Though there is no such thing as a "safe" sport, highly competitive sports, such as football, weightlifting, gymnastics, and wrestling, pose particularly higher risks of injuries, especially among children.
According to experts, as much as 20 percent of all sports-related injuries involve the lower back or neck. Running and weightlifting, and other sports that involve repetitive impact, expose children to a high risk for lumbar (lower back) injuries. Contact sports, such as soccer and football, expose the cervical spine, or neck, to injury. More than one-third of all high school football players sustain some type of injury. Soccer participants are easy candidates for mild to severe head traumas, neck injuries, cervical spine damage, headache, neck pain, dizziness, irritability, and insomnia. Heading the ball, the act of using the head to re-direct the soccer ball, has been linked with cervical injuries in children and adults. The trampoline and gymnastics also present significant risks for spinal cord injuries from unexpected and brute falls or contact with hard surfaces.
Here's a look at some of the other common injuries by sport:
- Bicycling - Poor posture can greatly increase your risks of a back injury during cycling. When riding a bike, your lower back is constantly flexing sideways and up and down. Upper back injuries can involve the flexing of the neck. And the bumps and jars incurred on the road during cycling can wreak havoc and possible compression injuries to your spine.
- Golf - Common injuries incurred during the sport of golf usually involve muscle sprains and strains to the lower back.
- Running/jogging - Running and jogging puts a great deal of stress on your back, since the constant pounding against a hard surface can jar, and possibly compress, structures such as vertebrae, joints, and discs.
- Skiing - Skiing involves a great deal of twisting and turning motions, as well as jarring landings, all of which can cause muscle sprains and strains and in some cases, minor spinal fractures.
- Swimming - Swimmers are known to incur lower back injuries. Motions such as the crawl or breaststroke can cause the lumbar region to be hyperextended. If the swimmer is not properly conditioned or warmed up, the hyperextension sometimes doesn't subside.
- Tennis - "Tennis elbow" is a layman's term for pain on the lateral, or outside part of the elbow, on or near the bony protrusion. Tennis elbow is caused when the tendon from the elbow bone tears or is ruptured. It is no surprise that professional tennis players can become inflicted with this with all of the stress and strain they place on the joint during play. In addition, tennis players are in constant motion, and the repeated twisting and trunk rotations can cause injuries. Shoulder injuries and turned ankles and knees also are common. The act of serving the ball also has been shown to hyperextend the lower back, and possibly compress discs.
- Weight lifting/body building - Body builders are at a significant risk for a host of serious back, shoulder, neck and knee injuries. Resistance training has been known to cause muscle sprains and strains, ligament and tendon injuries, and in some cases, stress fractures (also called spondylolysis). Older people seem to be at a higher risk since their bones-and discs-are more brittle.
Minimizing the Risk of Injury
Chiropractic care is not only exceptional in the treatment of acute and chronic injuries but is equally successful in preventing future injuries when regular care is received. Why is chiropractic care so effective in sports? Simply, chiropractic focuses on the cause of the deficiency or injury and not just the symptoms. All sports experts agree that pain relief alone in the management of sports injuries is not enough.
Only treatments like chiropractic which deal with all aspects of the athlete - sufficient warm-up, proper technique, correct biomechanics, proper conditioning, optimizing balance and coordination, optimizing reaction times, correct management of existing injuries, optimal diet and nutrition, adequate rest, positive mental attitude, etc. - will allow the athlete to excel and avoid detrimental injury.
According to an article in a 1997 issue of the Backletter, "Athletes are going to breakdown if they put high physical demands on a system that has function deficits & adaptive changes. 80% of reinjuries in sport occur within one month of going back-"
A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness demonstrates the necessity of correct spinal biomechanics. Examiners followed 52 high level soccer and rugby players for 2 years to assess the relationship between injuries and body mechanics. Using photographs along with grids they were able to document the most common body mechanic deficiencies. The following lists the top 5 deficiencies:
- excessive lumbar curve
- excessive thoracic curve
- sway back
- shoulder asymmetry
At the end of the 2 years, the most common injuries were back injuries, affecting 24 of the 52 athletes. The incidence of injury was linked to the body mechanic defects associated with the site of injury. The researchers concluded that their results strongly suggest that treating biomechanical deviations would dramatically reduce the risk of high level athletic injuries.
In addition to correcting biomechanical faults, chiropractic care has been scientifically shown to stimulate and correct the functioning of joint proprioceptors. The proper firing and functioning of these joint proprioceptors are essential for eliciting subconscious spinal reflexes that alter muscle action to control posture and complex movements. This provides functional stability which is essential for the prevention of injuries in the athlete. According to Dickinson, MD, "Loss of feedback control 'from improper functioning joint proprioceptors' may be the cause of reinjury to the same joint."
- Watson. J Sports Med & Physical Fitness 1995;35(4):289-294
- Wiesel MD.Backletterl997;12(5):57.Herring, MD quotation.
- Lachman, MA, MD. Soft tissue injuries in sport 2nd ed London, Blackwell Scientific Publications 1994:12-31
- Dickinson, MD. Clinics in sports med 1985; 4(3):417-429: