Chiropractors are in a unique position to help the child athlete recover from and avoid injuries. The chiropractic adjustment and correction of vertebral subluxation (misalignment of a spinal bone putting pressure on a nerve) is vital in helping a child achieve optimal sports performance and optimal health. The public perception for children who participate in sports is that since a child's body is usually flexible, they don't really need chiropractic care. Nothing could be further from the truth! Childhood sports trauma can cause damage in young athletes that if left uncorrected can cause lots of problems into the adult and senior years. Chiropractors are expert in the early detection of spinal misalignment and injury. If you have a child who participates in sports, it is very wise to have their spines checked regularly.
Almost one-third of all injuries that occur during childhood are sports related. Contact sports like football traumatize children more than non-contact sports like swimming. However, all sports have the potential for injury, whether from trauma, contact with other players, or overuse and misuse of a body part. Death from sports injury is rare, but possible, especially from head trauma. Some acute sports injuries may require emergency room treatment, but those that do not, are often overlooked as not significant enough to warrant examination of any kind. It is these types of injuries that most often cause vertebral subluxation and when left undetected in the spine can result in health problems down the road.
The most common acute injuries in child athletes are eye injuries (scratched corneas, detached retinas, and blood in the eye), broken bones, and brain injuries (concussion). Common overuse injuries include knee pain, "little league" elbow, "swimmer's" shoulder, shin splints, and back pain. Overuse injuries can be caused or aggravated by growth spurts, inadequate warm-ups, excessive activity (increased intensity, duration, or frequency of playing and/or training), improper technique, and unsuitable equipment.
Re-injuries commonly occur when an athlete returns to the sport before a previous injury has had sufficient time to heal. Injured athletes usually want to return to the game as quickly as possible, and often their body has not recovered enough to avoid an exacerbation of the original problem. Returning to the sport too early places stress upon the injured area and forces the body to compensate for the weakness, putting the athlete at greater risk for injuring another part of the body.
Proper examination of the child athlete involves several procedures. First, an in depth history of past and current injuries is taken to determine what influences have come into play that have brought the child's health to where it is today. Second, the child's posture in thoroughly evaluated for shifts that can occur in the head/neck area, the shoulder area, and the pelvic area. Posture is the window to the spine. These postural shifts are a strong indication of where vertebral subluxation is located in the spine, along with explaining why particular soft-tissue symptoms may be present. Third, bilateral weight scales are used to determine the body's balance and where abnormal weight pressure is being applied to the spine, supporting joints, and soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons). Fourth, range-of-motion studies are used to see how the upper and lower areas of the spine move through various directions. Finally, weight bearing spinal x-rays may be taken to properly access vertebral subluxation and shifts in the spine. These spinal pictures are a vital step in determining the exact condition of the spine and the course of chiropractic care needed for spinal correction.
Treatment and corrective care protocols for the child athlete can vary in length from 3-12 months to remove vertebral subluxations. Extremity injuries usually respond in 2-12 weeks. Following correction, ongoing spinal care is often necessary to maintain corrections, especially if the child plans to continue participating in sporting activities.
Chiropractors can bring all the healing elements together for the child athlete. Most injuries respond extremely well to chiropractic care and injury prevention is greatly enhanced by chiropractic. Prevention can be further improved through community education efforts aimed at sporting teams and the athlete's parents. Dr. Maggio is always willing to speak to sporting groups to share this important information with the athletes, coaches, and parents, as a service to the community. The welfare and future health of our children depends on having the proper information and treatment available.
*Some of the information contained above was compiled from an article written by Warren Bruhl, D.C., D.I.C.C.P. for The Chiropractic Choice, Vol. 3, No. 5, October, 2004.