College athletes injury statistics regarding spine and joint manipulation, mindset and more
Each year, more than 460,000 students in the United States compete in 24 different college-level sports, according to statistics from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
A few of the programs these athletes can choose to participate in include football and soccer (both of which are played in the fall), basketball and wrestling (two of the NCAA’s winter sports programs), and baseball and lacrosse (which compete in the spring).
Manipulations and performance
Although research has found that chiropractic care can benefit players of these individual sports in different ways — such as one study that connected spine and joint manipulations with an increase in kicking speed and performance for soccer players, and a case report which noted that the use of mechanically-assisted adjustment techniques can be helpful for basketball players struggling with anterior knee pain due to patellar tendinopathy — Jude Miller, DC, MS, CCSP, CME, shares some basic guidelines that can be helpful across all sporting options.
Miller represents Logan University as the team chiropractic physician at the University of Memphis, providing chiropractic care to students while also overseeing Logan University DC students as they complete their rotations and assist with soft tissue work, dry needling, kinesio taping and laser therapy. Here’s what he has to say about some of the do’s and don’ts of working with college athletes.
One major ‘do’
The one major “do” Miller says is absolutely imperative to remember when working with college sports is that you’re not the only one looking after that athlete. Instead, “your care is part of a team approach,” he says.
For instance, as the full-time on-site chiropractic physician for the University of Memphis Sports Medicine Department, Miller shares that their on-site sports medicine staff consists of 12 athletic trainers, one full-time physical therapist and himself. The University of Memphis also has multiple medical specialists who make up the remainder of its sports medicine team, which provides care for the approximately 20 on-campus sports teams.
Because so many health care professionals are involved in training and treating these higher-level athletes, Miller recommends that DCs “clarify with the director of sports medicine what they want your role to be and if there are things they want or don’t want you to do.” This increases the cohesiveness and collaboration of everyone on the players’ health care team while also reducing the potential of stepping on another medical provider’s toes.
Avoid duplicating care
Miller further suggests that you “know your strengths and try not to duplicate care that is provided by other members of the sports medicine team. Each member of the sports medicine team is a skilled health care provider with the same goal as you — to improve the performance and health of the athlete.”
This involves keeping open lines of communication with other members of the sports medicine team and letting them know what you’re doing with the athlete at all times, says Miller. This is especially important with athletic trainers, because these are the professionals with the most one-on-one contact with athletes and the rest of the team. These are also the ones ultimately responsible for coordinating each athlete’s care.
An important ‘don’t’
In addition to knowing what to do when working with college athletes — which is primarily to stay in close contact and constant communication with the rest of the athlete’s team of trainers so you know what is expected of you — it is just as important to know what not to do.
“There are many things not to do when working with athletes,” says Miller, “but one of the most important to remember is not to let your clinical judgement be altered by the athlete’s determination to go back to play. Athletes in general are very strong and are able to compensate through many injuries.”
Research published in the Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology indicates that an athlete’s ability to “play through pain” is largely related to his or her sports-related identity. In other words, the more the individual identifies as an athlete, the less likely it is that an injury will be enough to keep him or her out of the game. However, that doesn’t mean this is in the best interest of the player’s total health and wellness.
Know your role
Miller goes on to say that it’s also imperative to “know that your role as a chiropractor is not to determine when a player should go back to play, as this is the call of the athletic trainer and team medical physician.” If you have a good relationship with these two key people, you can give your input, but in the end, the final decision is ultimately theirs.
“Working with collegiate athletes can be complicated depending on the setting,” says Miller, quickly adding that it is also very rewarding, partially because “it is evident that the athletes value the benefits chiropractic care provides for their well-being and performance.”