Musculoskeletal injuries can have immediate and significant detrimental effects on function. When an individual experiences or is likely to experience limitations in everyday functioning due to ageing or a health condition, including chronic diseases or disorders, injuries or traumas, a set of interventions is needed. “Rehabilitation enables individuals of all ages to maintain or return to their daily life activities, fulfill meaningful life roles and maximize their well-being.
The noun rehabilitation comes from the Latin prefix re-, meaning “again” and habitare, meaning “make fit”. It is important to identify rehabilitation as a process targeted at minimising the loss associated with acute injury or chronic disease, to promote recovery, and to maximise functional capacity, fitness and performance.
Recreational physical activities and competitive athletics account for a significant number of injuries. Musculoskeletal injuries are therefore an inevitable result of sport participation. Football has the highest incidence of catastrophic injuries, with gymnastics and ice hockey close behind. Tissue injury from sports can be classified as macro-traumatic and micro-traumatic.
- Macro-traumatic injuries are usually due to a strong force – such as a fall, accident, collision or laceration – and are more common in contact sports such as football and rugby. These injuries can be primary (due to direct tissue damage) or secondary (due to transmission of forces or release of inflammatory mediators and other cytokines).
- Micro-traumatic injuries are chronic injuries that result from overuse of a structure such as a muscle, joint, ligament, or tendon. This type of injury is more common in sports such as swimming, cycling and rowing.
The process of rehabilitation should start as early as possible after an injury and form a continuum with other therapeutic interventions. It can also start before or immediately after surgery when an injury requires a surgical intervention.
The rehabilitation plan must take into account the fact that the objective of the patient (the athlete) is to return to the same activity and environment in which the injury occurred. Functional capacity after rehabilitation should be the same, if not better, than before injury.
The ultimate goal of the rehabilitation process is to limit the extent of the injury, reduce or reverse the impairment and functional loss, and prevent, correct or eliminate altogether the disability.