There is a major medical advancement that is said to increase overall recovery time for patients, and it’s starting to gain the attention of health professionals around the world as it’s thought to help reduce healing time. Prehabilitation, or prehab, is also gaining momentum in another area: athletic competition. While the concept has been rightly explored for its benefits in the doctor’s office, it’s also gaining traction on the field. As athletes look to stay healthy and fit for competition, they may find the key to consistent training and high levels of performance in prehab exercises.
What Is Prehab?
Prehab’s function is to both help prevent injuries and alleviate their severity when they do unfortunately occur. According to an article in Yale Medicine, prehab “involves addressing muscle imbalances or weaknesses that, if left unchecked, could increase the risk of injury.” They framed the notion of prehab sports medicine within the context of distance running, stating that over time, “this will prevent more serious injuries that can keep a runner on the sidelines for months.” As runners and other endurance athletes learn to navigate strengthening their muscles, they would be wise to consider prehab exercises as a means of staying healthy.
The Significance of Prehab Sports Medicine
Prehabilitation measures are immensely important both in and out of the sports world. Focusing on the medical benefits of those suffering from chronic back problems, an article in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science explored how prehab exercises and activities can physically prepare patients for surgery. The study looked at the different ways that people recovering from spinal surgery adapted and found that those who committed to prehab regimens “reported feeling prepared for surgery and expressed positive outlook regarding the intervention.”
This is important for athletes for a variety of reasons. Primarily, while it may be ideal that prehab activities could lower the chance of getting injured, it’s sometimes inevitable that competitors will face some kind of physical or muscular trauma. When that happens, a comprehensive prehab strategy in the time between the injury and surgery (if it’s necessary) will help minimize how long the athlete must sit on the sidelines.
This kind of logic is explored in a scholarly article that appeared in the European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery. The researchers of the study focused on how a prehab home-based workout regimen is directly linked to a shorter hospital stay, particularly for patients who needed valve and coronary artery surgery. While this study may not immediately have a direct link to sports medicine, it’s helpful to consider the results because, again, the researchers here prove with data that low-intensity prehab exercises will lower a patient’s recovery time. As athletes go forward in adopting their own treatment plans, prehab options can ultimately help them save time and energy during the healing process.
Outside of these two examples, research has concentrated on a how different prehab exercises can increase the effectiveness of cartilage regenerative surgery (CRS). As athletes train, age, compete, and sometimes get hurt, prehab sports medicine can help ensure that their time on the sidelines is shortened. The study stated that prehab “may fasten the postoperative recovery and optimize clinical outcome” when it comes to CRS and other cartilage- and joint-related injuries.
Finally, while these results reflect favorably on the topic of prehab recovery, the researchers clarified that “further research is mandatory to quantify its clinical effect and to demonstrate its cost-effectiveness and benefits in surgically treated patients.” Further, because the prehab methods were tested on only 10 patients, a wider field of subjects would be necessary to add more conclusive evidence of how beneficial they ultimately could be.
Prehab Implementation Strategies
Although the trend has yet to be explored extensively in the field of exercise science, major gyms and rehabilitation facilities are finding ways to innovatively formulate, implement, and monitor prehab exercise regimens. An article in GQ illuminated how a lot of back, knee, shoulder, ankle, and pulled muscle injuries arise from simply overdoing it. Even though GQ shouldn’t be viewed as a comprehensive and definitive resource for fitness and health science, its reporting identified unique trends in the prehab movement that paints a fuller picture of the progress in the field.
By putting in the time to commit to prehab activities, athletes can effectively reduce their risk of injury. As far as specific prehab exercises go, GQ focused on the importance of one activity: “The World’s Greatest Stretch.” The article stated it “is actually a series of movements that begin with a low lunge, moves into a thoracic spine rotation and hamstring stretch, and concludes with a combination calf-and-shoulder mobility exercise.” When athletes commit to this form of exercise before competition, they’ll ultimately keep their bodies in better shape to compete for longer periods of time without getting hurt.
Again, this is still a growing topic of study that requires more research taken on the field. While medical doctors have already begun viewing the method positively in relation to patient recovery time, more perspectives from an exercise science perspective would help shape the best practices for athletes looking to employ prehab exercises. An online B.S. in Kinesiology would enable a prospective strength and conditioning coach, a health and fitness center manager, or a rehabilitation therapist to unpack the intricacies behind prehab sports medicine.
At East Central University, students join an interdisciplinary field that would promote health, well-being, fitness, prehab, and rehab concentrations. Because our online B.S. in Kinesiology prepares students with skills that are broadly applicable across an array of health fields, graduates from the program go on to live rewarding professional lives. Explore our program today and discover the different hands-on opportunities you’ll have to master the nuances of prehab sports medicine.