Sports Chiropractic is a specialist area within the profession. It has several different areas, including prevention of injury, maximising performance and recovery from injuries suffered.
Chiropractic has really come into its own in the area of sports medicine. There were a whole team of Chiropractors present at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and they are now a regular feature at many sporting events. During my training with the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic, I was the Chiropractor for the Bournemouth University Men’s 1st football team, helping them stay fit and active through their matches as they played semi-professionally in the Hampshire Premier League, and also through the University competitions right up to the final against Loughborough University.
Since then I have treated professional cyclists, horse riders, runners and golfers who are all looking to improve their performance and speed their recovery from recent injuries. While I don’t claim to be an expert in every sport – far from it! – I strongly believe that my knowledge of how the body works and the anatomy of the human body help me understand where faults may develop and how to correct them. Of course, a working knowledge of the positions required in any particular sport helps, but I like to think I have probably managed to gain this knowledge for most sports.
On this page, I aim to discuss the sort of injuries that may occur during any sport, but for more information on equestrianism, cycling, running and golfing please do feel free to browse their specific pages.
For the most part, sports injuries affect the muscles and ligaments of the body. From the crushing impact of a rugby tackle, to the repetitive strain injuries seen in runners, it’s the muscles that are doing a lot of the work and so the muscles that take a beating.
Muscular injuries vary from a mild strain of the muscle to a deep muscle bruise to a complete rupture of the tendon where it attaches the muscle to the bone. In all of these situations, Chiropractic’s primary role is going to be in facilitating healing. Recovery will, for the most part, be down to your body as even in the mildest strain there will have been some damage at the fibre level to the muscle, and until your body repairs this the injury will still be there. During this phase, your Chiropractor will be using a combination of massage and carefully calibrated stretches and strengthening exercises to make sure that the muscle repairs properly and you are not left with a weak spot which is likely to be reinjured.
Once the repair work is complete, the most vital stage begins. From the first time you talk to your Chiropractor about your injury, they will have been working with you to establish exactly why it happened. Was it an awkward movement, unusual stress or some other function of what you were doing at the time it happened that allowed this injury to occur. Having worked this out, and now the muscle has healed, your Chiropractor will start working with you to try and make sure the chances of it happening again are reduced as far as possible. This may be by strengthening the muscles around the area so that no one muscle is bearing the brunt of all the work. It may be that there is some slight fault in your technique that your chiropractor is able to pick up on so that you can work on it. Or possibly it will be a matter of stretching some of the muscles in the area so that they don’t become tight enough in the first place to tear.
Ligament injuries are also common in sports. Again, there are a range of possible occurrences, from your straight-forward ankle sprain to injuries to the ligaments of the knee or shoulder which tend to be much more complex. Again, Chiropractic has two main functions with ligament injuries – facilitating healing and preventing recurrence. Ligaments are notoriously tricky to heal. In all areas, the better the blood supply is, the faster the repair process; ligaments have very little blood supply, so they can be extremely slow to recover. An added complication to recovering from a ligament sprain is that the nerves informing your brain where the joint is positioned are located within the ligament. Therefore, if you have damaged the ligament, you may have damaged the nerve endings so you are less able to detect where the joint is. It will therefore be necessary to retrain the joint to know what position it is by neurological rehabilitation. So, once the ligaments have managed to heal, the emphasis is once again going to be on restoring the full function of the area and trying to ensure that it doesn’t happen again by working on technique, neurological rehabilitation and strengthening the supporting muscles.
Away from injury rehabilitation, Chiropractic has an extremely important role in maximising performance and injury prevention. Often these two roles coincide, as injury prevention often requires specific muscle strengthening and stretching as well as improving technique in whichever sport you participate in and addressing these areas will significantly improve your performance at the same time.
You Chiropractor will start by taking you through your sport step-by-step, trying to establish where the problem areas are likely to occur in the sport as a whole, as well as any areas where you have a specific weakness or tendency to move in a damaging way. For example, if your chosen sport is golf then your Chiropractor may ask you to demonstrate your swing, and from this they will be able to see whether you are rotating through your low back, hips or knees and whether there are any aspects of the swing putting an unnecessary strain on your shoulder.
Obviously, it is not always practical to do an actual demonstration of technique; I treat a lot of people who ride horses, and I clearly can’t ask them to bring their horse into the clinic so that I can watch them ride! In this situation, I rely more on a description from you as to any problem areas you are having when you are riding and my own observations regarding muscular tension or restrictions of movement. For example, if you are having difficulty getting your horse to strike off in the correct lead of canter on one rein, it could be that the muscle down the front of one of your legs is too tight to allow you to effectively bring your leg back behind the girth to tell your horse which lead you are asking for, so your horse is just picking their favourite! Similarly, problems with the saddle rolling may be due to tension in the muscles on one side of your back, causing you to lean in the stirrups unevenly and pulling the saddle to one side.
So Sports Chiropractic can play a vital role in all areas of both amateur and professional sports, from maximising performance, to injury prevention, to injury recovery. This is primarily done through a combination of soft tissue work, stretches, strengthening and technique analysis.
At Shifnal Chiropractic Clinic, we also offer a Sports Massage service, which can be extremely helpful in helping an athlete’s performance, so please do contact us to arrange an appointment, or to book for a free consultation.