RUNNING INSIGHTS OF AN OFFICIAL OLYMPIC TEAM DOCTOR

Having been asked by the editor who is a dear friend of mine to write something relative to sports and Chiropractic, I shall attempt a brief piece as writing is not my forte’. Interviews are much more my style.

Chiropractic, the drugless non-surgical approach to health and sports injuries go hand in hand. “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Thomas A. Edison, 1847-1931.

Running, whether for competition or simply for exercise shares some very common injuries mainly involving the back, the knees, ankles and feet. How do these injuries occur? To focus on the low back first, the lumbar spine has 5 vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs sitting on a foundation called the sacrum. As an analogy if you have an uneven foundation in a newly built house, future problems are sure to arise. The same would be applicable to the human frame. For instance, more times than not, a subluxation or subluxations of the lumbar spine vertebrae can create a pelvic imbalance evidenced by x-rays. But upon initial examination one will see a leg length discrepancy. A short leg on the right or left side. Running with a leg length discrepancy will eventually create other joint problems specifically in the hips, knees and ankles. Many of the runners I have worked with during the Olympics and other sports games sought to correct this imbalance through the use of orthotics which in itself can actually complicate matters as the initial cause of the problem goes unaddressed.

Nowadays, there are many chiropractic disciplines around, some work and some are palliative. I am old school and firmly believe in osseous manipulation of the spine to correct the problem. There are few cases where that is not appropriate due to other conditions of the spine viewed through x-rays or MRI’s. But generally speaking 90% of leg length discrepancies can be corrected through a chiropractic adjustment.

When addressing specific injuries of the knees and ankles, the first rule of thumb that the runner should be aware of is the “RICE” formula, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Ignoring minor pain signals from the body only leads to complications that can be debilitating in the long run (pun intended). Addressing more serious injuries of the knees and ankles requires a comprehensive orthopedic and neurological evaluation. It’s been said, orthopedic surgeons do surgery, chiropractors do orthopedics.

The knee is highly susceptible to traumatic injury primarily because it is subject to maximum stress. In addition, since the knee is not protected by layers of fat or muscle, its exposure, both environmentally and anatomically, contributes to its high incidence of injury.

The foot and the ankle are the focal points to which the total body weight is transmitted. Thick heel and toe pads perform as shock absorbers and the joints and proprioceptors on the plantar surface are capable of the adjustments necessary for fine balance during walking and running on a variety of terrain. Because of this concentrated stress, the foot and ankle also are prone to a high incidence of injury. The constant exposure to the forces of impact trauma and susceptibility to injury necessitates an artificial encasement, the shoe, which in itself can compound many foot problems.

Successful treatment and rehabilitation of these injuries largely depends on the age of the patient, length of time the injury has existed and a competent sports doctor, with the experience and know how to address each specific problem.

Lex R. Rathbun, D.C.
Past Sec. General: Guam National Olympic Committee Medical Commission /Guam Weightlifting Federation
Official Olympic Team Doctor: 1988 Summer Olympics, Seoul, Korea
Official Team Doctor: 8th and 9th South Pacific Games, Micronesian Games 1990
Governor’s Task Force 2000 for Healthcare Reform
Guam Board of Allied Health Examiners
Certified VA out-patient doctor, Guam

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