They know their body pretty well, and they know how severe or mild their own injury is, so the answer or words they are really hoping to hear is for someone to tell them “out loud” what they are thinking to themselves.
“Oh, this is terrible. Just terrible. You are out for 6 weeks or 12 weeks. Then you’ll be right back where you were before you got hurt.”
We wish it were that easy to know the future of when and/or how fast or slow someone will get back to 100%.
But it’s not that easy. Every human body is different. Every injury is different. Every athlete is different and has unique styles of discipline, rest, recovery, diet, positive self-talk, etc.
Even the exact same doctor performing the exact same ACL replacement has different outcomes. A different muscle tone before the surgery, different muscle imbalances that probably caused the ACL tear in the first place, etc, etc.
So, when helping athletes, put yourself in their shoes. Consider their fear of NEVER playing their sport again. Even with a simple injury, THIS is their main concern.
This is the schedule I usually try for acute injuries: (not the plan for post-surgery)
- First Session: 1 hour in length, massage with assessment, ice, ice massage, stretches if indicated, refer to doctor if indicated. You are looking for the specific muscle affected, how hot/swollen it is, is it even safe for you to work on them. After isolating the problem area, assess how much pressure they can handle, how strong of a contraction if any can they make, how much stretching of the area can they handle. Ice the area, and ice massage if tolerated.
- Next Day, Day 2: 30 minutes in length, quick massage with assessment, ice massage, stretches
- Next Day, Day 3: 30 minutes, same as yesterday
- Two Days later, and every 2 days for 2 weeks: 30 minutes, same treatment plan using more pressure as tolerated, adding more stretching as tolerated. If you are also a personal trainer, add strengthening as tolerated. Start assessing why the injured area is possibly out of balance. If injury does not improve, or keeps coming back with little activity, send them to a doctor
- 7 & 14 days after first session: 1 hour in length (in the middle of the 30 min/every other day schedule), massage with assessment, use more pressure as tolerated, ice massage, stretches and start adding opposite areas. Always check in with the athlete about their workout schedule and how they are feeling, are they back to regular workouts? How is the pain right after the massage? When do they feel best? Worst? What are they doing themselves to help heal? You are looking for the swelling to go down, the heat in the affected area to go away, the pain to go away with pressure and then with action of that muscle, and lastly no pain with both.
- Next twice per week @ 30 minutes or 1 @ 60 minutes, if they are still hurting, or this is a more serious injury that will take more time, pull back to 2-30 minutes or 1 60 minute session per week, depending on their availability and yours. Be consistent & show them their progress.
Hope this helps.