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.
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.