Week 6: Presentation Topic

The main question I plan to explore for my presentation is as follows: does exercising through an injury improve recovery time or does it result in permanent damage? For example, it’s possible to live with a torn meniscus, but they suggest getting it repaired if you plan to continue playing sports or plan to live a more physically intensive life. Going off of this example, if you do not get it repaired but live a more physically intensive life anyway, just treating the pain, will the surrounding tissues compensate for the torn meniscus making it possible to have an active lifestyle, or will ‘playing through the pain’ result in permanent knee damage?

I’m interested in this topic because I never took the necessary steps to repair my hip and I am still suffering from the consequences of this. During my research, I hope to determine whether the pain I feel is from not getting it repaired at all, never rehabbing it properly following the initial injury, or if I decide to get it fixed at some point, have I done irreversible damage to my joint?

As of now, the main questions I hope to answer are as follows: Is it helpful or hurtful to exercise while injured? What type of exercise is best (i.e. moderate intensity, low intensity, strength training, etc.)? Is exercising through an injury the foundation of physical therapy (i.e. is it beneficial to exercise through an injury as long as you are doing the correct exercises, the correct way)? What are the pros and cons of playing through the pain and never actually treating the injury? How does exercising while injured affect the recovery time? What are the benefits of physical therapy over surgical intervention? And the overarching question of how exercising through the pain may impact future overall health?

Since the majority of the class seems to have been an athlete at some point in their lives, I’m 98% certain that we have all gone back out on the field when we knew we were injured. There seems to be a mentality of powering through the pain so you don’t let your team down, but I don’t think many of us thought about the possible repercussions at the time.

So far, it seems like if you should exercise and the type/intensity of exercise depends entirely on the type/severity of the injury (which makes sense). However, for many injuries, it is suggested to swap whatever activity you were doing when you were injured, with a very modified version of the same activity to encourage the body to repair these areas without causing more damage. That being said, one of the main subtitles of the article was “Don’t Work Through the Pain” so I guess that answers that question (another article said if it hurts, even a little, stop doing it). As of now, it appears the only injury where you should really force an exercise would be a spinal cord injury, as exercise is “useful in facilitating elongation and/or synaptic activity of regenerating axons and plasticity of spinal neurons below the level of injury” [1]. Exercise was again suggested (albeit delayed) following a traumatic brain injury, as it can upregulate brain-derived neurotrophic factor involved in synaptic function, which enhances recovery [2].


[1] https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/nyas.12052




2 thoughts on “Week 6: Presentation Topic

  1. I think this is a really interesting topic because like you said, it probably applies to a lot of us! I’m particularly interested to see what you find about physical therapy because that’s the career path I want to take. Also, I think the concept of playing through the pain is intriguing because it plays out so differently in different sports. For example, I’ve seen recent headlines from the NBA playoffs about big name players leaving the game due to a mild muscle strain, while, on the contrary, I’ve seen headlines from the NHL playoffs of players playing an entire game on a broken foot and still being the best skater on the ice. Are hockey players just trying to protect their tough stereotype? Are there other reasons such as basketball players playing for more minutes per game that may physiologically or even psychologically make it more difficult to push through? Further, if the research you’ve found says not to push through the pain, then why do you think trainers still allow injured athletes to compete? Overall I think you have a great series of questions that will make for a great presentation!

  2. Hi Kayla,

    I love the topic! Athletics and exercise go hand-in-hand with injury because pushing the body to its limits can be dangerous. It’s probably more dangerous in the long run to be sedentary, so it’s a risk that many of us take. I like how you are 98% sure that we have all gone back on the field when we shouldn’t have, I think you’re right on with that statistic. My guess is that you will find very different results based on the injury and activity that you are investigating. I think players have to be really careful when thinking about injuries because coaches want to win, so they often will look past injuries to get their best players on the field. Concussions are particularly pesky and I believe sports teams and trainers are doing a better job about managing concussions and potential concussions. Right now I am rehabing my shoulder and the basis of physical therapy is that certain exercises are therapeutic and will help with the healing of the surgical repair. However, if too much weight is used then it could cause disruption of the healing process…what is the breaking point? My physical therapist also says that improving strength is the number one way to get back to normal after doing what I did to my shoulder, so exercise is crucially important in this regard.

    Good luck, I’m looking forward to your presentation!

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