Harnessing Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy to Treat Your Patient Athletes

November 30, 2023  |  By CuraMedix

Man, soccer and sport leg injury suffering in pain, agony and discomfort during training match or game on the field.Athletes are a special breed, prone to overuse injuries, and no matter the condition or injury, they need it addressed quickly and expediently to get back in the game. Serious athletes are fiercely competitive and want the latest and most effective treatment to fix what ails them. 

Discover Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy's (ESWT) game-changing potential for athlete recovery. Let's consider how integrating ESWT into your clinic can revolutionize the treatment of sports injuries to enhance athlete rehabilitation.

What is Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave therapy is hailed as today's most innovative approach to treating acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain and connective tissue disorders. Two types of shockwaves are radial pressure waves (EPAT(R)) and focused shockwave (ESWT). Both types are backed by evidence and work well in tandem with a range of complementary regenerative solutions for exceptional outcomes. 

Radial pressure wave (EPAT) features high-energy acoustic pressure waves with the most significant energy at the source, so it is best suited for large treatment areas. Focused shockwave (ESWT)  deeply penetrates tissue and produces focused power at targeted depths.

Overall, Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy is a healing accelerator and is particularly efficacious in treating athletes.

How Does Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy Work? 

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) stimulates a cascade of biological responses across cellular, tissue, and organ levels. Applying shockwave in treatment stimulates regeneration and awakens the body's natural healing system. This approach yields multiple advantages, including heightened collagen synthesis, cellular proliferation, accelerated wound healing, pain reduction, neovascularization, and diminished inflammation. 

Recognized as a game-changing therapeutic approach, Shockwave technology is backed by Level 1 evidence and brings about these multifaceted benefits to promote recovery and well-being at various physiological levels.

When it comes to treating athletes, the ability to perform at a high level matters. It’s why there is a particular urgency to address musculoskeletal injury or dysfunction to get them back to their sport of choice as soon as possible. The option to avoid injections and/or surgical intervention is welcomed by athletes seeking relief. Shockwave therapy is an exceptional treatment option that offers athletes a safe means for an expedited return to competition, requiring minimal to no downtime. 

Also noteworthy, many can maintain their training regimens throughout the treatment period. For athletes who suffer common overuse injuries, this non-invasive treatment offers a welcome alternative to traditional protocols.

While treatments are customized for each patient, generally, treatment times are 15 to 20 minutes in length, with weekly visits of approximately 4 – 6 weeks. Many athletes experience some relief and analgesic effects after the first treatment.

How to Use Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy for Athletes

Numerous scientific studies support the efficacy of ESWT in the treatment of multiple musculoskeletal and soft tissue disorders. In the athletic population, overuse issues arise repeatedly, and concerted effort is made to treat and make return to sport possible in short order. Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy gets to the root cause of the dysfunction and accelerates healing.

Let's dive into predominant athletic injuries and how shockwave can help treat each condition.

1. Achilles tendinopathy

Repetitive minuscule injuries and tears to the tendon fibers take an enormous toll on the Achilles tendon and the athlete enduring the injury. Athletes who suffer from Achilles tendinopathy may experience pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited mobility.

Using Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy for Achilles tendinopathy is exceptionally effective. Explore the evidence to see how you can help athletes in your care score functional gains - quickly and efficiently; read this study. 

2. Tennis or golfer's elbow

Lateral epicondylitis (Tennis elbow) and medial epicondylitis (Golfer's elbow) are common inflammatory conditions triggered by repetitive motion. Both are prevalent among athletes, and they can benefit from shockwave therapy. 

3. Stress fractures

Bone stress injuries (BSI) frequently plague runners, and due to the associated prolonged time necessary away from sport, the toll it takes is physically and mentally impactful. And while the diagnosis is disheartening, shockwave offers new hope. A recent retrospective study by Alexander Beling, MD, Amol Saxena, DPM,  Karsten Hollander, MD, and Adam S.Tenforde, MD, explores the effectiveness of ESWT in the management of BSI in runners.

4. Frozen shoulder

This frustrating ailment among athletes impinges shoulder movement, limiting motion and affecting daily living. The severity of the frozen shoulder will dictate your approach to shockwave therapy. EPAT will effectively address the broader area, and ESWT will treat it in a more focused manner. Review a Practice profile that includes a case study on frozen shoulder.

5. Plantar fasciitis

This inflammatory condition is commonplace in athletic populations and causes severe heel and arch pain; with particularly acute symptoms upon rising or taking that first step out of bed in the morning. The plantar fascia, which connects the heel bone to the toes, becomes inflamed and is exacerbated by overuse. This condition is excruciating and can sideline athletes because even standing and walking is difficult, never mind performing at a high level. Fortunately, the efficacy of Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy for Plantar fasciitis is well-established and proven by multiple clinical trials and meta-analyses, and here's one to explore.

6. Rotator cuff injuries

Rotator cuff injuries can be acute or chronic. Usually, the pain increases at night, and the presence of shoulder weakness is part of the symptom profile. Calcium deposits may also form on the shoulder tendon. Dive into this study for full details of findings on treating with shockwave, "Effects of High-Energy Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy on Pain, Functional Disability, Quality of Life, and Ultrasonographic Changes in Patients with Calcified Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy."

