Returning To Play – How To Gauge

It’s a question that many players and athletes ask after an injury, a fall or collision during play.

Despite us not having x-ray vision, we can do a few simple checks to assess whether they are able to re-enter their domain safely.

Talk, Observe and Touch
The number one concern is pain. Pain in our body’s alarm system to let us know when something isn’t quite right. If the person is able to identify they are in pain, this is an immediate call for them to stop. Take the time to ask them questions such as “what happened?”, “did you hear anything?” or “have you ever injured this area before?”. This will give you a guide as to how bad the injury might be, and if they’re accustomed to injury they may even be able to tell you what they have done by the “type of pain”. If there is pain, it is a no-go for getting back into the game.

Have a look at the area, encourage them to look too. The biggest concerns are swelling, bleeding and/or deformity. Bleeding must be stopped (so it can clot) and covered. Swelling and deformity is a no-go for getting back into the game.

With their permission gently touch the injured area, feeling for unusual bumps or swelling. You can also encourage them to gently feel and to let you know if anything is unusual. If any areas are too painful to touch, getting back into the game is a no-go.

If the player or athlete has passed through these three tests, they can be moved and begin the next stage of assessment. If they have shown to be in pain, you are unable to stop the bleeding or the area is swollen or deformed then immediate medical attention is necessary.

Active and Passive Movement
These stages of the assessment are about movement of the joints surrounding the area. Active movement is about the athlete or player moving the area themselves. If they can complete this without any difficulty or pain, we can then move to passive movement. Passive movement is about the first aider, coach or trainer gently assisting with similar movements. With the external force at play, it allows the area a greater range of movement than allowed before. If this stage is completed with no pain, we are looking good for the final stage of assessment.

Skills Test
This is the opportunity for the player or athlete to show their body is ready to be back in the game and all it demands on their body. Set up at least three tests of them to do, that reflect actions or situations they would experience in a game. For example, kicking a soccer ball, running or passing a ball.

If they are able to complete these tests without pain, then they may be ready to re-enter the game. Once again, if pain or discomfort occurs, remove them and start again. If you have any concerns or feel it may not be right, it is always better to walk on the side of caution and seek medical expertise from your physiotherapist or doctor.

Elin, is an alumni of St. Edward’s University and holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, furthered her academic journey by attaining a Doctor of Physiotherapy from Macquarie University in 2022.

Her passion for sports, particularly football (soccer), is evident in both her academic pursuits and personal endeavors. Specialising in the comprehensive well-being of athletes, Elin focuses on restoring them to peak performance while actively preventing future injuries.

Elin’s professional expertise is centered on musculoskeletal rehabilitation, with a specific emphasis on addressing and preventing knee injuries. Her approach integrates expert treatment with a commitment to educating and empowering patients, fostering their active involvement in enhancing their health and overall quality of life.

As an active participant in NPL football with SD Raiders, Elin brings firsthand experience and a profound understanding of the sport’s demands. Beyond the field, she extends her influence by contributing sports coverage over the weekends.

Christopher (Chris) Han graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy, and then completed the Doctor of Physiotherapy program at Macquarie University in 2018. Chris is currently undertaking his PhD at the University of Sydney and Institute for Musculoskeletal Health in the field of low back pain and is due to complete this in early 2024. 

Chris is currently an assistant Physiotherapist for the NRL Referees. Chris has previous experience as the head Physiotherapist at Panthers Premier League Netball and a number of elite sporting athletes in the private setting.

Through Chris’ experiences, he has a particular interest in all areas of the body and musculoskeletal physiotherapy, sports, vestibular rehabilitation, and Men’s Health (pre and post prostate surgery).

Suzanne graduated from Western Sydney University with a Bachelor of Health Science (Sports and Exercise Science) in 2015. She then went on to continue her studies at Macquarie University graduating from the Doctor of Physiotherapy post-graduate degree in June 2019.

Since graduating, Suzanne has worked in the local Penrith area in both private practice and Sports Physiotherapy. Suzanne has worked with sporting teams including Penrith District Netball Association, Mt Druitt Rangers (NPL), Penrith Valley Figure Skating Club, and local dance and cheer schools. 

Suzanne has a particular interest in working with artistic athletes including cheerleaders and dancers. She has a professional background in both cheer and dance and has previously worked as both a cheer coach and dance teacher. Suzanne’s previous experiences are an invaluable resource to her as a physiotherapist, as she has a thorough understanding of the level of physical fitness and skill acquisition that these athletes must have in order to be successful on stage and in competition.

Suzanne’s other areas of clinical interest reside in lower limb musculoskeletal injuries, spinal pathologies and women’s health.

Nathanial graduated as a physiotherapist in 2012 which saw him work in private practice and hospital settings gaining experience in all areas of physiotherapy including hand therapy, splinting/casting, pre/post-operative care, Men’s Health and general musculoskeletal, occupational and sports physiotherapy. Since then he has gone on to complete further studies in physiotherapy enabling him to be the only dual titled Musculoskeletal, Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist in Penrith.

Nathanial has a strong background in sports physiotherapy achieving accreditation with NSWIS as a service provider and working with many elite sports teams.

Nathanial has a particular interest in working with elite athletes, complex cases and in particular assessment and management of knee, hip and shoulder pain.

Andrea graduated from the Australian Catholic University completing her Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science in 2018 and Master’s of Clinical Exercise Physiology in 2020. After graduating she attained accreditation with ESSA as an Exercise Physiologist.

During her studies she gained clinical experience in both hospital and private practice settings, in cardiac rehabilitation, neurological conditions, cancer and chronic musculoskeletal injuries.

Since working at Progressive, Andrea has a specialist interest in treating musculoskeletal injuries, helping people in the mid-late stage of rehab to get them to return to sport or work. As well as helping people manage chronic conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and diabetes.