physical therapist, patient

Why is sports recovery important?

Participation in high school sports continues to grow, with an estimated 7.8 million students participating in the 2022-23 school year, up more than three percent from 2021-2022, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“It is great to see more students playing sports, but we want to stay mindful about excessive physical exertion that can cause injuries and sideline an athlete,” said Laura Beck, Vice President of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at St. Charles Hospital. “Sports recovery–helping the body heal and rebuild after demanding physical activity–is vital to athletic success.”

At the St. Charles Hospital Sports Recovery Clinics, a dedicated staff of physical therapists and athletic trainers help student-athletes recover from strenuous practices and competitions and teach them how to take care of their bodies before and after play.

“Armed with that knowledge, athletes are better equipped to avoid injury and stay in the game,” said Beck.


What is the difference between soreness and injuries?

“There is a big difference between being sore and sustaining an injury,” said Beck. “Not seeking the correct treatment can result in more pain, potentially more damage and extended time away from play.”

Soreness is a common result of strenuous activity. It can result in muscle aches and stiffness, leading to slower and cautious movement patterns, which prevents an athlete from moving at game speeds. Typical soreness sets in 12 hours after activity and subsides after 48 hours.

An injury involves damage to soft tissue or bone and elicits pain, loss of motion, and decreased function. Some injuries heal with time, but many require medical interventions.

“Athletes, parents and coaches often cannot tell when an athlete should seek medical attention,” said Beck. “Guessing can be the difference between a quick recovery and being sidelined for a season. Consult with a medical professional before resuming play.”

Beck also noted the effects of students who specialize in one sport year-round.

“The repetitive nature of performing the same motions day after day without much variety or rest places excessive stress on developing tissues,” she said. “That makes sports recovery essential to ensure future participation in sports.” 


What can a student expect at the Sports Recovery Clinic at St. Charles Hospital?

“Our specialty-trained sports physical therapists evaluate, treat and educate student-athletes,” said Beck. “We can refer them to a sports physician if there is an injury, take care of routine soreness, and show them how to take care of the body before and after a game or practice.” 


What treatments are offered at the Sports Recovery Clinic?

The St. Charles Recovery Clinics offer equipment and services typically available in elite collegiate and professional sports training rooms. For athletes who need to alleviate normal soreness, stiffness and pain that come from playing sports, modalities include: 

  • Cupping
  • Electrical stimulation therapy
  • Ice baths
  • Intermittent compression boots
  • Massage
  • Vibration therapy

For athletes with a suspected injury or area of concern, screenings are performed by our physical therapy team to determine if it will improve with time, if physical therapy is needed and/or if referral to an orthopedist or other specialty is necessary.


Why is education so important?

“Our sports recovery clinical team makes clinical decisions based on sports medicine specialty training and years of experience taking care of athletes in clinical settings and on the sidelines,” said Beck. “In this way, we hope to serve as an educational resource for athletes, coaches and family members.”


How can a student join the clinic? 

Any high school athlete can visit the Sports Recovery Clinic on Sundays between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. No appointment is necessary, and there is no charge for the service. 

Appointments are also available throughout the week at all rehabilitation locations.

Learn more about physical therapy and rehabilitation services at Catholic Health.

physical therapist, patient


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