Chiropractors in sports
Perhaps you’ve heard that all 32 NFL teams have a team chiropractor or perhaps you’ve heard about your local MLB, NHL or NBA team’s chiropractor. Either way, you may be wondering why chiropractic has become part of most professional sports organizations. Let’s see if we can clear that up.
Why athletes need chiropractic
Athletes lead a competitive lifestyle. I know I’m stating the obvious here but bear with me. They lead competitive lifestyles and because of this there are goals that are of vital importance to an athlete: 1. To prevent injury so they can stay in the game. 2. When injured, to return to competitive athletics ASAP. This varies from the average salesman, HR rep, teacher, etc in one large point: return to active daily living. This is the primary goal of most acute care treatment plans. The difference being that a baseball pitcher’s active daily living involves hurtling a ball upward of 96 MPH while your standard office worker’s active daily living is spent at a computer desk. To continue with the pitcher example, when throwing a fastball, the pitcher is fighting angular velocity on the inner elbow that can tear the ligaments and a distraction force on the shoulder that is like literally tearing the upper arm from the body. What stops these destructive forces?
The answer lies in good biomechanics (with regard to structure and function) and more specific elements like dynamic stabilization and mobility. That’s not to say that office workers don’t have their own traumatic forces to deal with. Sitting has been called the new smoking in recent days and the effects that chronic sitting has on the joints, muscles and discs of the spine can lead to clinical pathology over time. The point I’m making here is that professional athletes put their bodies through traumatic repetitive stresses beyond that of an average person. This requires that their bodies be in an optimal biomechanical state so that it can effectively counteract the forces that they are putting it through. Functionally speaking, a pitcher’s elbow would need to be able to stabilize both torque and valgus stress while his shoulder would need to be able to compress and decelerate in order to fight the forces tearing them apart. In addition, the pitching mechanics (angle and alignment of the shoulder and elbow are of particular interest) must be such to minimize the damaging forces driven through these joints. Restrictions in movement chains can sometimes, dramatically change mechanics to the point of injury. So, why am I telling you this?
Human biomechanics (again, having to do with human structure and function) are the very thing that Doctors of Chiropractic know best. In fact the Association of Chiropractic Colleges‘ position on chiropractic states “The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure and function…” This gives chiropractors unique training to be able to help athletes. In fact there are many studies that show support for chiropractic care in athletics. One study that explored treatment options for low back pain in athletes states “Superficial heat and spinal manipulation therapy are the most strongly supported evidence-based therapies.” While another study that researched injury prevention in athletes found a significant reduction in non-contact injuries with chiropractic care.
Stability, mobility and chiropractic
Elements like dynamic stabilization and mobility, aforementioned components of injury prevention in athletes, are an important part of the whole equation. The Titleist Performance Institute defines stability as “the ability of any system to remain unchanged or aligned in the presence of change or outside forces.” This definition is perhaps the best way to describe the dynamic stabilization that we’re discussing. It involves the combination of balance, muscular endurance and strength. An athlete needs training to maintain proper alignment of joints that will lead to injury if not otherwise stabilized. To continue the example of a pitcher, the shoulder blade must be stabilized regardless of the extreme forces surrounding it or it will change the alignment of the shoulder joint and result in impingement of tissues. Meanwhile, any lack of mobility in motion segments will result in the body sacrificing stability to perform that motion. These elements require a trained practitioner, such as a chiropractor or healthcare team that includes chiropractic and physical therapy, to address motion limitations and train the athlete in dynamic stabilization.
By: Phillip Gamble, DC
St. Charles sports chiropractor
White Oak Family Wellness
405 Illinois Avenue #2b
St. Charles, IL 60174
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