How Often Do You Give Your Body a Check Up?
The American Dental Association condition us to see our dentist regularly for a checkup. However, why don’t we do the same for our body? We see physicians for a regular checkup to make sure everything is working as it should. So, why don’t we an evaluation of our musculoskeletal system?
When thinking of a pre-participation sports screening, we tend to see a screening for cardiovascular risk, asthma, scoliosis etc. But, believe it or not, no one really looks at your musculoskeletal system.
What is the musculoskeletal system?
It’s the muscles, joints ligaments and tendons in your body. No one ever evaluates the nervous system! Yet, we strive to stay healthy and try to exercise. Unfortunately, no one ever tells us what our limitations are in sports. Some may not be good for us.
My patients know that the benefits of being evaluated 1-2x a year to see how their body is doing is crucial to living pain free. It is also beneficial because the number of their injuries and pains will be reduced. Our professional athletes typically get an offseason evaluation to see how their body is moving, what tissues need to be stretched, and what tissues are neurologically weak or shut down. What people don’t realize is the adaptations of everyday postures and sports we participate in can play a huge role in how our body functions or moves.
Playing primarily a single sport can tighten up certain muscles and cause other muscles to not get used enough and get weaker. I can’t tell you how many times young patients come in after the hockey season and transition to a field sport like lacrosse or field hockey and find themselves crippled with shin splints, achilles pain and even worse stress fractures.
So why do these hockey plays get plagued with these injuries?
It’s because for the past few months they never went through normal motion of the ankle because they were in skates. The tissues in the ankle and calf become shortened and adapt to the demand of the sport. Their gluts become tight and overworked and their calves become weak and tight. The tissues in the ankle now cannot absorb and disperse the forces of hitting the ground.
What do I tell those patients?
They should have been working on calf mobility throughout the hockey season – the one area they typically forget about because they are so concerned with their hips being tight. They should have been slowly integrating strengthening of their calves, and they should have slowly added in a small amount of running to get the tissues used to absorbing and dispersing forces. So, what ends up happening to this patient is we end up playing catch up – gaining the mobility in the tissues and turning on the calf muscles that were shut down from lack of use.
At Greenwich Sports Medicine, we do something called a Neurofunctional Evaluation of the body. Looking at how the soft tissues are moving, what the range of motion in the joints are like, and where the athlete needs them to be to perform their sport or activity. When we evaluate laxity in joints that might need more stability and strength. We test how the muscles are firing and determine if they are not doing their job correctly. We also evaluate the movements of the sport. That are necessary to the athlete and how the nervous system handles those movements. Is there control of their movement or is there a bad compensation or faulty movement? Are they lacking movement in the hip which is leading them to shear or irritate the ankle more?
These are the things we think of when we are doing a Neurofunctional Exam. I feel that all athletes should have this done regularly. This way they avoid injury and stay healthy.