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Why You Shouldn’t Let Injury Stop You From Training

Nobody likes having to undergo surgery. By its nature it is invasive, painful and can require extensive recovery.  As a multi-disciplinary physiotherapy practice we see lots of clients for rehabilitation following surgery at Central Performance. Rehabilitation post-surgery can be a frustrating and disheartening process at times as progress can seem slow and improvements very hard earned. The initial stages of rehab in particular can be difficult with the wound healing process dictating much of what can and can’t be done.


Knee Extension

This can begin to feel tedious after a while.


One way we make the rehabilitation process more enjoyable and keep motivation high is to not stop training altogether during the rehabilitation process. Depending on the body part requiring surgery there are still an abundance of training options available. For example, an ACL repair will limit the lower body training you can do but it doesn’t have a significant impact on training your upper body. Similarly, a shoulder injury still allows plenty of options for training the lower body. Whatever body part or injury requiring surgery, with a little creativity you should be able to get a significant and training effect for uninjured body parts.


In fact maintaining normal training for the uninjured body parts can have a multitude of benefits. Firstly, by setting our clients performance goals for the non-injured body parts, it helps to keep them focused and motivated during the rehabilitation process. As already stated, progress during rehab can seem slow and the exercises tedious. By setting performance goals for the non-injured parts we help change how our clients frame and approach their time in our clinic or in the gym. It helps our client’s to feel ‘normal’ again by focusing not just on rehabilitation, but on performance as well.


Secondly, by focusing on increasing strength and performance on the non-injured parts we can help accelerate the rehabilitation process. One reason for this is the existence of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are neurons in certain areas of the brain that are active both when we move and when we observe other people move. They are why spectators lean in the direction we want a ball to travel when watching sport. Mirror neurons are also responsible for the cross over effect that has been observed in the research. The cross over effect occurs when strength gains are found in both limbs when only one limb is exercised. The obvious benefit of the cross over effect is that training the non-injured part can increase strength in the injured limb. A prime example would be performing single leg squats on the uninjured leg during ACL rehabilitation with the cross over effect causing increases in strength on the injured leg without directly training it.


Mirror Neurons = Monkey see monkey do.

Mirror Neurons = Monkey see monkey do.


Maintaining normal training of the non-injured parts can also help you get back to normal activity and sport quicker. During rehabilitation it is very easy to let your level of general conditioning and strength drop. Maintaining as normal as possible training program helps to prevent loss of fitness and also enhances recovery time (as a general rule a fitter person will recover from injury faster). Professional sporting teams emphasise ‘off-feet conditioning’ for their players in rehab to ensure that once the player has recovered from their injury they can return to play and performance without risking injury to another body part that has become detrained. A great example of this is David Joyce, Head of Athletic Performance at the GWS Giants and the co-editor of two best selling performance and rehab books, who sets his injured players goals to break PBs in lifts not related to their injury during their rehab. This helps the players stay driven during rehabilitation and avoid detraining and strength loss in the non-injured parts.


Former Gold Coast Titans winger set a club bench press record while rehabbing from an ACL reconstruction in 2011.

Former Gold Coast Titans winger set a club bench press record while rehabbing from an ACL reconstruction in 2011.


As you can see there are a multitude of benefits to continuing training during the rehabilitation process. Not only can it help facilitate the rehabilitation but it can increase motivation and ensure participation and performance in your favourite activities is reached as quickly as possible once rehabilitation is complete. Because we are a multi-disciplinary clinic we are able to help facilitate clients continued training post-surgery. Our exercise physiologists and personal trainers are able to communicate directly with the physiotherapists to ensure that the training is safe and suited to the client’s stage in rehab.





Hugh Campbell is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, currently undertaking a Masters of Exercise Science (Strength & Conditioning) from Edith Cowan University. Hugh is responsible for bridging our patients from pain to performance training at Central Performance. Contact Hugh at Hugh@centralperformance.com.au