7. Strained calves or hamstrings

These injuries are high on the list of conditions among athletes of all ages, and published studies prove the efficacy of ESWT for both calf strains and hamstrings.

8. Shin splints

Considered a painful condition, shin splints occur from inflammation in the muscles, tendons, and tissues surrounding the tibia. Also referred to as Medial tibial stress syndrome, it was one of 8 functional lower limb injuries explored in a study focused on the effectiveness of shockwave therapy, and it was determined that ESWT delivers multiple effects contributing to tissue healing and pain relief.

9. Hip pain

Hip pain in athletes comes in many forms, and Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy has been shown to greatly alleviate hip pain. Peruse a patient success story about an avid golfer and weightlifter who received shockwave treatment and now plays the best golf of his life.

10. Jumper's knees

Another frequently seen overuse injury which can develop slowly over time and become chronic. The results are in - Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy demonstrated greater effectiveness and safety compared to traditional conservative approaches to chronic patellar tendinopathy. 

What are the Benefits of Offering ESWT for Athletes in Your Clinic?

As you can see, Extracorporeal shockwave Therapy offers far-reaching benefits for your practice and the athletes you treat. Explore the benefits of ESWT:

1. Improved patient outcomes 

Patient wellness and care are your top priority, and ESWT equips you to deliver optimal patient results. Accelerated healing made possible by Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy expands your continuum of care to offer innovative, non-invasive solutions. Shockwave is used to transform patient care and treat a wide range of medical issues and is particularly advantageous in treating athletes.

2. Reduced need for invasive surgery 

Patients today want non-surgical treatment options for faster healing — with no downtime, no anesthesia, and no risk. Adding shockwave therapy to your care offering elevates patient care by helping athletes get back to the activities they love without the need for invasive procedures. That's a winning scenario.

3. No downtime

Unsurprisingly, athletes are fiercely competitive and motivated to be in motion. Because shockwave requires little to no downtime, athletes can return to top form quickly.

4. No risk 

Treatment with shockwave is non-invasive, and there are no known associated risks for healthy athletes. There are certain conditions where ESWT is contraindicated (when pregnant, in the presence of a heart condition or pacemakers, taking meds that are known to interfere with blood flow). But otherwise, for an athlete without underlying concerns, there is a clear upside to this convenient, safe, and effective in-office treatment.

5. Little to no side effects 

ESWT is extraordinarily safe. While athletes may experience mild swelling, bruising, and temporary aches in the days following the initial procedure, serious adverse side effects are not known to occur.

6. Faster recovery timelines 

Accelerated healing is made possible with regenerative shockwave and is responsible for quickly getting ailing athletes back in motion. An athlete back in play is a happy athlete and a satisfied patient.

7. Increased ROI

Bolster ROI when you incorporate shockwave in your practice offerings. With this innovative medical technology, you can attract a new influx of patients. Nowadays, athletes seek out Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy by name.

New Research Supports ESWT for Athlete Recovery 

In a groundbreaking systematic review, researchers have unveiled the remarkable potential of Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) as a game-changer in sports medicine. This comprehensive study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, involved 56 studies encompassing 1874 athletes and physically active individuals. The findings paint a compelling picture: ESWT has emerged as a versatile and effective tool for enhancing the well-being of athletes.

ESWT showcased its prowess in various sports-related injuries, including plantar fasciitis, lateral epicondylitis, and proximal hamstring tendinopathy, where it displayed remarkable standalone efficacy. Moreover, as an adjunct to exercise therapy, it proved its worth in conditions like medial tibial stress syndrome and osteitis pubis. Notably, athletes undergoing ESWT experienced minimal side effects, allowing them to continue their rigorous training and activities. 
The study highlights ESWT as a promising treatment option, either as a solo act or alongside exercise therapy, with no major adverse events reported. 
For doctors and clinic directors seeking innovative solutions, this research underscores ESWT's potential as a valuable addition to their arsenal of sports medicine treatments, offering hope for faster recovery and improved performance in the world of athletics. 
As this field continues to evolve, high-level research is on the horizon, poised to redefine the role and clinical outcomes of ESWT for athletes and physically active individuals. Stay tuned for an exciting journey into the future of sports medicine.

Citation: "Unlocking the Power of ESWT for Athletes: A Game-Changer in Sports Medicine." Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Epub ahead of print: [01 Feb 2023]. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2023-107567.
Newsletter - Dr. Brice Blatz MD

"If you're doing orthopedics, sports medicine, PM&R, and especially if you're doing orthobiologics, you may be missing out on maximizing your treatments if you are not using shockwave."

Dr. Brice Blatz, MD

Jason Levy Headshots


"From what I've seen, there's no other treatment approach that gets the results that EPAT delivers. When it comes to getting athletes better, faster and back in the game, this technology is invaluable."

Dr. Jason Levy, DC
Advanced Performance & Rehabilitation Center
Team Chiropractor for the NY Jets and NY Red Bulls

Have questions? Contact us today, and we'll connect you with one of the experts on our team.

Accelerated Return to Sport

Topics: ESWT, shockwave