Skip to Main Content

We have a new app!

Take the Access library with you wherever you go—easy access to books, videos, images, podcasts, personalized features, and more.

Download the Access App here: iOS and Android. Learn more here!


©William E. Prentice


When you finish this chapter you will be able to:

  • Explain the philosophy of the rehabilitative process in a sports medicine environment.

  • Identify the individual short-term and long-term goals of a rehabilitation program.

  • Describe the criteria and the decision-making process for determining when the injured athlete may return to full activity.

  • Discuss how a coach or fitness professional might use therapeutic modalities in a rehabilitation program.


The basic principles of training and conditioning exercises that were discussed in some detail in Chapter 4 also apply to techniques of therapeutic, rehabilitative, or reconditioning exercises that are specifically concerned with restoring normal body function following injury. The term therapeutic exercise is perhaps most widely used to indicate exercises that are used in a rehabilitation program, whereas the term conditioning exercise refers to those activities that maximize performance while minimizing the possibility of injury.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide some knowledge and understanding of a basic plan for a typical rehabilitation program that an athletic trainer or a physical therapist would use to deal with the injured athlete. It is NOT intended to prepare a student, coach, or other fitness professionals to design or oversee a rehabilitation program for an injured athlete. It must be made absolutely clear that state laws and statutes limit anyone other than licensed health care providers (i.e., athletic trainers, physical therapists, physicians, etc.) in the extent to which he or she can legally be involved in supervising or designing the rehabilitation program. However, it should also be emphasized that controlling initial swelling and managing the pain associated with acute injury are considered first-aid techniques that everyone may legally perform.


Although every effort is made to create a safe playing environment and prevent injuries, the nature of athletic participation dictates that injuries will eventually occur. Fortunately, few of the injuries that occur in an athletic setting are life threatening. The majority of the injuries are not serious and lend themselves to rapid rehabilitation. Long-term rehabilitation programs require the supervision of a highly trained professional to be safe and effective. In an athletic setting, the athletic trainer or perhaps a physical therapist assumes the primary responsibility for design, implementation, and supervision of the rehabilitation program for the injured athlete.9

The athletic trainer is responsible for design, implementation, and supervision of the rehabilitation program.

The competitive nature of athletics necessitates an aggressive approach to rehabilitation. Because of the short competitive season in most sports, the injured athlete does not have the luxury of simply sitting around and doing nothing until the injury heals. The goal for the injured athlete is to return to activity as quickly and safely as possible....

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.