Managing your injury like an athlete

Whether you’re injured at work, home or playing a recreational sport, there’s much we can learn from professional athletes to optimise recovery.  Just like an injured athlete’s goal is to return to full match fitness, an injured worker’s aim is to return to their pre-injury job role.  Below are some key factors to promote better recovery and minimise time off work and/or sport:

  • Early intervention

How soon after sustaining an injury does an athlete start their recovery process?  Most often straight away!  There is extensive research highlighting the benefits of early intervention to improve both recovery time and success, thereby enabling a faster return to sport/work.  Early intervention also helps avoid time delays which can cause a significant increase in the recovery timeline.

  • Routine

During the recovery process, an injured athlete will often take on a modified role (i.e. coaching) to remain involved with their team and maintain a routine.  The benefits of this include, but are not limited to, improved mental health, meaningful involvement, social interactions, sense of purpose and positive habits.  A gym-based rehabilitation programme will also aid in maintaining routine and social interactions, particularly if the worker is on reduced hours.

  • Rehabilitation

An exercise rehabilitation programme is designed to progressively increase functional capacity following injury or surgery.  The programme will be designed to match the physical requirements of the athlete’s/worker’s role (i.e. lift and carry a 10kg box) and address the following:

  • Range of motion
  • Muscle activation and movement patterns
  • Strength and endurance of supporting musculature to restore pre-injury capacity and reduce the risk of injury recurrence
  • Cross Conditioning. Maintain some functional capacity if they are required to immobilise the injured area, thereby enabling a more effective transition back to sport/work
  • Routine and social interactions

In order to achieve the desired outcomes, it is vital the programme is performed on most, if not all days.  It is also important the individual’s functional capacity is monitored throughout the programme to ensure the required goals are achieved.  Additionally, it is important to identify regression in capacity at an early stage and implement the necessary interventions to address this.

  • Graduated return

Prior to returning to full match fitness, an athlete will progressively increase their functional capacity at training.  It is important that the training interventions match the physical requirements of the athlete’s sport/role to restore pre-injury capacity.  The next step will be a graduated return to full match fitness.  This may start with playing in reserve grade and progressively increasing their game time.  A graduated return enables time to progressively adapt to the physical and cognitive demands, which helps reduce the likelihood of injury recurrence.

A graduated return to work will also aid an injured worker’s return to their pre-injury job role.  The injured worker’s team of multidisciplinary health professionals will liaise to develop a return to work plan consisting of modified hours and duties.  It is important the modified duties are stimulating and specific to the worker’s needs.  Additionally, increases in the worker’s exercise rehabilitation capacity will coincide with progressions in their work-based duties.

The above-mentioned points are some of the key areas to optimising recovery and return to pre-injury capacity.  It is important a holistic approach is adopted to promote better recovery and minimise lost time off work and/or sport.  If you would like more information on exercise rehabilitation that Absolute Balance can provide, please contact us at or call us on 9244 5580.


Daniel D’Avoine (B.Sc.Ex.Phys)

Senior Exercise Physiologist (AEP, AES) (ESSAM) 




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