Toronto’s top Olympic hopefuls are doing more than train. They are also checking in with the Olympic “body shop” – a team of specialized health professionals – to ensure optimal physical and psychological performance.
“Our health care team is as important to our performance as our coaches and trainers,” says Dominique Bosshart, a world-class Toronto tae kwon do athlete. “It’s about more than injury prevention and treatment. Our bodies are our most important instrument and the health care team helps ensure we are functioning at our best both mentally and physically. We think of them as our body shop.”
One of the newest additions to the Olympic body shop is chiropractic care. It officially became part of core health care services for Canadian athletes at the 1999 Pan American games. Physiotherapists, athletic therapists, massage therapists and physicians round out the Canadian health care team at events such as the Olympics, Pan American Games and Commonwealth Games.
Chiropractic care works on optimizing biomechanical function to give an athlete the best opportunity to achieve a peak performance. This includes focusing on two main areas: muscle function and joint function.
“I include chiropractic as part of my health care regimen both off-season and during intensive training periods to enhance my joint and muscle function,” says Bosshart. “Martial arts athletes place a lot of stress on the knees, hips, lower back and shoulders. It’s essential to have good range of motion with no restrictions to perform at my best.”
Three-time Olympic gold medal rower Marnie McBean also used chiropractic as a part of her regimen throughout her Olympic career. “Chiropractic is an important part of a rower’s athletic training. For me, it kept me healthy and in line. This allowed me to drive with my legs, pry with my lower back; it helped to facilitate recovery and prevent injury, and was an integral part of my Olympic training and health program.”
“Muscles and joints are connected and should work together in balance at all times,” says Dr. Mohsen Kazemi, a Toronto chiropractor who works with members of Canada’s taekwondo team. “Once you have the muscles and joints working in harmony and at optimal levels, you can focus on preventative stretching techniques and sport-specific exercises to maintain high function levels.”
Similarly, muscle injuries contribute to limitations in range of motion, decreased strength and overall function. Increasingly, chiropractic is playing a key role in this kind of injury management, with treatments such as myofascial techniques. Myofascial therapy involves breaking down scar tissue and adhesions in the muscle and is used to release and restore the normal tonicity of the muscles.
Many of the techniques that are used by Olympic-level athletes can be applied to recreational athletes and “weekend warriors.”
“Recreational athletes are not all that different from Olympic-level athletes in terms of how to avoid injury and perform at their best,” adds Dr. Kazemi. “The same basic principles should be applied, because we don’t want our ‘rec’ athletes to become ‘wrecked’ athletes.”