Sally Pearson Comeback from Injury

9 March 2018

Sally Pearson has come a long way from her wrist injury back in 2015. She is now a dual world champion after winning the final of the 100m hurdles at the World Athletics Championships in London. In the leadup to the Commonwealth Games, David Coles, director of Active Hand Therapy, talks about her recovery.

Treating elite athletes can be a fantastic challenge and we were extremely privileged over the past few years to have treated Commonwealth, Olympic and World Champion Sally Pearson.

The Pain of Injury

It is well known, Sal broke and dislocated her wrist while competing in the Diamond League in Rome on the 5th June 2015. Half way through the race, she clipped the fifth hurdle and came crashing to the ground. The statement from Athletics Australia indicated that she had suffered a dislocation and complex fracture of both the ulnar and radius in her left arm. Three days later she underwent surgery in Rome and flew home with a great deal of pain and trauma. Upon arriving she underwent further surgery with Gold Coast surgeon Dr Ezekiel Tan who diagnosed a left distal radius intra-articular fracture, left scaphoid fracture, left distal ulna (styloid) fracture and a left distal radio-ulna joint dislocation. She began an intensive hand and wrist rehabilitation program at Active Hand Therapy soon after.

The Drive of a Champion

Sal quickly became familiar with many of hand therapy’s specialised modalities. Her complex injury required many, many sessions and her determination to return to elite competition drove her to fulfill her rehab goals. She spent time in different thermoplastic protective splints and hours in this awesome Collelo splint. These splints are a dynamic splint that mobilises the forearm using traction and stretches the muscles and structures around the joints.

The supination and pronation (rotational) movements of the arm are very important for the most basic tasks such as personal hygiene, face washing as well as functional tasks such as lifting and in Sally's case, training. Strengthening training in this type of injury is very important. The use of light weights and graded exercises increases forearm muscle strength. Theraputty increases grip and pinch strength with the squeezing and pulling motion and Therabar exercises works more on the core muscles within the arm and forearm.

One of the obstacles Sal had was weight-bearing for her sprint starts with minimal pain . We spent time with her then coach Ash Mahoney from the Foot Analysis Centre to develop a specialised program to ensure she could optimise this. Pain management techniques can include cortical retraining, relaxation exercises, TENS and acupuncture. Desensitising programs are also important for pain management as sensitive skin can inhibit hand function and amplify pain. There are various techniques including the use of graded textures to retrain or confuse nerves to reduce this. Of course Sally also has a rigorous gym program (unlike us mere mortals) which relies on heavy use of her forearms and upper body. This, combined with timely goals and tight competition programs adds to the complexity of treating these elite athletes. One of the huge benefits, however, is the immense drive and motivation that Sally and other athletes have to return to optimal function. Her commitment to rehab was incredible.

The Hope of Gold

After coming back to competition level she unfortunately succumbed to a leg injury prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics. This set her back again, however like the champion that she is, she managed to qualify fastest for the Australian Commonwealth Games at the national trials. We can’t believe the remarkable comeback this legend has made after her setbacks over the past couple of years. She is a proud Australian and we know she will step up again representing our country again this year.

We wish @SallyPearson the best of luck in her home town at next months @ Commonwealth Games on The @GC.

We are proud of our small effort in enabling her to recover from her wrist injury, and will be in the grandstands cheering her on!


Written by David Coles with permission from Sally Pearson to release details.

← Back to news