January 2008

By Kym Burke

This article was published in the January 2008 edition of the American Chiropractic Association News.

Today’s coaches expect young athletes to show up for training ready to run fast, jump high, throw accurately and remain injury free. It is well documented, however, that the number of injuries to young athletes, particularly their low backs, knees and shoulders, is on the rise.

A part of the reason is that games of tag and backyard baseball have been replaced by video games, TV and surfing the Internet. Studies show that children between the ages of 10 and 12, for instance, are spending up to 6 hours per day in front of the television and/or computer. The price tag for this sedentary lifestyle is very high. Not only are our nation’s children at greater risk of becoming obese and developing chronic disease, but they are also at risk of failing to develop basic motor skills, which are necessary for athletics and competitive sports.

As health professionals, doctors of chiropractic can help prepare these athletes for the demands of sport. The purpose of this article is to stimulate your thinking as a movement specialist—to help our young athletes move better.

Improving Lumbopelvic Stability

One of the more typical mechanisms of injury to the low back is poor lumbopelvic stabilization. It is not uncommon to see high school linebackers, for instance, present with pars defect or spondylolisthesis. Simply observing their static and dynamic posture reveals the classic excessive anterior pelvic tilt caused by hyperactive hip flexors and underactive lumbopelvic stabilizers. If this motor pattern is allowed to continue, the brain begins to think it is the hip flexors’ job to manage the position of the pelvis in relation to the spine, and, therefore, the deep abdominals “turn off.” Re-educating the muscles methodically by first addressing the hyper/hypotonic muscles statically, then dynamically and, finally, functionally will set the athletes up for success.

Half-Kneeling Stretch with a Chop Down

This is an easy static stretch that can be performed multiple times per day. Adding the chop down activates the deep spinal stabilizers, encouraging a neutral spine.