This post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Sports Medicine
Depending on your specific injury, you may have had surgery, needed physical therapy or simply treated your sports injury at home.
No matter the case, it’s important to follow a step-by-step process before getting back in the game or resuming your normal exercise activities.
“Recovery after an injury is just as important as the treatment to prevent re-injury and avoid further complications,” says OrthoIndy sports medicine specialist Dr. Corey Kendall.
- Give your body time to heal. Returning to an activity too soon will only cause re-injury and a longer recovery time. Recovering from an injury isn’t a time to push yourself beyond your limit.
- Stay positive. Often an athlete may feel depressed about missing out on the team camaraderie or an active adult may feel like they lost all their progress. It’s important to remain positive and focus on healing your body. Almost all athletes or active individuals can return to their pre-injury level.
- Restore full range of motion. Listen to your physical therapist and do the at home exercises they provide.
- Regain muscle strength and endurance. You won’t be able to lift as heavy of weights, run as far as you used to or play an entire game without a break. This is normal. Set realistic goals and work to achieve them overtime.
- Regain skills. Whether it’s dribbling a basketball, throwing a baseball or doing a burpee, slowly work your body through the movements to make sure you are doing them safely.
- Regain confidence. Often, an injury can make an athlete or active individual timid about getting back in the game or resuming normal exercise. This is normal. Remember, you did it before and you can do it again.
- Slowly return to your sport or activity. If you are an athlete, start by just doing the basics in practice before moving on to strenuous workouts and games. If you are an active individual, try Pilates or light cardio before intense running or hitting the weights.
Common sports injuries and recovery time
“Recovery time varies by sports injury. Some athletes may return to their usual activity in one week, while for others it may take five months or longer,” says Dr. Kendall.
If you are in shape pre-injury and do not have an illness, the following recovery times provide an estimate of the time it may take to return to activity.
Sprains and strains
- Sprained ankle: Five days for a minor sprain; three to six weeks for a more severe sprain
- Calf strain, pull or tear: Two weeks to three months or more depending on severity
- Fractured bone: At least six weeks
- Fractured finger or toe: Three to five weeks
- Fractured clavicle (collarbone): Five to ten weeks
Various sports injuries
- Shin splints: Two to four weeks
- Shoulder separation: Two weeks
- Groin pull: Four to six weeks
- ACL tear: Five to 12 months
- MCL tear: Two to six weeks
- Tennis elbow: Two weeks to six months
Learn more about sports medicine treatment at OrthoIndy.