Sports Injury Rehabilitation – Functional Rehabilitation & Sports-Specific Rehabilitation

In our previous post, we discussed the first two stages of Sports Injury Rehabilitation - Promote Healing & Recovery and Localised Exercise Rehabilitation. In this post, we will elaborate further on the next two stages, Functional Rehabilitation and Sports-Specific Rehabilitation.


Functional Rehabilitation Functional rehabilitation is largely defined as exercise-based therapy aimed at improving a client’s ability to perform their pre-injury activities or activities of daily living. In this stage of rehabilitation, exercise prescription is based upon the type of movement the client is exposed to on a weekly basis, or in their chosen sport.


For the athlete, this stage will focus primarily on building up functional strength and movement patterns required for their sport. For e.g. if the sport requires a lot of running then an emphasis will be placed on building up strength in a unilateral (lunge) stance. On the other hand, if the sport requires loading up with both legs, then an emphasis will be placed on building up the strength of the athlete in a bilateral (squat) stance.

This stage is also the linking stage whereby the athlete is developing overall strength, coordination and proprioception in preparation for sports-specific rehabilitation.

Examples of functional exercises include: squats, lunges, deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, step ups, farmers walk, presses and rows, etc.

Sports-Specific Rehabilitation This stage builds upon the strength, coordination and proprioception developed in the functional rehabilitation stage. During the Sports-Specific Rehabilitation stage, exercises are now tweaked to most specifically replicate the movements or strength-based requirements in the client’s chosen sport. It also includes the introduction of power, reaction time, sports specific balance and stability training and agility.

It is important that this stage is not missed, as it gradually exposes the client’s body to the movements it will be required to perform during your sport in a rehabilitation environment, as to prevent overloading or reinjuring the body.

Examples of sports specific rehabilitation could include: multidirectional lunges for sports that require the athlete to turn and run in different directions, for e.g. soccer. This may slightly differ to a tennis or hockey player who requires more upper body coordination with movement. For example, lunging down to catch and throw back a tennis ball in various directions and heights.

An example of this exercise can be found on our Instagram page – @ihphysiotherapy.

The direction of this stage can often depend on the clients muscle imbalances or movement dysfunctions. So, whether the client needs to develop ankle or hip stability in one side more than the other, or symmetrical upper body or lower body strength, balance and power.

Of course, some sports require asymmetrical movement of the athlete, for example a right footed soccer player will tend to have better dynamic balance on the left leg opposed to the right, but greater power and strength in their right leg compared to the left. In this case, the athlete may never be completely symmetrical in these aspects. So, the sports specific rehabilitation will focus on reducing the asymmetry between these as much as possible.

Stay tuned for our next post on Sports Injury Rehabilitation: Sports Performance and Injury Prevention!


If you would like to learn more about Sports Injury Rehabilitation please feel free to contact us at Infinite Health Chatswood - Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology & Massage Therapy on 02 9412 2222 to start your rehabilitation process today!


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