The rehabilitation process is a crucial step in returning football players to the field of play. A proper understanding of this process from start to finish can ensure that our players are able to compete at the highest level possible without restriction.
After a player is injured, they should undergo a concise evaluation from a Certified Athletic Trainer or a physician. This evaluation is critical in determining a treatment plan to help the player return to competition.
Part of this plan should include a thorough rehabilitation program that includes therapeutic exercise. Proper communication between the physician and athletic trainer is important when developing a rehabilitation plan.
As Certified Athletic Trainers, we must be steadfast in proper selection of therapeutic exercise as part of a player’s rehabilitation program. These exercises must address deficient areas of the body the injury affected.
There are many types of therapeutic exercise to choose from when it comes to preparing a rehabilitation plan. These may include flexibility exercises, progressive resistive exercise, proprioceptive exercise and plyometric exercise, as well as functional exercise to prepare the athlete to return to the field of play.
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Athlete feedback is also important when progressing them through a rehabilitation program. It is important for the athletic trainer to know how the athlete is feeling throughout the process. The rehab process should not cause the athlete extreme pain or discomfort, and worst of all, a re-injury.
Once the athlete has completed the rehabilitation process and is physically and mentally ready to return to play, it is important for the athletic trainer or physician to perform a thorough re-evaluation to determine if the player is ready to compete again. If not, the player may need to complete further rehabilitation and therapeutic exercise to achieve their pre-injury playing level.
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Evan Craft is in his fifth year as an assistant athletic trainer for the Kansas City Chiefs. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Craft attended the University of Kansas and graduated with a bachelor of science in education and athletic training. Following his time at Kansas, he was a graduate assistant athletic trainer at Iowa State University for two years. Prior to entering the NFL, Evan was an assistant athletic trainer at East Carolina University.