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  • Danyell Russell, PT, DPT

I'm an injured athlete. When can I get back to the gym?

Oh no! I tweaked my shoulder during kipping pullups and now it hurts when I do anything overhead. I've been favoring it for a couple of weeks, but it's not getting better and now I think I need to see someone. So I go to my PCP and they tell me to rest for 6 weeks. So I do and it feels better, but then I go back to the gym and the first day back pull ups are programmed again. I give it a try and, oh no! The pain is back! So now I'm scared that my shoulder is really injured and I go see an orthopedic surgeon. Now they want to do surgery on my shoulder!

This is a scenario that I see all too often as a physical therapist. Unfortunately, usually by the time I get to see the person in the scenario above, they've already had surgery or have been out of the gym for a few months.

But what would have happened if this person had seen a physical therapist first instead of their PCP? The scenario would hopefully look a lot different. Maybe something like this:

Oh no! I tweaked my shoulder during kipping pullups and now it hurts when I do anything overhead. There's a physical therapist that I work out with in my usual class time, so I ask her about my shoulder. She asks me to come see her for a consultation at her practice and I go to that first visit. She evaluates my shoulder and even has me show her my pull up, then she tells me what I really wanted to know, "how long until I can get back into the gym?" She tells me that I can go back to the gym now, today. She tells me that I will need to modify things, but that she actually WANTS me to get back in the gym as soon as possible. She gives me some exercises that she wants me to do to begin working on things she discovered in her evaluation, and helps me find pain free modifications for different movements that I will encounter that week at CrossFit. I go back to the gym the next day and am able to participate in the class without pain. Six weeks later, my shoulder is feeling great again and I'm back doing kipping pullups even better than I was doing before.

I'm not saying that every single scenario will play out exactly like the one above and I'm certainly not saying to ignore a healthcare provider's advice. But what I am saying is that many times we as physical therapists can get an injured athlete back into the gym very quickly with just some simple modifications.

So if you're having pain with something at the gym, seek out a physical therapist, preferably one that is familiar with your sport of choice. Here at Strong Foundation Physical Therapy, we specialize in the CrossFit and weightlifting athlete.

When can I get back to the gym/box/field/court? Maybe sooner than you think!

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