Objective: To determine whether quantified, auditable records of functional rehabilitation can be generated using subjective assessments of players’ performance in fitness tests routinely used in professional football.
Method: Ten sequential test elements grouped into three phases (fitness, ball and match skills, match pace football) were used to monitor players’ functional recovery from injury. Physiotherapists subjectively assessed players’ performance in each test element using a six point subjective rating scale. Satisfactory performance in each element of the assessment programme added 10% to the injured player’s recovery score. Daily recovery scores for injured players were recorded against the time spent in functional rehabilitation.
Results: Rehabilitation data for 118 injuries sustained by 55 players over two seasons were recorded. The average time in functional rehabilitation depended on the time spent in pre-functional rehabilitation and the nature and location of injury. Benchmark functional rehabilitation curves (y = mln(x) + c) were developed for thigh (n = 15) and lower leg (n = 8) muscle strains and knee (n = 7) and ankle (n = 9) ligament sprains (R2 = 0.95–0.98).
Conclusions: A structured, quantified rehabilitation programme based on routine fitness and skills exercises and a graded subjective assessment of performance provides an auditable record of a player’s functional recovery from a range of lower limb injuries and a transparent exit point from rehabilitation. The proposed method provides a permanent record of the functional rehabilitation of players’ injuries and evidence based data to support management’s return to play decisions.
- injury severity
- return to play
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