Bridging the Gap from Rehab to Performance

By Sue Falsone

Where does rehabilitation end and performance training begin? Can this exact moment be defined? I don’t believe it can be.

In my many roles over the past few years – athletic trainer, physical therapist, strength and conditioning coach, and many more – I have found that at all levels, returning an athlete to play after an injury is a continuum. There are no defined points, official hand-offs, or time lines determining that an athlete has “finished” rehab and is resuming “performance training.”

As such, each individual person involved in the process of returning an athlete to full sports performance needs to not only understand what other professionals are involved in the process, but also to respect what each specialty brings to the table to help get that athlete back to play. Everyone, including the doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, athletic trainer, massage therapist, the personal trainer, strength coach, and many more can offer insight to help the athlete achieve his/ her goals.

When the athlete is injured during competition, the athletic trainer is the quarterback, determining vitals and the safety of the athletes’ life and limbs. They determine if an athlete can safely return to play, or what type of medical care is needed immediately on the field. They also make the necessary referrals for quick diagnostics to determine what type of injury is going on.

If the patient is post-operative, the doctor might well be the quarterback, dictating precautions and contraindications from the surgery. As the rehab process moves on, the physical therapist takes the lead, assisting the athlete in restoring the fundamentals of strength, range of motion and proprioception. At some point, when the client is ready to move onto different training movements at various loads and speeds, the performance/ strength and conditioning coach might take over. And finally, as that athlete begins to work on the technical and tactical aspects of his/ her sport again, the skill coach can play a lead role in re-familiarizing that athlete with the unique specifics of their sport and position.

In summary, there is no one person who can do everything for the athlete, from on-field evaluation, to post-injury consulting, to the operating room, to skill and technique work at the practice facility, and all the other steps in between. There are many contributors involved in the process, with certain people wearing larger hats at certain times, more than others.

The process of Bridging the Gap from Rehab to Performance (BTG) is inclusionary. It needs to be an athlete centered model, where egos and letters are left at the door, making the patient needs the center of the program. In both parts of these sessions being offered at canfitpro 2019 from August 14-18, 2019, we will discuss each phase of the BTG program, how different skills and philosophies fit and how each of us play a key role in returning an athlete to play.

For more on Bridging The Gap From Rehab to Performance, catch Sue Falsone at canfitpro2019.
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Owner/ Founder of Structure and Function Education
Owner, Falsone Consulting
Associate Professor, Athletic Training Programs, Arizona School of Health Sciences, A.T. Still University
Previous Head of Athletic Training and Sports Performance, US Soccer Men’s National Team
Previous Head Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist for the Los Angeles
Previous Vice President of Performance Physical Therapy and Team
Sports at Athletes’ Performance (now EXOS)
Current consultant to professional athletes and professional sport organizations
Master of Science in Human Movement with a concentration in Sports Medicine from UNC-Chapel Hill
Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from Daemen College
Board Certified Specialist in Sports Physical Therapy through the APTA
Certified Athletic Trainer through the NATBOC
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA
Certified Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapist in the Spine through theIAOM-US
Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance, 200- Hour teacher training