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How 9 Pro Sports DCs Help Injured Athletes Stay in the Game Mentally

How 9 Pro Sports DCs Help Injured Athletes Stay in the Game MentallyWhen athletes are faced with an injury, the effects can potentially extend beyond those that are physical in nature. Sometimes they take a toll mentally as well.

Depending on the athlete and the nature or extent of the injury, these mental reactions to injury can include changes in appetite, sleep issues, irritability, depression, a lack of motivation, and even alienation according to a statement published by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

And if they’re excessive, anger and rage may appear, causing the athlete to experience emotional outbursts or have greater struggles with substance abuse issues.

What can you do to help athletes avoid these types of responses and keep pushing forward? Here are tips provided by nine pro sports DCs that work to help their injured athletes stay in the game mentally.

Really Listen to Their Concerns

“I think one of the most important things we as providers can do is listen,” says Jay Greenstein, DC, CCSP, CKTP, CGFI, team provider for the NFL’s Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. “If you are truly listening to what the athlete is saying and evaluating how they’re saying it, you can understand what their true needs are.”

With this, Greenstein stresses that there is always a balance between asking too much and getting to the heart of the matter. There is also an obligation to keep the athletic trainer in the loop. However, if you are authentically curious and really listen to what your athletes have to say, they’re more inclined to trust you. “It’s really about empathy,” Greenstein says.

Help Them See Their Injury for What It Is

“For young athletes, I remind them that what they do today for their body will determine the longevity of their careers,” says Sabrina Atkins, DC, team chiropractor for the NBA’s Orlando Magic and Orlando Ballet. “For the older and more seasoned athletes, there is a gentle reminder that the recovery process takes a little longer,” says Atkins.

Taking this approach helps the athlete become more reassured that they’re “doing the right thing by taking care of the injury and letting it heal,” Atkins says. To help them understand better, she reminds them what it was like when they first got into their sport, the amount of time and energy it took to achieve a level of proficiency and confidence. That’s what will happen with this injury too.

Inform Them the Injury Can Actually Help Them Build Strength

“I talk to them about using the injury as a way to strengthen not only the area that is injured, but everything else,” says Jason T. Levy, DC, ART, CCSP, CKTP, team chiropractor for the New York Jets (NFL), New Jersey Devils (NHL), and New York Red Bulls (MLS). For instance, Levy shares treats a high-level triathlete who blew out her ACL.Yet, after rehabbing, she is way ahead of where she should be.

This is an issue Levy says that he sees in elite athletes, where they are weak in certain areas, but compensate to make up for it. However, rehabbing from an injury gets them to build up those areas instead and, “a lot of times, they come back better than ever,” he says.

Help Them Tap Into Their Personal Power

Another approach that Monte Hessler, DC, CCSP, says works well is helping athletes tap back into the power they felt when they weren’t injured. “It’s important to visualize and feel what it was like when they were at their best,” says Hessler, who is team chiropractor for the Phoenix Suns, PGA Tour chiropractor, and chiropractic consultant for the San Francisco Giants

“It helps if the athlete recalls all of the sensory feelings they had when they were at the top of their game and having fun,” Hessler says. So, he helps remind them how it felt to make that perfect play, who they were with, where they were at the time, and any other details they can recall using the five senses to make those visualizations more real.

Encourage a Focus on Recovery

“Dealing with an unexpected injury can certainly be a challenge to any athlete’s identity whether high school or professional,” says Karen Slota, BS, DC, team chiropractor for the Detroit Lions. “My goal when dealing with athletes and their injuries is to shift their focus away from what they can’t control and towards something they can control – their recovery.”  

This involves getting them to concentrate on things like managing inflammation, soft tissue recovery, restoring strength, and improving flexibility. “Luckily for many of my athletes, we have the ability to work with a great team of professionals that all provide their expertise in these areas to reinforce the path of recovery for the athlete,” Slota says.

