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Chiropractic Care and Athletic Performance

If two athletes competing against each other were ranked equally, and each athlete was of the exact same skill, ability and fitness level, and both had the identical desire to win, who would come out on top at the final blow of the whistle? In the opinion of many exercise physiologists and top medical researchers, as well as some of the world's top professional athletes, the competitor that is under regular chiropractic care would have the athletic edge every time.

How could that be so? Chiropractic care is based on human performance. Chiropractic's main focus is improving the function of the nervous system, which is responsible for performance. When the muscles of the spine undergo abnormal physical stress associated with athletic training and competition, the spinal vertebra is slightly shifted from its normal alignment. The spinal bone shifting out of its alignment is called a vertebral subluxation and is also commonly caused by the physicality of contact sports. Once the vertebra has subluxated, the hard vertebral bone irritates the spinal nerve, which disrupts communication to all the organs and systems in the body. When the spinal nerve is irritated the body cannot perform at 100% of its ability. Nerve compression can disrupt cardiovascular and respiratory function (athletes have less wind, greater fatigue), muscle contraction (less strength, lethargy) and body chemistry (CO2, VO2, and lactic acid levels all sub par).

What if the athlete with vertebral subluxations, because of nerve disruption, was only capable of performing at 80%-90 % of his or her ability? Wouldn't it be better if the athlete who was giving 110% had their body respond in kind?

A published sports performance research paper stated that athletes under regular chiropractic care performed better than athletes not under chiropractic care. Two groups of athletes were used in the study; one group was given weekly chiropractic spinal adjustments and the other was not. Every six weeks the athletes were tested in agility, kinesthetic perception, power and reaction time. The group under regular chiropractic care, after six weeks, performed 10.57% better than the group that wasn't under chiropractic care. After twelve weeks, the chiropractic group had shown a 16.7% improvement compared to the control group.

Another study showed that athletes under chiropractic care for a fourteen-week trial period showed significant improvement in muscle strength, long jump distance and capillary blood counts.

One of the most relevant studies on chiropractic care and athletic performance measured pulmonary function in athletes receiving chiropractic spinal adjustments. The test subject's lung volume capacities increased 6% following two weeks of care. The implication of increased lung volume for competitive endurance athletes is significant. Being able to breathe stronger and deeper for longer periods of time, sending the vital oxygen to the muscles, increases endurance.

A considerable amount of evidence supports the view that people without symptoms, such as athletes, can benefit from chiropractic care. Improved function can be objectively measured following chiropractic care in a number of body systems. It is plausible that chiropractic care may be of benefit to every function of the body, thus enhancing all aspects of performance including health.

The Chiropractic Association of Ireland states that: "Chiropractic, as part of the health care team, provides a form of care that benefits everyone..regular chiropractic adjustments are essential for the correction of vertebral misalignments which causes neurological dysfunction and decreased performance, even in the absence of symptoms."

Dr. Steven Horowitz, one of a team of chiropractors for the United States Olympic squad, said of the athletes receiving care, "They call chiropractic care before competition a 'tune-up'. They always come back and tell me that the care enhanced their performance." According to Dan O'Brien, an Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist, "If it wasn't for chiropractic care, I would never have won the Gold Medal."

Without doubt, competing athletes or even the weekend warrior who wants to be at their very best should consider regular chiropractic care for the competitive edge. Not only will it help your body function at an improved level, chiropractic care is good for your overall health.


By J. Zimmerman, D.C.


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