Chiropractor for Algonquin and Lake in the Hills
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Why Chiropractic Care Is Essential in Sports Physicals

Young athletes must go through sports physicals before they can play. See why a chiropractic professional provides a more effective exam and preventive care!

Discover How a Sports Physical with a Chiropractor Keeps You in the Game!

How many times have you seen this happen? A student-athlete is playing a sport, and suddenly they suffer from a torn ACL. It’s a devastating injury that not only puts them on the bench for the season but can have lasting effects for the rest of their life.

How can we prevent this? That’s what sports physicals are supposed to do. Sports physicals are supposed to look at all possible areas to prevent future injuries.

However, more often than not, they are ineffective. Why? Because they are not completed by a chiropractor!

Chiropractic care for sports physicals is essential for examining the entire body. Examinations by a chiropractor give you a better picture of what current and future issues might be there for a student-athlete.

If you want to know why a chiropractor is the preferred choice for sports physicals, keep reading!

What are Sports Physicals?

Sports physicals, also known as preparticipation physical examinations, determine whether or not it’s safe to participate in certain sports at school. Student-athletes need to complete a “sports physical” periodically during their school years.

What do sports physicals check for? Physicians look at areas such as family medical history, former injuries, and current health issues. Sports physicals also screen for diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, allergies, asthma, and more.

Not all states require a pre-participation examination for athletes to take part in sports. Illinois, however, does require a sports physical to be completed.

Even if your state does not require it, it is still a good idea to have one done. It can show you any potential issues that might occur in the course of playing a certain sport.

An image showing a teenager receiving a medical examination for their sports physical.
The currently-used examination does not cover enough areas of the body to be as effective as possible.

Why is the Current Exam Not Enough?

While it is a good idea to have a sports physical examination, there are drawbacks to having it done the “normal” way. The “normal” way is to have it completed by a family or school-provided physician.

So, why is the currently used exam not enough? Let’s find out!

It’s Too Brief

The currently used mandatory preseason exams are too often more ceremonial than informative. This is because kids need to be examined in such brief periods of time. So, you only get an overview of what could be wrong.

This is especially true for school-provided physicians. It can be a quick stop with the physician as they look through your medical history and ask if you are healthy. It’s not enough time to fully understand every possible risk that might occur.

It Doesn’t Cover Enough

The currently used exams also look primarily at potential “medical” conditions. Although the structural component of the athlete is the true at-risk system in sports, no one looks at it in a meaningful way during the examination.

The structural components are the musculoskeletal system. That includes the bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissue.

However, when most of the exam focuses on medical history and any recent developments, areas of concern can get lost in the shuffle.

It’s Reactive, Not Proactive

Finally, the purpose of the sports physical is to determine if there is a likelihood of injury while playing the sport. However, too often, the physician only looks at current symptoms.

Treating symptoms first is the norm, so we’ve fragmented the body into parts. How often do you hear statements like, “He’s the best hand guy,” or “He’s the best shoulder guy”?

A physician might be good at treating certain areas, but all of the parts of the body are interconnected.

Every part has some global influence over the other parts of the body. To only look at the site of the injury is near-sighted and contributes greatly to long-term and increased costs.

How is Chiropractic Care Different for Sports Physicals?

We chiropractors realize the need for a different approach. After all, we understand that symptoms are a sign that something is broken. And symptoms will subside before the broken piece is fixed.

What that means is pain is the last symptom to show up and the first to go away.

We all know someone who was “perfectly healthy” and suffered a heart attack the next day. That person had no symptoms, no pain, but the process that caused the heart attack had been in place for many years.

Musculoskeletal issues are the same way. The unusual biomechanics that caused the back pain in the first place has been evident for months or years before the pain started.

Because sport and spine are so deeply connected, we need a new way to evaluate and prevent sports injuries. We need a new way to assess the musculoskeletal system to provide the best treatment.

And that’s what chiropractic care does. It evaluates the whole body to not only treat the symptoms but to be proactive in preventing future ones.

What Can You Expect During the Exam?

A sports physical with a chiropractor means an examination of the whole body. When it comes to the spine and sports medicine, or any musculoskeletal function, a chiropractor is trained to treat a variety of issues.

The thorough examination looks at many areas that are and could be affected by playing a sport. These include:

  • A postural exam
  • A cervical (neck) and lumbar (back) spinal range of motion exam
  • A foot exam that looks for imbalances that can lead to knee and back pain
  • Spinal orthopedic testing
  • A sensory exam that checks nerve endings for sensitivity to pain and light touch
  • Deep tendon reflexes of the upper and lower extremity
  • Muscle testing of the upper extremities, shoulder blades, lower extremities, and glutes
  • A palpatory examination that uses touch to find problems
  • A leg length exam that includes a leg measurement
  • If necessary, cervical and lumbar weight-bearing X-rays

As you can see, a chiropractic exam is a lot more in-depth than your standard sports physical!

After the examination, we then sit down with the athlete and parents and go over an individualized treatment plan.

Image of a boy getting a sports physical by a chiropractor
Chiropractic care gives you an individualized treatment plan to help remedy and prevent injuries after your sports physical.

What Goes into an Individualized Treatment Plan?

The chiropractic treatment plan focuses on areas of concern and has a wide range of options. It can include some or all of the following services we provide:

  • Spinal Manipulation
  • Physical Therapy
  • Rehab and Home Exercises
  • Custom-Made Orthotics
  • Super-Pulsed Laser
  • Whole Body Standing Vibration Therapy
  • Structural Integration Massage Therapy
  • Nutrition

We also look at patients who are symptomatic and asymptomatic.

Symptomatic patients are those who are currently having pain. We will focus on pain and inflammation reduction first. Then, when the pain allows, we add in the appropriate exercises and injury prevention programs.

Asymptomatic patients are those who are not currently having pain. They receive chiropractic care to prevent future injuries. We jump right in with manipulations, massages, vibration therapies, and rehabilitation.

The combination of these techniques has helped dozens of local athletes over the years. Whether it’s decreasing pain, improving functions, or excelling at their sport, chiropractic care has helped!

Don’t Let Sports Injuries Bench You This Season!

When your season for your sport comes up, consider a physical with a chiropractic professional!

At Algonquin Chiropractic Center, our examinations are not sport-specific. That means we provide this program for athletes in all sports! If you want your athlete to have less pain, less risk of injury, more training, and more participation, give us a call at 847-854-2000 to make an appointment!

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published December 14, 2016 and was updated in June 2020.