Remind Them They Aren’t Alone

“Most professional athletes have been on a consistent training program since they were very young,” says Mary Collings, DC, team chiropractor for the NHL’s Dallas Stars and NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. “So, when sidelined by an injury it is very difficult for them to know what to do each day and they feel somewhat ‘left-out’ from the rest of the team.”

To help with this, Collings explains that there is value in reminding them that they aren’t the only one with this type of issue. “I always try to let them know that there is at least one other player out there with the same type of injury with a similar recovery time,” she says adding that, “sometimes when they realize they aren’t alone, it makes it better.”

Set Realistic Expectations

“For the pro athlete, I want to set realistic expectations to their injury,” says Hirad Najaf Bagy, DC, team chiropractor for the Washington Redskins, Washington Nationals, and D.C. United pro soccer team. “I try to draw a picture for them what their injury is, what science tells us about their recovery, and what it means.”

In addition to setting realistic expectations, Bagy stresses that it’s also important to continually reevaluate. This helps the athlete “wrap their head around their injury,” he says, which can go a long way with keeping them motivated and positive, providing a better recovery as a result.

Communicate Clearly

“From the standpoint of a DC, and without the intervention of a Sports Psychologist, I believe that the most important way to keep the athlete mentally focused and motivated throughout the course of rehabilitation from an injury stems solely from clear and concise communication,” says Beau Daniels, DC, official chiropractor for the Los Angeles Rams.

“Making sure the athlete fully understands their injury, what to expect in the coming weeks, and what to expect regarding a return-to-play timeline is crucial to keep them focused on the growth they need to return to sport,” he says. “Athletes are very in tune with their bodies and unless you take the time to explain to them what they are feeling and how these feelings will change over time, you get a very confused and deflated athlete.”  

Above All, Be Honest

“I think the best way that a sports chiropractor can help their athletic patients mentally is just being honest with them,” says Stuart E. Yoss, DC, CCSP, ART, team chiropractor for the Chicago Blackhawks, Bears, and Bulls. “The more you can tell the athlete what to expect also tends to allay any fears that they may have about being injured,” he adds.

Granted, this isn’t always an easy thing to do. “There are times that you will have to tell a patient their season is over or that they will have to miss the big game,” Yoss says. “Those are some of the worst times being a doctor. To see that look in their eyes is rough.”

DoCS is committed to raising the bar in chiropractic for athletes, so if you have any questions or article ideas, please feel free to contact us or share them in the comment section below. Reprints of this article permitted as long as it links back to the DoCS website: www.DoC-Sports.com.

Give Yourself Peace of Mind by Planning Ahead for Your Long-Term Care Needs

Give Yourself Peace of Mind by Planning Ahead for Your Long-Term Care Needs

What would you do if you or a loved needed long-term care? Would you be prepared to pay for it? Although most people will need long-term care within their lifetime, most adults do not plan ahead for it. That leaves family members and seniors scrambling for funds to afford care. You can avoid that stress by using these pieces of advice to plan ahead for long-term care.

Make Modification Now to Support Aging in Place

One way that you can better prepare for long-term care is to prepare your home to age in place. You will need to make sure all rooms and spaces are fully accessible, especially if you anticipate reduced mobility. Walkers and wheelchairs can make maneuvering through your home a bit trickier, so if you can, have doorways widened.

Undoubtedly, your accessibility upgrades will include some products to make it safer and more secure as well. Consumers Advocate provides detailed information about home-upgrade solutions, such as walk-in showers, chair lifts, and medical alert devices, that can keep seniors protected as they age in place in their own homes.

Plus, making these changes now will make it less likely that you will suffer a serious fall in the future. Injuries from falls can be debilitating for older adults and can bring about the need for long-term care, so taking proper precautions is prudent. Install grab bars in the bathroom and slip-resistant flooring to maintain your independence.

