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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Archive for 'knee'

Eliminating tightness in the TFL can reduce tension in the IT band as well as reduce knee pain associated with Runner’s knee or patellofemoral pain syndrome. Foam rolling prior to stretching is a good idea, but I think this stretch is a good one for all runners to add to their toolbox whether it be prior to or after a run. Check out the stretch from my online PFP column below:

 

I am currently working to attain my transitional doctorate in physical therapy (tDPT) at Northeastern University. As I continue to work full time as a clinician, it has been really cool to apply the learning with my current caseload. At this time, I am in a motor control class that is both fascinating and challenging. In week three, we examined pain and the impact it has on neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to adapt or change).

In the sports medicine realm, I generally think many practitioners solely focus on the musculoskeletal system or physical impairment. As such, interventions are developed around tissue constraints, ROM deficits, weakness, etc. Too often, we look past the power and impact of the brain and how it plays a vital role in healing and return to play. For some patients, there is a maladaptive response to injury/surgery and a hypersensitivity of the central nervous system or central sensitization that occurs. Pelletier (2015) notes that structural and functional changes can occur. (1)

Two critical concepts to consider here are:

  1. Sensory amplification – sensory and motor representations change resulting in perceptual changes in body image, motor control changes, and even a persistence or amplification of pain
  2. Experience dependent plasticity – patient’s response to pain is related to prior experience and may experience maladatpive imprinting where the pain outlasts the physical insult

Kleim (2008) gives a great lesson on experience dependent plasticity and states that learning is essential for the brain to adapt to damage self taught behavioral changes can be maladaptive or positive and specific forms of neural plasticity and associated behavioral changes are dependent on specific kinds of experience (2). While one would assume that chronic pain is rare in athletes, I would counter and say it is probably just overlooked as we tend to expect athletes to “push through the pain” because of the driven culture we live in. Coaches, parents and even teammates can affect the mindset around injury and recovery.


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In many cases, my clients are unable to perform traditional strengthening exercises for the lower body due to anterior knee pain or weakness. Beyond loading, using the time under tension principle is a great way to add strength for those who cannot squat, lunge, etc. Below are two great videos of isometric ‘go-to’ exercises that will help improve strength and functional capacity in those who are otherwise limited in their workouts.

I hope you can use these exercises or some variation of them to increase strength and overcome injury and dysfunction.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with lots of athletes ranging from youth to professionals. Regardless of age or skill level, I have observed that each one approaches the recovery in their own way. Some are eager to tackle therapy, while others are apprehensive and fearful.

To be clear, the mindset of the patient is as important, if not more important than the physical part of the process as it relates to success. With ACL rehab, I pay close attention at post-op visit number one to determine if the patient is a coper, non-coper or somewhere in between. Having this awareness is crucial as I look to encourage the client and position him/her for success in the fist phase of rehab. The mindset of a patient recovering from their second or third ACL tear may differ greatly than that of a first timer.

With that said, assessing the state of mind of any athlete in the PT clinic is a must. An athlete’s identity, confidence and self-worth is often tied to his/her sport. Injuries separate the athletes from their teams and take away something very important to them. This can lead to depression, anxiety, anger, fear and loneliness to name a few.

It is imperative to connect with an athlete in the first 1-2 visits of rehab. I aim to bond with them and ensure they know I will do everything in my power to get them back to their prior level of performance. Fear of loss is powerful, and I want to partner with them to prevent the loss of playing time as quickly and safely I can though proper rehab.


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I came across some very good reads on Twitter last week week that I wanted to pass along. The first is a blog post by Rich Willy, a PT, professor and researcher who specializes in running and running related injuries. If you or any of your friends have suffered from nagging IT Band pain, this is a must read. In this post, he discusses proper treatment strategies:

Treating ITB Syndrome

The second pearl involves long toss and force on the elbow. Ever wonder how advising a pitcher to reduce his throwing intensity actually impacts velocity and torque on the elbow? It seems that decreasing effort level by 25% and 50% does not equate to the same reduction in actual velocity with a study using the motus sleeve. Read more below:

Baseball Pitchers’ Long Toss Perceived Effort & Actual Velocity

Finally, there has been much discussion about return to sport assessment after ACL reconstruction. Lately, many have begun to question how effective hop testing really is when it cones to determining readiness to return to sport. I use several assessments (one of which is hop testing), but I also feel psychological readiness is crucial.

This article sheds light on the connection between proper single limb landing mechanics and psychological readiness.

Association of Psychological Readiness for RTS after ACLR and Hip and Knee Landing Mechanics