Physiotherapy and the Athlete: Part 2

Photo: Quino Al

Photo: Quino Al

This is the second instalment in our Physiotherapy and the Athlete series. Our goal for these posts is to cast a spotlight and raise awareness about the potential benefits of physiotherapy throughout an athlete's career. Since physiotherapy is often considered a reactive measure to injury, we wanted to have a conversation around what can happen if it's used a proactive tool to possibly improve performance or lengthen an athlete's career. 

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In this post, we've asked Jon Bell, who is one of our physiotherapists that has experience working on medical teams for the CrossFit Regional Games and the Canadian National Men's Rugby Team. Jon also has a particular interest in treating sports injuries that involve running.

How can physiotherapy prevent injury to an athlete ?

The way I approach injury prevention is very similar to the way I approach injury rehabilitation - I basically want to know how well do you move, how well do you control that movement, and how capable of loading that movement are you. By identifying deficits within these domains, we can formulate a personalized exercise plan to target your weakest links, thereby reducing your risk of injury.

In what ways can physiotherapy improve an athlete’s performance? Can it lengthen their career?

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Depending on the sport and the athlete’s goals we can help in a variety of ways. In my experience, athletes often benefit from having their weakest links identified and exploited through a targeted exercise program. By moving better and getting stronger, athletes are not only more efficient but can avoid a lot of the overuse injuries that we typically see. This will allow them to train harder and longer and thereby increase their performance in the long term. By taking care of your body - whether it’s rehabbing injuries properly or avoiding them in the first place - you give yourself the best chance of having a long and fulfilling career.

Can you provide an example where you were able help an athlete bounce back from a terrible sports related injury?

Photo: Andy Wright

Photo: Andy Wright

The first one that comes to mind is a triathlete I started seeing last year for an achilles problem that she just couldn't shake. Not only had she been dealing with it for over a year, but it had been getting worse over the previous 6 months and was at the point where she was having pain just getting out of bed in the morning.

By identifying and targeting a number of weak links up the kinetic chain, formulating a home exercise program, and implementing a structured training program, we were able to get her on the road to recovery and I'm happy to say that she just completed her first Ironman this summer!


This is just the beginning of the conversation. Whether you are an athlete or play sports just for fun, physiotherapy can play a positive proactive role that can help prevent injury and empower you to pursue your full potential. If you have any questions regarding physiotherapy and sport, we would love to hear from you. Please leave any questions in the comment section below, and we'd be happy to respond.

In the first segment in this series, we interviewed Gretchen McLennan, who shared her perspective as a former national athlete and experienced physiotherapist that treats sports related injuries. You can find that post here