that point, very important to build a solid foundation using corrective exercise to reduce risk of further injury. Sharecare is loaded with fitness experts focused on corrective exercise and can be a valuable tool in your journey. Find a coach and let them assist along the way.

Return to active sport is certainly possible depending upon the severity of the injury. First and foremost you should receive medical clearance from your primary healthcare provider to return to active sports. Once cleared, you will need to ease back into the activity to prevent re-injury. The use of a personal trainer (one with some corrective exercise experience) may expedite your return as well as help to prevent future recurrences of the injury.

Dr. Vincent Burke
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist

After an injury returning to sport clearance is always important from your doctor. The good news for most is if it is an orthopedic issue you have a great chance of returning to your game. Please note it may take some modification such as changing positions on the field or court to decreasing the volume such as innings pitched. The main thing when thinking about recovering from an injury is not to stop training and conditioning all the other "good" body parts.

I have found this to be a big mistake. Focus on what you can do, not what you can't. If you are in a leg cast you can do so much for the other leg, joints above and below the injured (ask your physical therapist/Doctor), upper body, core and work the cardiovascular system. We have to not allow the "injured" to take over our body and mind. In the beginning it will take family support, good nutrition, rest, mental strength and a positive attitude. After, it progresses to physical strength, determination and always a positive attitude to return to sport.

During rehab compliance is key because this will give a better healing outcome. I always encourage athletes to come in more than two to three times a week because they have the whole body to work on not just the injured. After clearance to progress in rehab it will include multi-planar and dimensional exercises coupled with tweaking the varies energy cardio systems for the specific sport. It is also important to be a vision person and stay freshly educated to the game you are returning to. It is key to go to practice for the skull sessions and film not only to be part of the team but to know your role when return. This is a great mental help and a confidence builder not only for you but the team and coaches that you will be back.

After released to play you may not be "game ready" but practice ready. This is always a good thing not to jump back full tilt because of any power leaks you may have. Progressing from 50 percent, 75 percent then 100 percent effort in the beginning may be best coupled with non contact to contact. This is always a safe healthy return. Always ask yourself if it is painful when returning. A good scale to use is my TRAAS (trace) scale: tissue reaction athletes action scale, 0-3:

  • 0: No pain at anytime before after, during or after
  • 1: No pain before, no pain during but pain after. You should see your ATC/PT
  • 2: No pain before, pain during. Inform your coach or medical staff for care
  • 3: Pain before the game/practice starts. Inform all staff for immediate care.

The first step is to get cleared by your physician to make sure that your injury is healed to the point you can participate in sports again. Once that happens start by engaging in regular physical activity to strengthen and recondition your body. Start with exercise to correct any possible muscular imbalances that have occurred followed by working to develop muscular endurance. Focus on single joint, and progress to whole body movements focusing on 15 to 20 repetitions per set, and several sets. Once you have developed muscular endurance, transition to muscular strength exercises again starting with single joint and progressing to total body movements and focusing on 5 to 8 repetitions per set. Once you have developed muscular strength, develop muscular power by focusing on explosive movements using 5 to 10 percent of your body weight for 10 repetitions. Once you have developed muscular endurance, strength and power, you can start transitioning back into your sport. Start with light practice and as your endurance and skill level gets back to normal levels you can eventually return to your pre-injury levels.

Yusuf Boyd, NASM Elite Trainer
Athletic Training Specialist

Getting back into sports after injury, whether severe or minor, is a process and requires proper healing and physician clearance. Once your physician clears you for activity you want to insure that you have taken the proper steps to strengthen and stabilize the affected area in an effort to reduce the chances of re-injury.

Keep in mind that in addition to physical healing, mental healing must occur as well. Severe injuries typically take longer, not just because of the physical damage but mainly because of the mental damage. Try to keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with individuals that genuinely want you to succeed. Support from family and friends are key while in the rehabilitation process.

Copy and paste the link below in your browser, great tips on utilizing your social support network when returning from an injury.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.