Competitive sports and chiropractic care go hand in hand. In fact, here at Life University (Life U), we commonly encounter students who originally developed an interest in chiropractic as a profession due to care received as high school or collegiate student-athletes. So it’s an interesting concept to consider that consistent chiropractic care might not only offer healing and recovery benefits, but also could contribute to improved sports performance. The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP) explores this idea in their article “Maximize Your Sports Performance.”
Potential in Athlete’s Improved Balance, Stability and Flexibility
Next time you attend a professional sporting event such as a baseball or football game, check the sidelines or the dugouts. Chances are that a licensed DC is present as a crucial member of the sports performance staff. In fact, chiropractors are employed by 90% of pro sports teams, including MLB and all teams in the NFL and NHL. Fun fact: Dr. Hamid Sadri, Official Team Chiropractor for the Atlanta Braves, is a proud Life U alumnus. How cool is that!
DCs in the sports chiropractic realm are commonly thought to treat and help athletes recover from injuries. Yet DCs can go beyond recovery goals, working with athletes to focus on injury prevention and hopefully staying off the injured or no-play lists. Adjusting the joints for optimized function and providing strategies to aid balance, stability and flexibility, DCs can potentially provide a competitive edge as they strive to improve performance as a whole, as well as athletic stamina and resilience.
And of course, even athletes at lower or more casual levels can benefit from chiropractic care, receiving individualized treatment that focuses on the health of the whole athlete, as well as injury prevention and better performance.
Sports Chiropractic at Life U
Here at Life U, we are educating the next generation of Sports Chiropractors and even have a Sports Chiropractic Club on campus. Paul Boss, President of the Sports Chiropractic Club, describes the club as a “treatment paradigm” founded and based around three key pillars: mobility, stability and motor control.
“Once you gain mobility and you are able to move the joint, then it has to be able to become more stable to prevent injuries. And once you can control that movement, mobility and stability, then you are able to get motor control,” explained Boss.
Boss also noted how club members learn to evaluate a patient’s health based on varying levels of focus. First, there is the global focus, which looks at the overall health, functioning and nervous system aspects of a patient. Then, it is time to take a regional focus – to look at a specific extremity or specific area of interest. And finally, there is the local focus, attending to a particular joint.
“At the core of it all, how does a chiropractic adjustment affect or improve athletic performance? And not just in athletes, but in everybody else because we like to use those principles and that treatment paradigm […] to treat athletes on a spectrum. We look at athletes as people that had reached their optimum performance and almost as a roadmap that everyone can follow along their own way,” said Boss.
An Extra Boost
So how can chiropractic care potentially give athletes a competitive boost? By honing in on three key components: balance, stability and flexibility.
Balance: With proper balance, an athlete maintains agility and maneuvers their body with greater speed, strength and accuracy. Conversely, imbalance often leads to inhibited performance or contributes to possible injury. DCs can adjust muscular imbalances between flexor and extensor muscle groups, as well as provide athletes with exercises to gain and maintain stability between these groups. Additionally, DCs can work with athletes to improve proprioceptive skills, which allow the body to inherently sense surrounding movement, action and location.
Stability: Stability in the body allows the body to return to equilibrium after being displaced or disrupted from or during movement. Stability directly related to an athlete’s resilience creates a strong and solid foundation to be grounded or defend against opponents. Good balance and stability go hand-in-hand, which is why both are often addressed at the same time in training programs. Chiropractic care can help stabilize skeletal subluxations through chiropractic spinal adjustments that will restore proper alignment. Also, they can address uneven shoulders or hips that will affect both stability and balance.
Flexibility: Ideally, a flexible athlete can utilize an optimum range of motion (ROM). Optimized range of motion is needed to increase speed, strength and overall performance. In track athletes, for example, increased flexibility in hip and leg muscles can result in a longer stride or better leg positioning for a hurdle. Flexibility plays a role in injury prevention also, as tissue rigidity requires a specific ROM that more easily leads to sprain/strain injuries.
Tips and Good Practice for Enhancing Performance
DCs can provide many different services to help athletes optimize how they perform on the field, as well as improve and protect their overall health, even reducing the chance of injury.
DCs not only offer sideline care for sports teams, but they also often offer personalized care for individuals, such as:
- Periodic checkups to monitor and optimize joint function, performing specific chiropractic adjustments to prevent athletes from training or competing with limited mobility or putting strain on joints lacking full mobility.
- A good mix of exercises, stretches and routines to support the needed tenants of balance, stability and flexibility so that athletes can play at their best with enhanced speed, accuracy and strength.
- Nutritional and dietary guidance to make sure that athletes take in the necessary calories, water and nutrients in order to build or maintain muscle during training and competition.
- General health and wellness lifestyle support with recommendations for proper sleep, stress management and other factors affecting physical and mental health.
In some ways, a chiropractor can be especially helpful for the occasional athlete, often referred to as a weekend warrior. Weekend warriors commonly combat symptoms related to sprain or strain injuries in muscles or ligaments, tendonitis, lower back and/or shoulder pain.
Occasional athletes should keep in mind these guidelines to help to avoid injury:
- Build activity slowly. It’s not healthy or sustainable to take someone who has not been particularly active in a sport and then expect them to perform at a competition level. For example, if you haven’t ran for months and then suddenly decide to run a 5k or an even longer race, chances are you are in for some discomfort.
Ideally, maintain a basic level of fitness and activities related to a given athletic activity you enjoy. Gradually increase your activity, mileage or other exercise by about 10% per week before entering into a competition or competitive sport.
- Warm-ups are essential. Gentle stretching to engage the muscles and aerobic activity to raise your heart rate play a key part in conditioning. They prepare your body for the game or match to come.
- Don’t forget to stretch after a game, match or intense exercise. Research shows that stretching following activity can reduce soreness and promote recovery. Soft tissue work can also help, such as using foam rollers.
- Don’t push through pain during competition, as this is a recipe that often leads to injury.
- Be knowledgeable on the safe techniques required for your sport.
- Check your sports equipment to see if it is safe to use.
Whether you are a Life U Running Eagle student-athlete or play sports casually or recreationally, stay safe out there and have a good game!
References (Foundation for Chiropractic Progress’ original article citations)
- Balance Performance as Observed by Center-of-Pressure Parameter
Characteristics in Male Soccer Athletes and Non-Athletes Lara A. Thompson,1,*Mehdi Badache,2 Steven Cale,2 Lonika Behera,2 and Nian Zhang3 Sports (Basel). 2017 Dec; 5(4): 86. Published online 2017 Nov 8. doi: 10.3390/sports5040086 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5969037/
- Collegiate baseball players with more optimal functional movement patterns demonstrate better athletic performance in speed and agility Yu-Pin Liang 1 , Yi-Liang Kuo 1 , Hsiang-Chin Hsu 2 , Yen-Ysung Hsia 3 ,Ya-Wen Hsu 3 , Yi-Ju Tsai 1 J SportsSci. 2019 Mar;37(5):544-552. doi:10.1080/02640414.2018.1514711. Epub 2018 Sep. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30188249/
- Stretching and injury prevention: an obscure relationship Erik Witvrouw 1 ,Nele Mahieu, Lieven Danneels, Peter McNair PMID: 15233597 DOI: 10.2165/00007256-200434070-00003 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/15233597
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For more about Life U’s Doctor of Chiropractic program, visit life.edu/academic-pages/chiropractic-program/doctor-of-chiropractic/