Preventing Sports Injuries
Athletes are a fun population to work with because they are generally very healthy people that are extremely proactive and motivated when it comes to their health.
Athletes either have acute injuries due to trauma (getting kicked in the leg, spraining an ankle, etc) OR present with the same nagging injury that they have had off/on for months/years.
In the case of the acute injury caused by trauma it’s important to correctly diagnose and address joint, ligament, and muscle damage and, if possible, correct whatever imbalance was caused by the trauma as soon after the injury as possible to prevent any further damage or negative impact on the kinetic chain (how an ankle issue can start affecting your hip, etc.).
The next step is to let the tissue heal and concentrate on pain control and managing any excessive or prolonged inflammatory responses. No matter which therapy you choose, ultimately damage in the body will take time to heal. So after getting adjusted/massaged/going through PT, you need to give your body time to heal. For most athletes we see this is the most difficult part of that process, as well as not making mistakes that can hinder healing and prolong healing time. For example, it’s NOT a good idea to use ice after the first 12-24 hours post injury as it can delay the body’s ability to flush out the inflammatory mediators present immediately following an injury (and no heat at all if it’s an acute injury!).
In regards to many acute and almost all chronic aches and pains, most athletes that come to us for the first time have had every form of structural work done and still haven’t gotten lasting relief (foam rolling, massage, PT, chiropractic, stretching, exercise based rehabs, etc.). Many of the things I just mentioned will actually flare-up an existing injury because they aren’t truly addressing the reasons why that injury keeps occurring, they are merely focused on banging away at the spot of pain. The aforementioned list of therapies is better suited for more acute injuries that are traumatic in nature, but with other non traumatic acute injuries and especially more chronic injuries, the ideology must change because it’s a completely different scenario. Muscles and joints don’t just become painful for no reason, there is an impetus for them to become painful. So simply treating the site of pain doesn’t work, more often than not.
Here are some important factors we frequently fine that have helped prevent and heal chronic sports injuries (along with case studies as examples):
- Dynamic vs Static stretching: Last year I had a half dozen or so players from the same high school football team come into my office with the same injury (hip flexor and groin pain, bilaterally). I treated them multiple times in the following few weeks, for the same injury. They would leave feeling better but would be back within a week with the same problem, something wasn’t adding up and they weren’t exhibiting a normal response to care. After digging a little deeper I discovered that their coach was having them perform static stretches every day before they were doing weighted lunges. Static stretches are important for an athlete’s post exercise routine because it increases blood flow, helps heal the muscle faster by bringing more oxygen to the tissue, and increases flexibility. But static stretching done BEFORE exercise can lead to injury, since a muscle that’s all loose-goosey isn’t going to hold up well to being placed under stress. After I wrote them a doctor’s note the athletes started utilizing dynamic stretching as opposed to static stretching prior to their weighted lunged (and in all other circumstances) and they no longer experienced the hip and groin pain. This is but one example of many, I see this quite frequently as many coaches/trainers/doctors haven’t kept up with the research regarding this change and still prescribe static stretches pre exercise because it’s just what’s always been done. So what is dynamic stretching? Dynamic stretching consists of motion, as the name suggests. The idea is to bring blood to the area while maintaining some tension within the muscle. This can be swinging your legs forward and backward and side to side, light jogging, or jumping jacks. Muscles act as pistons, and when the muscle (especially the ligamentous attachments) are stretched out they lose that ability to fire with the same force and dynamism. Dynamic stretching allows for this “warm up” by bring blood to the area without providing the actually stretch that’s going to cause weakness. Don’t be surprised if you’re able to perform at a higher rate after making this change!
- Food Sensitivities and Adrenal Fatigue: I’ve treated two Division 1 basketball players (from different schools) for at least a couple of years now. As semi-pro athletes they are obviously both young and in fantastic shape, yet every time they’d come into my office they’d look exhausted and have the same reoccurring injuries. Although we were able to bring them some relief that they couldn’t get from their athletic trainers and staff chiropractors and muscle workers, we were still dealing with many of the same issues over and over again. One had chronic low back and left shoulder pain, the other had lower extremity issues (usually his knees). One day something one of them said put the idea into my head that I should test them for food sensitivities. Neither had ever complained about having any gastrointestinal discomfort so I hadn’t thought there was any need to test them for that type of thing in the past, but upon testing they each had a few foods that showed up as being problematic. On top of this I tested them for adrenal fatigue, which was also positive on both, and then found herbs that each responded favorable to (they were put on different herbs based on what they responded best to via our testing). I told them to avoid the foods for at least a month and take the adrenal supplement. Amazingly both returned back after a couple of months (much longer than they could previously go without treatment), and both were feeling great and looked like new people. Not only had they lost alot of bloating around their midsections but they also reported increased energy and were pain free. Since then they’ve had some minor flare-ups but nothing like before, and most importantly they’ve been able to play consistently for their teams. We were able to add back in some of the problematic foods over time, as most sensitivities are present simply because people are overeating certain problematic foods, and we were even able to ween them off of the adrenal support in times of decreased physical activity.
Some sports injuries can be treated with physical medicine alone, but more and more I’m convinced that other factors are at play which predispose athletes to sports injuries, especially those that are more chronic and troublesome. I’ve started testing all my athletes for food sensitivities and adrenal fatigue and have found it to be a true difference maker in terms of eliminating nagging and chronic sports injuries.
Dr. Scoppa sees athletes of all types at his office in Bellevue. He looks at muscle imbalances and stability issues, as well as other factors that can be contributing to sports injuries (such as food sensitivities, adrenal fatigue, and more).