Dwyane Wade's doctor and personal trainer helped him regain strength and avoid reinjury. Do the same as you rebuild by following these basic tips from Bill Hartman, P.T., C.S.C.S.
An injury often limits your range of motion, and that can lead to trouble in other areas, such as a loss of hip-joint motion that causes lower-back or knee pain, says Hartman. Restore flexibility by applying gentle manual pressure at the point where your movement becomes limited. Hold the pressure for 30 seconds while you try to move your injured joint in the direction of the limitation. Do three reps, four times a day.
Regain power by challenging the muscles near your injury before you add full-body exercises that incorporate the hurt area, Hartman says. So if your knee is the problem, sit with your legs extended, tighten your thigh muscles, and then relax. This builds your quadriceps and allows you to progress to more challenging exercises, such as step-ups or squats. As the pain decreases, increase the resistance, speed, and range of motion of your exercises.
Just because you're feeling better doesn't mean you're ready for the starting lineup. If basketball is your sport, build your skills—shooting, cutting, and running—before you play a game, to limit risk of reinjury. As you increase your minutes, keep a close eye out for any recurring signs of pain, swelling, redness, weakness, or instability, Hartman says.
Once the pain is gone, head to the gym. To stay injury-free, you must train your body frequently, including the weak areas. Work out at least two or three times a week and focus on strength, power, and flexibility. Include full-body exercises like squats and deadlifts. And be patient. The long layoff will have set you back—strength gains are lost in less than a month, endurance declines after two weeks off, and your speed loses its zip in only five days, Hartman says.