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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Zajdel, PhD

Are These Injury Recovery Timelines Accurate?

Here are two sports injury timelines:



The adductor muscle starts acting up and limits activity, so the athletic trainer recommends “taking it easy” for a few weeks.


The adductor muscle feels better and is not impacting activity as much.


The athlete returns to activity as usual.



The adductor muscle starts acting up and limits activity.


The adductor muscle feels better and is not impacting activity as much.


Intense exercise leads to a huge setback with a lot of pain.


Pain continues even after modifying activity.


Two sessions with a poorly resourced physical therapist do not help.


Some pain relief begins due to starting with a new physical therapist who is a better fit.


There is an ability to return to moderate levels of regular activity, with some lingering pain.


Overdoing it leads to another huge setback with more pain.


Activity is modified substantially but participating in sport for 15 minutes at a time still creates pain. An appointment with a primary care doctor leads to a referral for an MRI.


The MRI is scheduled but does not happen due to an insurance authorization glitch, so the MRI is rescheduled.


The MRI is completed, and the primary care doctor does not have recommendations due to the MRI results being “clear.” The primary care doctor makes a referral to a sports med doctor.


The sports med doctor recommends ongoing physical therapy and needling, as well as another MRI. The MRI is scheduled and completed, with results coming in January 2024.


Are both timelines accurate? Yes! Of course, most would prefer the first timeline, but the second timeline can also be realistic (I know because this has been my own injury timeline for 2023!).

Timeline 2 can feel slow, frustrating, and sad. It can feel like goals are delayed substantially and competitors are gaining on you.

However, it’s important to know that each injury recovers at its own pace and there is still a lot to be learned and improved on even when a sports injury sidelines an athlete for a long amount of time.

For example, this year I gained skills in better understanding the signals my body is giving me, learning how to modify exercise in a way to support my recovery, and using mindfulness and imagery to create a conducive healing environment.

If you are currently experiencing a sports injury and would like additional support to work through related emotions and build a toolbox to help with recovery, use the link below to get started with services!


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