Return to Play, the safe way back to the game

A team of specialists at Mehiläinen Sports Hospital in Turku and in Helsinki have created an extensive postoperative care program Return to Play for injured athletes. Return to Play (RTP) ensures their safe and quick return to the field. The athlete is supported by a multi-professional team of specialists that consists of a medical doctor, a physiotherapist and a physique coach. Helsinki and Turku have their own Return to play -teams. The RTP team is put together for each athlete individually, and the process is tailored to each patient. The experts working in Turku and Helsinki have different areas of expertise, but the goal and purpose are the same: athlete’s safe return to the field.

Successful rehabilitation is essential for the athlete’s career.

“A close follow-up of the rehabilitation and vigorous testing of the injured limb is extremely important, because we are dealing with top athletes. A previous injury increases the risk of reinjury, and the Return To Play -concept aims to minimize the risk with extensive care and testing. When the risk factors are known, we can assess them and prevent further injuries with rehabilitation,” says orthopaedic surgeon Lasse Lempainen.

The attending doctor follows the care and rehabilitation process closely until the athlete is ready to return to their discipline. After surgery, the patient has an appointment with the doctor and undergoes medical examination and imaging, if necessary.

Cooperation with the athlete’s own team

After the surgery and medical examination, the physiotherapist and the physique coach, together with the doctor, create a special, individual training program for rehabilitation and testing. The follow-up continues until the patient is fully recovered.

“Our experienced, multi-professional team makes the rehabilitation plan together. The athlete’s own physiotherapist is included in the process, so the rehabilitation can start without delay,” says physiotherapist Jari Hemling.

Extensive testing plays a major role

The rehabilitation and testing begin with caution.

“The different tests during the process are essential. They reveal if the mobility, control, strength, and speed are good enough to allow the athlete to safely start proper training and to return to the field. For example, to test mobility, we use the new TE3 technology and the special testing concept developed for TE3, and ask the patient to do 13 different movements,” explains performance specialist and athletic trainer Marko Yrjövuori.

The aim of the testing and rehabilitation is to protect the athlete from reinjury.

“The testing begins with simple exercises, and more speed and distance is added gradually. Next step is multi-directional movement, and finally, the athlete can perform or simulate the movements typical of their sport. During the tests, we observe the body mechanics of the athlete and see if their trust to their own body has returned. Finally, we film the exercises and analyse them with the athlete,” Yrjövuori explains.

Physiotherapist pushes the rehabilitation forward

Physiotherapist has a key role in the rehabilitation.

“We start planning the safe comeback of the athlete as soon as the doctor diagnoses the injury and decides on the treatment. After that, it is the responsibility of the physiotherapist to make sure the rehabilitation progresses,” tells physiotherapist Jesse Talikka.

“After the surgery, our team often invites the athlete to train with our physique coach and physiotherapist for a week. Then we give the athlete a tailored rehabilitation plan that we have put together with the doctor. We keep in touch with the athlete’s team and coach.”

The duration of the Return To Play service depends on the speed of recovery.

“RTP team follows the athlete’s rehabilitation process closely and consults both the athlete and his support team. We support the athlete until they are fully recovered and ready to return to the game.”

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Performance training

Mehiläinen Sports Hospital has training concepts for athletes and exercisers, created with the aim of preventing sports injuries and ensuring a controlled recovery process in case an injury does occur.

Performance services for athletes and exercisers

  • Individually tailored program for avoiding sports injuries
  • Mapping of body biomechanics and risk assessment
  • Injury prevention guidance and training
  • Controlled return to sports after rehabilitation

The specialists in our performance training team have dozens of years’ experience of working with the world’s top athletes. A deep understanding of sports and its various disciplines, as well as of training and coaching, helps them see the athlete’s situation as a whole.

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