*How Functional Anatomy Impacts Injury Recovery Time*
In the field of sports medicine, we aren’t just focused on preventing injuries, but also determining how to prevent them from getting worse once they’ve already occurred. Taking it a step further, we need to make sure that we understand why some injuries are more extensive than others. In other words, why does it take so much longer to return to action from some injuries as compared to others?
To me, this always starts with a fundamental understanding of functional anatomy. In my experience, as a general rule of thumb, anatomical structures that function in multiple planes of motion generally lead to more “stubborn” and lengthy rehabilitation timelines than those that function predominantly in a single plane.
As an example, consider a pulled quad (which is really a quad/hip flexor, as the rectus femoris is the most commonly injured muscle group in this region). Typically, in spite of the fact that this is a multi-joint muscle (crosses both the hip and knee), an athlete will usually bounce back really quickly. Why? It operates almost exclusively in the sagittal plane.
There are fewer functional demands for which an individual has to prepare prior to a true “return to play.” Conversely, imagine pulling an oblique. It’s a much more depressing prognosis. Just about everything – from coughing/sneezing to rotating and sprinting – bothers it. How is it different than rectus femoris? As always, functional anatomy holds some of the answers.
The obliques (both internal and external) have a big role in controlling excessive motion in the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes. And, they even play a crucial role in respiration.
As an additional example, hamstrings have roles outside the sagittal plane and can be equally stubborn, too.
The take-home lesson is that the more complex the job of the muscle, the more significant the injury – and the longer the rehabilitation period.