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Don’t let sports injuries keep you on the sideline – expert help can mean a quicker recovery

06 July 2018

As the country is gripped with World Cup fever many people may well be dusting down their football boots and contemplating a return to action!!

But, as former West Bromwich Albion and now Nottingham Forest head doctor Mark Gillett will tell you – it isn’t just the professional players who end up on the treatment table – enthusiastic amateurs are also at risk of injury.

And those that are injured often delay recovery and carrying out their own ‘treatments’ rather than seeking the help of a sports medicine professional.

Mark, who recently joined Forest after eight years with West Bromwich Albion, has now teamed up with the physiotherapy team at Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull, near Birmingham West Midlands.

He said: “Lots of good amateur players miss out on a quick return to the sport they love because they think they can manage their own injuries. Their remedies can include ice packs, rest or modified training when what they really need is expert advice to make the right diagnosis and establish a definitive treatment plan.

“A Sport and Exercise Medicine Consultant can provide a detailed assessment of the injury and a planned approach to recovering from it. Sometimes injection therapy may be needed to reduce pain levels and facilitate active rehabilitation. We are able to provide ultrasound guided injections in the clinic to ensure that the procedures are highly accurate to maximise their effect.”

Here Mark, whose particular interest is in lower limb, groin and sporting injuries, answers some questions about how a sports medicine consultant can help active sports people.

What are the most common injuries you see?

I see a lot of lower limb muscle injuries- groin, hamstring and calf- most often in runners but in footballers too. I’ve worked in football for a long time and in athletics before that so I’ve got a lot of experience with these problems.

What treatment is usually needed – is it a case of ‘one size fits all or will the same injury require different types of treatment?

The first priority is to make an accurate diagnosis ­ - functional assessment is key and that is where I probably differ from other doctors.   Most of my time is spent assessing how patients move and relating this to the clinical problems they develop.

I use bedside ultrasound and MRI a great deal to help me pinpoint the areas we need to treat and I will also perform ultrasound guided injections if I think they will assist the patient’s rehabilitation. Gym based rehabilitation is our particular area of expertise and most patients enjoy the exercise prescription we set out for them.

What sort of problems can ‘self-diagnosis’ cause?

Self-diagnosis can sometimes be dangerous and self-imposed treatments even more so. The best example probably comes with people with tendon pain. The natural tendency is to rest the affected area but the opposite is true and tendons need loading up - but in the right way!

If a player suffers an injury should they wait a couple of days before seeking help from a medical professional?

Simple measures such as rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) are very important. If there is no improvement after three to four days then it is sensible to seek specialist advice from someone who deals with sporting injuries.

What sort of problems can ‘putting it off’ lead to?

Sometimes this can make a simple injury more difficult to treat. The best example of this is groin pain. Because patients can play through it often they do and by the time they see me the initial pain has moved and treatment becomes more challenging.

How have medical advances helped the work of a sports physician in the past few years?

Bedside ultrasound has been a big help. The ability to show patients visible changes really helps them to grasp the issues.

Any treatments on the horizon that you can see coming into common usage in the future?

Exercise therapy is the real revelation. We know so much more about how limbs move now than even 10 years ago and when it is put into practice the results can be spectacular.

Any advice for people who - after being spurred on by the World Cup - decide to return to local league football after several years’ absence?

Be careful. Ideally you should be fit to play football rather than play football to keep fit. Unaccustomed sprinting is a recipe for a problem so try to manage that bit while you are having fun.

And for those who have ‘left it a bit late’ for a return – what sports could they take up that would provide good exercise while being low risk to muscles, joints and ligaments?

Cycling is generally the easiest sport to get back to. Surprisingly tennis, squash and hockey are probably the highest risk because you move at high speed in lots of directions so injuries from those sports keep me busy!

Our bones & joints specialists cover a wide range of sports injuries including:

  • Back problems
  • Cartilage damage
  • Fracture Rehabilitation
  • Foot & ankle twists and sprains
  • Hamstring injuries
  • Hand injuries
  • Knee injuries including ACL tear or strain
  • Paediatric conditions
  • Shin splints
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Tendon injuries
  • Tennis or golf elbow

If you are a local sports club, please contact us to see how we can help you, by giving us a call on 0121 704 5530 or submit an online enquiry.

Q: How quickly could I have a consultation, and how much would it cost? 

A: It depends on the availability of the consultant you wanted to see, but we pride ourselves on getting you fast access to diagnosis and you can often get a consultation within 24/48 hours.

Q: If I need surgery, how quickly could I have it?

A: We have no waiting lists at Spire Parkway, but again it depends on the availability of the consultant you wanted, but as a guide, and subject to your pre-operation assessment, between one and two weeks. 

Q: I don’t have health insurance, can I self-pay? 

A: Yes, you can. Our self-pay team can talk you through this and explain the finance options that are available, should you wish to explore them. Call 0121 704 5530, or send an enquiry.

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