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Stretch to prevent winter sport injuries

Stretch to prevent winter sport injuries, say chiropractors

Begin your training gently and make sure you stretch. That’s the message from the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association for anyone starting winter sports.

Last year, ACC paid out over $250 million in sports related injury claims and many of those injuries could have been avoided by correct stretching and flexibility exercises, says association spokesperson, Dr Greg Oke.

“Correct stretching before and after exercise reduces the risk of injury and improves flexibility.”

Dr Oke will be going to Beijing as part of the New Zealand Olympic medical team. He also attended the Athens Olympics and Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

He says with winter sports training taking place all over the country, chiropractors are preparing themselves for an influx of injuries.

“We see lots of people at this time of year for all sorts of different sports injuries, from sprains and strains to nerve-based pins and needles, and even migraines.”

Dr Oke says as well as recommending stretching, chiropractors advise their patients to be aware of their bodies.

“Listen to the signals your body is sending you. If there are problems that can’t be resolved with gentle exercise, don’t wait until it gets beyond discomfort to seek help.”

He says people who play contact sports, such as rugby and rugby league, make up a sizeable percentage of his patient list.

“There’s no doubt that advanced contact sports are hard on the body. We see a lot of spine rotation, neck and hamstring injuries.

“Having said that, we do have a huge number of patients whose injuries come from non-contact sports. For example, cyclists complete thousands of pedal strokes in each ride, so their injuries tend to develop over a period of time.”

Dr Oke says chiropractors don’t just deal with back injuries. Performance-based care involves looking at the muscle firing patterns, assessing core stability and checking to see that neurology (nervous system) is working well.

“We look at everything from the big toe to the top of the skull, because every part of us has an impact on the way the body works,” he says. “For example, with a runner we’ll look at the way they run and the wear patterns on their shoes, as well as the function of their calves, hips and spine.”

Rehabilitation could involve home-based hot and cold treatments, stretching and toning exercises and spinal adjustments. Dr Oke says, in most cases, patients are told to stay active.

“It can be more harmful, particularly for sports people, to lie down and do nothing when they have an injury. Their bodies are used to being active so when they stop, everything starts to tighten up.

“As long as the injury doesn’t involve an acute tear or severe inflammation, we usually recommend they get back to their regular activity, but don’t push themselves beyond 70 or 80 percent of their ability until their flexibility returns.”

As well as seeing sports people for injury management, Dr Oke sees a range of athletes wanting to get more out of their bodies.

“Athletes will seek any sort of advantage they can and chiropractic is proven to enhance performance. We often see people who are achieving at about 96 percent of their ability and, with regular chiropractic adjustments, we can help them reach their full potential.”

Dr Oke treats athletes prior to events to get them tuned up, increase their range of motion, sharpen their reflexes and improve their stability and strength. He says this helps with recovery and improves function when they are performing.

As a former New Zealand representative kayaker, who still has a keen interest in kayaking, cycling, running and triathlons, Dr Oke knows the difference chiropractic can make.

“I’ve already started working with some of athletes on road to Beijing. I will meet others there and look at the notes they bring from their own chiropractors,” he says.

“The nice thing about the Olympics is that we operate as a team with doctors, physiotherapists, a sports psychologist and a massage therapist. We work together to make sure our athletes hit the field in top physical condition.”


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