Plan for Practical Ways to Pay for Long-Term Care

Like many seniors, you may be planning on relying on Medicare for your health needs. But Medicare will not help with the costs of long-term care in the majority of cases. The most Medicare may pay for is 20 days at a skilled nursing facility. Since most long-term needs extend beyond this narrow window, your best bet is to be prepared to cover those long-term care expenses.

Home health assistants are the most economical long-term care option, but if you or a loved one needs to be in a nursing home, that bill can run upward of $100K per year. That’s a huge expense for seniors and family members to budget for on the fly, which is why it is important to plan ahead for other long-term care solutions. Some people do end up paying out of pocket, from either their savings or retirement funds, but you can also find help paying for that essential care. Veterans can get assistance from the VA, and you may even be able to lock in some affordable rates for long-term care insurance, if you purchase your plan early enough.

Start Taking Better Care of Your Overall Health

If you can take steps to prepare your home for long-term care needs, then you can also prepare yourself. Making healthier lifestyle choices is your best defense against needing extensive care in the first place, so make an effort to take better care of your health. Again, fall prevention is critical, and you can take steps to strengthen your body against potential injuries. Exercise is a definite health necessity, and getting more of it can build more stable muscles and joints that can keep you upright.

You can also add supplements to your diet to boost your physical health, or try adding healthier foods to keep your body and brain strong. Fish is high on that list, but you can also get benefits from eating more blueberries and nuts and possibly from drinking coffee as well. Finally, top off those healthy new habits by refining your sleep hygiene. Sleep is central to your cognitive health and immune system, so getting more of it can help you retain more control over your life.

Many seniors forget to think about their need for long-term care until it’s too late. You can avoid that added stress for yourself and loved ones by planning ahead to preserve your health, prepare your home, and prime your finances for the high costs of long-term care.

Why You Should Exercise an Injured Joint Through Complete Range of Motion

Exercise after InjuryIf you’ve ever been injured, most likely it’s an injury to a joint or muscles surrounding a joint. Besides pain that you feel, your body will contract that joint and the muscles around it.

Why? To protect it. It’s a good thing, for a short time. But far too often the muscles stay stiff and contracted and the joint becomes less mobile and this becomes a chronic problem over time.

The best therapy is to first to take the joint through its complete range of motion. Then, after a few days to weeks, the next thing to do is to begin to strengthen the muscles around the joint. This will improve muscle strength, improve mobility in the joint, and put you on the path of healing.

However, what is not discussed much at all is that for complete healing, not only does the joint need to be taken through its complete range of motion, the muscles need to be strengthened through their complete ranges of motion.

In other words, if you had a compaction injury to a shoulder joint in a car accident (you were hit by another vehicle and your shoulder slammed into the door frame), your shoulder will go through inflammation, contraction, and joint immobility.

After the inflammation is reduced then you go about improving range of motion, increasing strength to the surrounding muscles as I indicated above.

But in addition, you must exercise the joint and muscles through their ENTIRE range of motion. This means; if your shoulder joint goes from zero degrees – in an anatomical posture that is, your hand down by your side – to 180 degrees above your head, you need to exercise all 180 degrees. All the way up, and all the way down – in flexion and extension. Most likely you will have to start out with much smaller degrees of motion and then over time, build up to larger.

You can do exercise the muscles with rubber tubing (I would not recommend free weights because you don’t want more weight than you can handle). Or, you can exercise the muscles in these degrees of motion with a qualified trainer or a rehabilitative professional.

When you exercise the muscles through its entire range of motion you are gaining more effect on the muscles, building more muscle tissue and as important, exercising the joint through its complete range of motion as well. You’ll be stronger, your joints will be more efficient, and in turn, you should not have the chronic problems often associated with joint injuries.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Myoride Fitness for their insight into healing injuries.

 

2 Game-Winning Reasons Pro Athletes Engage in Sports Chiropractic

It’s easy to look at an athlete’s highlight reel and stand in awe of their ability to play. To see the ease of their movements and the way they seem to know exactly what to do at exactly the right moment, it’s like they were born to be in that sport. They were born to be a star.

