November 9th, 2012

Health N' Sports: Functional Rehab

Staff Report

Health N' Sports: Functional Rehab
photo from Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic

Functional Rehab: Mimicking Sport Specific Exercises

As a part of the Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic, the Sports Rehab Team physical therapists are knowledgeable and trained in the latest advancements and techniques available in sports rehabilitation.

On a weekly basis, the Health N’ Sports Update will give information on prevention, recovery, and include special offers, as well as general health tips that would be beneficial to all. If there is a specific topic you’d like to know or hear more about, email future suggestions to 


There’s nothing new about rehabilitating sports related injuries.  Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a top level professional athlete, injuries are a reality.  Some athletes avoid the injury bug better than others, but when it does happen, it helps to have the professionals ready to get you back.


Following an injury, who makes the determination that you’re ready to return to the sport or activity of choice?  Ultimately, the physician, physical therapist, or the athletic trainer is the one who says you’re ready to return to the sport or activity of choice.  The doctor may have prescribed physical therapy in order to rehabilitate the injury.  Patients must reach their pain, range of motion, strength, and functional goals in order to be discharged from physical therapy.


Functional goals are especially important when returning to a sport or activity following an injury.  For example, exercises that mimic the individual’s sport or activity may be included in order to help them return in a safe and timely manner.  Each sport stresses the body in a different way.  These situations need to be addressed through sport specific exercises.  Each exercise works the athlete in a safe environment and prepares them for when they fully return to their respected activity.


For example, a basketball player who sustains a serious ankle sprain needs to do some sport specific exercises when compared to a patient who doesn’t play any sports.  These exercises may include:


  • Dot drills – double and single leg hopping exercises in a specific pattern
  • Power skips – skipping emphasizing power and explosiveness
  • Lateral movement – side shuffles and grapevine exercises replicating defensive footwork
  • Cutting – 3 step zigzag cutting drills planting on the outside foot


Even within a sport, the position of the athlete may alter the functional rehabilitation.


For example, an offensive lineman is asked to do very different tasks when compared to a wide receiver.  A strained hamstring may keep a wide receiver out longer then a lineman simply due to the sprinting demands required when running routes. 

  • Build-up sprints – performing a 50%, 75%, and eventually a 100% sprint using gradual acceleration and deceleration
  • Box jumps – explosive jumping exercises using various box heights
  • Agility ladder – face-paced footwork exercises improving coordination


An abdominal strain may keep a baseball player or golfer out longer than a runner simply due to the rotational strain placed on the athlete during swinging or driving a golf ball.  Some sport specific exercises may include:



  • Plyo-ball rotational throwing – abdominal strengthening using a weighted ball while stabilizing the body on the plyo-ball.
  • Core exercises – abdominal strengthening exercises such as bridging, crunches, and planks.


The whole purpose of sport specific functional exercises during physical therapy is to safely introduce the demands placed on the athlete during their respected sport. These exercises are introduced in a safe environment and slowly progressed to the point where the athlete is ready for full sport participation. These exercises are an excellent transition from the physical therapy clinic to the sport or activity of choice.

-Mike Mehring, ATC-


Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic & Sports Rehab Center

Main Office: 502-897-1794

Physical Therapy: 502-897-1790


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