Winter Olympics athletes can sustain many injuries in practice and competition. Chiropractic and massage play a role in injury recovery and prevention.
Types of Injuries
Injuries at the Winter Olympics can range from bruises and sprains to concussions and broken bones, and to damaged organs and possible surgeries. One freestyle skier noted that he had broken his back in three places, his sacrum, and his ankles multiple times, necessitating surgery. Another Olympian broke his collarbone. For others, strained joints, muscle pulls, and snapped ligaments are issues. Even practice can be a challenge. One snowboarder was training on a trampoline and her knee hit her face, breaking bones and “rattling her brain”, leading to head trauma and vomiting. Very often the athletes complete rehabilitation and return to the sport. A recent study said that 1 in 10 athletes suffered an injury in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. One luger even died during a training run. In between the Olympics, injuries also occur. A freestyle skier “plummeted nearly 100 feet through the air”, ending up with a broken pelvis and ruptured spleen. Another skier ended up with a lacerated liver and a punctured lung. Some of the injuries suffered are psychological, similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. Athletes are trained to “block out fear” after a catastrophic injury by using mental conditioning and visualization techniques to improve muscle memory. Many athletes begin training at a young age, before having a fear of the dangers involved in their sports. One ski jumper described the “rush” as an “addiction”.1 Some added protective measures have been included, such as making certain moves illegal (i.e., the “head banger” or “bounce spin” in pairs figure skating).2 Helmet use has also increased, but musculoskeletal injuries, head trauma, lacerations, and fractures are still risks. High speeds, such as in luge or an iced track, “razor-sharp blades on your feet”, the heights of ski slopes, and more contribute to injuries.3 Wearing a helmet doesn’t guarantee protection. In the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a snowboarder’s helmet cracked during a jump.4 Even without accidents, the wear and tear of particular sports, repetitive movements, and impacts from jumps and falls can lead to injuries over time.
Chiropractors have a history of working in the Olympics. Stephen Press, D.C., CCSP founded the Federation Internationale du Chiropractic Sportive (FICS) in 1987. Dr. Press treated a figure skater for sciatica. He set up a Moscow chiropractic clinic. The sports chiropractic specialty has a CCSP certification. Dr. Dave Juehring, D.C. treated Olympic bobsled athletes. William Moreau, D.C., DACBSP, a graduate of the Palmer College of Chiropractic became the “Managing Director of Sports Medicine for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia”. Further, 6 out of the 28 physicians on the 2014 medical team are chiropractors.5 Chiropractic philosophy works to help the body heal itself, without relying on medication or surgery. Chiropractic carries more benefits than recovery and rehabilitation. It can help athletes avoid injury by improving flexibility, posture, and blood circulation, as well as decreasing joint pain through joint adjustment and manipulation.6 Sports massage therapists also have a place in the Winter Olympics. Lou Ann Botsford, a massage therapist, noted that sports massage can “minimize the potential for injury…(and) assist athletes in recovering”.7 Massage is now a part of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.8
Find out more about chiropractic and the Olympics.