Returning to Play Sport after A Few Years Off?
The attraction and appeal of returning to play sport after a number of years out of the game can be strong and convincing. The sense of camaraderie that comes with team sports is something that people often seek after a period of time, especially if sport has always been a part of your life.
However, often our ambition may outweigh our capabilities when it comes to the physical demands of competitive sport and we need to consider how our bodies will cope.
Unfortunately, periods of relative inactivity can lead to deconditioning of our muscles and results in a reduced capacity for loading. This means that even though you may have been able to comfortably play a full game of netball or football some years ago, there is a good chance that your body will take time to become accustomed to this increase in load when you return to the fold.
Keeping this in mind is important to ensure you can enjoy the return to play sport and keep you playing without encountering injuries.
These are some of the things to consider before you lace up the boots again after a long time out of the game:
- If you don’t use it; you’ll lose it! This is particularly true for physical fitness. If you haven’t been consistently active for a period of time, you will likely have a reduced physical fitness level compared to when you were playing consistently. To counter this, put yourself through a mini-preseason where you gradually increase your fitness level with some cardio exercise that will prepare you for the demands of the sport you are looking to resume.
- Therefore if you are going to return to running sports, a gradual increase in running loads would be appropriate. If change of direction is required, as it is in most team sports, you should do some agility drills which may involve some skills eg kicking and passing. Improving your general fitness will reduce the shock to the system that you may experience with the return to matchplay.
- Sports that require a level of power and acceleration also require strength in the muscles. Regular strength training can help with increasing the resilience of your muscles and can act as a protective measure against soft tissue injuries. The curse of the returning player is the hamstring or calf injuries. Ensuring you have adequate strength in these important muscle groups can help reduce the likelihood of a hamstring or calf strain.
- So how do you identify risk factors associated with hamstring strains? Factors include past history of injury and age. Unfortunately, we can’t modify these if they are relevant to you. Hamstring strength is the main risk factor that is strongly correlated with hamstring injuries.
- Thankfully, we can do something about this factor and specific strength exercises can strengthen the hamstrings and prepare them for activity. Speak to you physiotherapist about the most appropriate exercises for you.
- Stretching after you play sport may not have been as necessary when you were younger but after a period of relative inactivity, you may need to increase your mobility.
- Sports require a greater level of mobility compared to walking or running and ensuring your joints and muscles can move through these ranges is important for injury prevention.
- A little bit of extra time stretching after training sessions and games may assist with recovery and improve your ability to complete consecutive training sessions and games.
- For the best advice on the best stretches for you and your sport, a Physiotherapist at myPhysioSA is well positioned to help you.
- After a lengthy layoff from sport, it is normal for you to feel “off the pace” in the early stages. Knowing that this may be the case may better prepare you for an enjoyable return to play. You can also expect to feel much more sore after games than you may have remembered because of the reasons outlined above.
- These two phenomena may be reduced by managing the expectations for your first few games after returning to play.
- Discuss with your coach the possibility of playing part of the game rather than a full game or playing in a position where you can get a good feel for the game without the pressure to perform at the highest level.
- As your fitness, strength and game sense returns, you can progress your playing minutes and your return to the midfield might be more appropriate.
The ultimate goal is to ensure that you can enjoy competing in your chosen sport again.
Therefore, the best way to enjoy sport is by training and playing consistently and if you can prepare yourself adequately and manage you physical capacity effectively, you can get back to playing the sport you love for many years to come.
For advice and guidance on how to successfully navigate the comeback trail, our Physiotherapists at myPhysioSA are here to help!
Feel free to call on 1300189289 and book in to see one of our friendly Physiotherapists and we will get you back out there.
Written by Sports Physiotherapist Ryan.
:Ryan consults at Mile End Adelaide at the Sports & Arthritis Clinic. Ryan deals with elite athletes, along with weekend warriors and everything in between.