Why Summertime is Important for Recovery in Student-Athletes

Summer break is more than a time to vacation; for student-athletes, it can be just what the doctor ordered — literally.

By Kati Epps – May 1, 2023
Photos Courtesy of Gabriel Dunham

On the 7th day, God rested and in the summertime, student-athletes recovered.

Summer offers one of the greatest opportunities for student-athletes to take a break from their normal sports training and evaluate where they are physically. The downtime offers a great opportunity to heal from injuries, even out imbalances and build strength. As our athletes specialize earlier and earlier, it’s important to look to a professional for guidance in growth, maintenance and healing.

Gabriel Dunham, the owner of Your PT Doc, experienced the benefits of summertime recovery when he was a student-athlete. During high school, Dunham suffered a back injury leaving his legs numb. Dunham says by God’s grace and weeks of physical therapy, he made a full recovery.

Gabriel Dunham

“I was amazed at how hands-on therapy and exercise took me from such a bad state to playing soccer at a high level again,” Dunham says.

From this experience as well as others, working as a physical therapist became the obvious career path for him. Impacting his clients through transformation became his life’s mission.

When Dunham meets with athletes, he evaluates their movement and biomechanics, which serve as the foundation of their performance. During this evaluation, he assesses their range of motion, joint mobility, muscular performance and other special tests that indicate which part of the body is irritated.

“Whatever activity they are doing or want to be doing, I want to see how they are doing it!” Dunham says. “We need to figure out what is taking too much stress to prescribe an effective treatment. The client needs to leave knowing what is wrong and what it will take for them to return to their favorite activities.”

As each athlete is different with their unique needs and sport-specific goals, Dunham creates a custom 10-week program that improves the athletes’ performance. He says that summertime is ideal for this type of training and recovery, as normal practices are usually suspended.

Gabriel Dunham with physical therapy patient

Not only is summertime suitable for growth, but it’s also a perfect period for injury prevention. This is especially important if an athlete is complaining of pains that appear to be “growing pains.”

“Summer recovery (helps) an athlete who may have been dealing with a lingering pain or aches during the year and is ready to feel 100% for the next season,” Dunham says.

Due to the greater number of practices and weekly games during the school year, overuse injuries can become a serious problem.

“The reality is our youth athletes are playing more games than ever before and are training almost daily (during the school year),” Dunham says. “These players will need management of their bodies long term to keep themselves healthy and performing at their best.”

Summertime is great for seeing a physical therapist to prevent injuries, as it gives the doctor and athlete ample time to create the foundation needed to take an athlete to the next level. Many athletes are stunted due to pain and/or injury incurred during the school year. Having a pre-emptive strategy over the summer is key for setting the athlete up for success.

Whether an athlete participates in a one-on-one summer session appointment with a physical therapist or is involved in training that builds a foundation in the areas they’re lacking, Dunham says it will help prevent injury and enhance their performance for the upcoming fall season.

Dunham says he pulls from his own experience as an athlete to meet the needs of athletes in Austin.

“I decided to specialize (in) working with active people and athletes because I have always been active and still am a soccer player,” Dunham says. “I understand the biomechanics of an athlete and the demands of playing a sport. This helps me provide the life transformation people deserve when coming to physical therapy.”

About the Author

Coach Kati Epps is the founder of MyBody GX with a background in chemistry from Colorado State University, an ACE-certified personal trainer, a health coach and a nutrition specialist.


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