Post Operative Rehabilitation

What does post operative rehabilitation involve?

Post operative rehabilitation is the period of recovery after a surgical operation; the duration and nature of the rehabilitation process will depend on the severity of the injury and the nature of the surgical procedure.

Post operative rehabilitation programmes

Head Injuries

In the case of serious injuries such as head and spinal injuries, where the athlete has had to receive emergency care and spend a period of time in hospital, the rehabilitation process is extremely important and can have serious implications for the athlete’s future health and career. If an athlete loses consciousness, they will be monitored closely for a period of time after they have regained consciousness; this will ensure their blood pressure, breathing rate and heart rate are stable. Athletes who have received surgical treatment for a head injury will be monitored to ensure there is no further bleeding.

Spinal injuries

Spinal injuries will often require a prolonged rehabilitation period; if surgery has taken place to repair fractures, free nerves or following a slipped disc, the patient will be urged to rest to allow the back time to heal; physiotherapy, osteopathy or chiropractic will often be used to gradually increase strength around the affected area and improve movement. Athletes may be required to wear a brace to support the back or to use a wheelchair to prevent the back from bearing weight. More serious spinal injuries, which have resulted in paralysis, will require a long period of rehabilitation; the nature of treatment will depend on the extent of the paralysis. Physiotherapy and other forms of therapy may help to gradually increase the ability to feel, move and communicate.

Other sporting injuries

For most sporting injuries, the most common forms of rehabilitation are rest and physiotherapy; usually, the affected limb will be immobilised to prevent it bearing weight and exercises will be done to gradually increase the range of movement and strength in and around the joint. The affected joint, muscle or area of connective tissue should be rested for a period of time after a surgical procedure; specialists will advise an athlete on the duration of the rest period. In amateur sports players, surgery is usually regarded as a last resort; however, professional athletes often undergo surgery to speed up recovery and prevent persistent injuries. Once the injury starts to heal, physiotherapists will be able to design a suitable programme to aid recovery and prevent injuries in the future; often this will involve a combination of activities, stretches and exercises.


Medication will usually be used after surgery to control pain and reduce inflammation; medication may also be used to prevent infection, as the risk of infection is increased following a surgical procedure.

Why is rehabilitation important?

Rehabilitation is instrumental to long-term recovery and future health; for professional sports people, who rely on sport to earn a living, rehabilitation can make the difference between being able to pursue a career and having to end a career. An effective rehabilitation programme can speed up recovery, enhance performance and prevent injuries in the future.

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