One factor that is relatively consistent among top athletes is their constant desire to improve their sports performance. Additionally, when this performance is hindered in any way, it can have a dramatic impact.
This is something Steven W. Whitelaw, DC, CCSP, has witnessed firsthand over his past 20 years as chiropractic provider for the Arkansas Razorbacks. In fact, he recalls one rather memorable experience in particular.
“We were about to play our first game at a college world series,” says Whitelaw, “and leaving the locker room to go to my seat, I saw our starting pitcher. He was over by the warm up cage and was very frustrated and distraught. I asked him what was wrong as he was usually very calm and collected before a start.”
The pitcher soon revealed that his wrist was hurting and the pain was so intense it was affecting his ability to throw accurately across the plate. Whitelaw conducted a quick evaluation, adjusted the athlete’s wrist and elbow, and had him throw a couple pitches.
Immediately, the player returned to his normal pre-game self and went on to pitch seven innings, helping the team secure a win. “He found me after and thanked me,” says Whitelaw, “saying if it weren’t for the adjustment, he would have had an awful night.”
While this is just one example of how chiropractic can benefit athletes, Whitelaw says that he and his team at Millennium Chiropractic Sports Medicine and Rehab in Fayetteville, Ark. —which includes Bobby R. Pritchett, DC, CCSP and David M. Sence, DC, CCSP — have identified seven specific ways chiropractic can boost sports performance.
1. Better hand–eye coordinationThough hand-eye coordination is helpful for daily living activities such as using utensils to feed yourself and folding the laundry, it is absolutely critical for athletes wanting to master their sports of choice. Research has found that chiropractic can improve this level of coordination, especially if neck pain is present, by changing the interaction between the cerebellum and motor cortex.
2. Improved reaction timeStudies have also found that chiropractic has a positive effect on reaction time, helping athletes respond more quickly to their opponents’ actions. For instance, one study published in the journal Trials involved 120 special-operation military personnel, individuals with extremely physical roles. After just one session, the participants receiving chiropractic care were able to complete a complex whole-body motor response task in less time.
3. Faster recovery from concussionsConcussions, and their subsequent neck pain, are a major issue for athletes, with the Brain Injury Research Institute estimating that as many as 3.8 million recreation-related concussions occur each year within the United States alone. Whitelaw and his team have found that chiropractic helps reduce the players’ recovery time from this type of injury.
4. Decreased healing time associated with other athletic injuriesChiropractic is helpful for speeding healing time associated with other sports injuries as well. For instance, one survey of the National Football League revealed that chiropractors are often used to help these pro players heal from low back pain and a variety of other musculoskeletal issues, some of which include those related to “stingers” and “burners,” as well as play-related headaches.
5. Reduced need for medicationsResearch indicates that athletes tend to use pain medications and oral antibacterials more often than the rest of the population. Additionally, many of these medicines negatively impact these players’ sports performance. Therefore, treating the cause of the original issue via regular chiropractic reduces the need for these types of medications, ultimately improving performance as a result.
6. Increased muscular functionMuscular function is important in athletics because it allows for increased strength. According to one studypublished in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, spinal manipulation has been found to reduce muscle inhibition by 7.5 percent, an action that, by default, increases muscular function.
7. Decreased joint stiffness and painWhitelaw and his team also note that chiropractic can decrease joint stiffness and pain, leading to increased mobility and, therefore, increased athletic function and proprioception. It’s highly effective too.
“After my second season with football, the assistant trainer and I took a look back over the past four years of time missed in practice and games due to low-back pain,” says Whitelaw. “That number dropped by almost 90 percent after starting regular chiropractic care both during the week and on game day.”
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