Return-to-play programs are specialized plans offered through sports medicine that involve more rigorous and customized treatment. Since the subjects are often young athletes, return-to-play programs require constant observation and monitoring to ensure that the patient is responding favorably to treatment. Only then can an athlete be cleared to return to action.
Deciding on whether or not to enter a return-to-play program requires consultation with a licensed therapist.
Return-to-play programs fall under sports medicine, and so many of the injuries or ailments treated through sports medicine can be addressed through a return-to-play program. These issues range from mild to severe and commonly include the following:
There are of course countless other ailments, and the return-to-play program could be the ideal way of handling these issues without resorting to surgery.
Return-to-play programs do not discriminate based on the sport. In other words, a football player receives as much attention as a golfer and vice versa. The point of return-to-play, and indeed of sports medicine, in general, is to restore the athlete’s functionality so that they can get back out on the field, diamond, court, or wherever else.
A return-to-play treatment program typically starts with a total evaluation of an athlete’s injury. This is especially important in cases involving a brain injury or concussion, as these tests can uncover the extent to which an athlete has suffered cognitive function and balance. The examining therapist will also examine the athlete’s mental and emotional faculties to determine if attitudinal or behavioral adjustments need to be attuned to the plan.
Following this exam, the athlete undergoes a 5-step process, with the duration and intensity of physical activity gradually increasing with each step. In the end, the athlete will have recovered full functionality and is medically cleared to return.