Understanding the Three Phases of Injury Rehabilitation

Injury rehabilitation is a process that helps individuals recover from an injury and return to their pre-injury level of activity. It is a multi-stage process that involves the protection, repair, and remodeling of the injured area. The protection phase is the first stage of recovery and typically lasts from two to four days. During this phase, the body's goal is to protect the injury from further damage by limiting movement and recruiting supportive tissues to relieve additional pressure.

Depending on the severity of the injury, this may involve wearing a compression bandage or crutch and avoiding activities that increase pain or swelling. The repair phase follows after swelling or bleeding has subsided and usually lasts up to six weeks after the injury. During this phase, the body deposits new scar tissue which reduces the need for protection as it matures and strengthens. The remodeling phase is the final stage of recovery and usually lasts between six weeks and three months after the injury.

During this phase, the body teaches scar tissue to behave like the tissue it has replaced by producing additional new tissue to help strengthen and support it. The goal of rehabilitation is to minimize muscle loss and strength deficits while restoring range-of-motion (ROM) levels as close as possible to pre-injury levels. Gentle range-of-motion and soft tissue exercises are important during this stage, as well as small weights if it is safe to do so. Once ROM has been restored, strength training can be performed safely with weight machines in order to minimize muscle loss and return to pre-injury muscle strength and endurance levels.

The final phase of rehabilitation involves restoring coordination and balance, improving speed, agility, and sport-specific skills that progress from simple to complex. This gradually returns the athlete to full activity.

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