Shortly after turning pro as a cyclist three years ago, I suffered a cruelly timed knee injury that sidelined me for months. It started with a slight ache in my hip, but I ignored it. When the pain spread to my knee, I stubbornly kept training and racing—but not for long. Weeks after the initial twinges, I had a hobbling overuse injury.
Every year nearly seven million Americans suffer sports-related injuries; they’re the second most common reason for doctor visits by baby boomers. But luckily, as sports ailments have increased, so have the resources for treating them.
Injured athletes no longer have to rely on the standard sports medicine regimen of anti-inflammatories, rest, and even surgery to bounce back. Recent clinical studies have endorsed an array of alternatives—everything from innovative massage techniques to injection treatments to laser therapies. Even ancient remedies, like acupuncture, are being fused with new technology for sports medicine purposes.
The medical mainstream has been quick to jump on board: "When I first decided to pursue sports medicine, the assumption was that I would go into orthopedics," says Margot Putukian, M.D., head physician for Princeton University athletics. "But now a lot more general physicians are specializing in sports medicine and providing a variety of alternative treatments."
My own trip back to the starting line was a long one: I logged a lot of time investigating available remedies, and based on my doctor’s recommendations, I tested four, outlined below. Prolotherapy injections were the magic bullet that launched me back into competition, but after a race-heavy weekend, a bit of knee achiness persisted, so I sought further treatment. The others were instrumental to full recovery. Use my experiences as a primer for exploring your own options.
Next: Prolotherapy Injections