However, the skills these competitors show on the court or field don’t always tell the complete story says Eddie Johnson, retired NBA star who now commentates for the Phoenix Suns while also running his own business, JJJ Sports, offering basketball camps, clinics, motivational speaking services, and more. “People don’t realize what athletes do behind the scenes,” he says.

Athletes Are Created Off the Court

Johnson knows all too well what it takes to have a successful sports career. In fact, during his 17-year stint (from 1981 to 2000) as a shooting guard and small forward, he scored more than 19,000 points, earning the NBA’s annual “6th Man of the Year” award for averaging 21.5 points per game for the Phoenix Suns with roughly 29 minutes play time.

Though Johnson has undoubtedly put in a lot of time in, working on both his body and his sport, he adds that sports chiropractic has been a consistent part of his fitness regimen. “I’ve always had structural doctors,” he says, further revealing that, while he’s never had any major back issues, he has always had alignment issues. “When you’re working out, your muscles tend to get tight on one side of the body,” he says.

Today, Johnson’s “structural doctor” is Monte Hessler, DC, CCSP, team chiropractor for the Phoenix Suns. We spoke to Hessler, who also happens to be the PGA Tour chiropractor and chiropractic consultant for the San Francisco Giants, and he indicated that there are two basic ways chiropractic can benefit pro athletes. The first is to help the athlete perform at a higher level and the second involves decreasing the likelihood of injury.

Sports Chiropractic Benefit #1: Improving Athletic Performance

“You can do all of this training in strength and skill training to participate in your sport, but sometimes there are what I like to call ‘movement inefficiencies,’” says Hessler. “If we don’t clear out these inefficiencies, it’s like building on an unstable foundation.”

That’s why Hessler’s goal when working with athletes is focus on creating that stable foundation. “Normalizing them from a motion, joint function, and muscular standpoint sets the foundation for them to do the things they need to do,” he says. And it’s been met with positive results.

“I’ve heard repetitively from athletes, players who’ve been adjusted, that they feel like they can focus better,” Hessler says. “Basketball players have said, ‘the ball feels different in my hands after you adjust me.’ If you break it down neurologically, if you have a tight joint or muscle that is putting abnormal sensations into the nervous system and remove it, they can be able to focus.”

In fact, there have been many studies that talk about how proprioception improves after chiro adjustments. For instance, one study published in the Journal of the American Chiropractic Association concluded that “manipulation is an effective modality in the improvement of both proprioception and dorsiflexion in chronic recurrent ankle sprain.”

Another piece of research, this one published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, found that chiropractic and proprioceptive exercises can also help decrease recurrent shoulder instability. And this was after the participant being studied had two previous surgeries which were unsuccessful at correcting that instability.

Sports Chiropractic Benefit #2: Decreased Injury Risk

The second benefit is decreased injury risk. “Poor movement patterns create compensation and muscular imbalance, leading to injury,” adds Hessler. This is a major issue for pro athletes especially since their livelihood is dependent on their ability to play their sport.

Recent stats indicate that this is a problem area, says Hessler, who indicates that some sports, like Major League Baseball, has seen an increase in injuries over the past several years. This is “despite improvements in training, conditioning, diagnostic tools, and surgical intervention,” says Hessler, highlighting this concern even more. 

Research has found that chiropractic can help reduce the risk of many different injuries. For example, one study connected chiropractic intervention with lower limb injury prevention, reduced primary lower limb muscle strain, and, subsequently, sports players spending fewer weeks off due to non-contact knee injuries.

To sum it up, “some of the things we provide as DCs are at the base level of improving athletic performance and injury prevention,” says Hessler. And that’s where a strong foundation begins.

DoCS is committed to raising the bar in chiropractic for athletes, so if you have any questions or article ideas, please feel free to contact us or share them in the comment section below. Reprints of this article permitted as long as it links back to the DoCS website: www.DoC-Sports.com.

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