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The Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are taking place in Toronto July 10-26th and August 7-15th respectively. To celebrate, the Canadian Chiropractic Association will be featuring a special blog series throughout the month of July and early August that focuses on injury prevention related to Pan Am and Parapan Am sports.

Many of the Pan Am and Parapan Am athletes undergo strenuous training regimes to be in peak physical condition for these Games, and with this increased training comes added risk of injury. While all sports are associated with some level of risk, there are certain sports where the risk can be even greater. These require athletes to take extra care and train “smarter” to protect their backs from injuries in training and competition.

We took a look at three different sports that have a high back-injury rate for athletes. These injuries range from the less serious injuries, such as lumbar facet joint dysfunction and sacroiliac joint irritation, to the more serious, including stress fractures and associated complications.

1. Wrestling

This ancient sport utilizes an athlete’s strength to manoeuver their body, and their opponent’s body, in some pretty precarious positions. These athletes move their bodies to control their opponent with holds, grapples, throws and pins. Needless to say, you can imagine the physical strain and risk this puts on the athlete’s body, including the back. It is important for wrestlers to be coached on proper techniques and form, as well as have a healthcare team available to them to provide early assessment, diagnosis and management of a condition as it arises.

2. Soccer

This hugely popular sport is celebrated around many parts of the world. While it’s not meant to be a contact-heavy sport, collisions do occur and can result in back injuries. It is especially common for younger players (preadolescents and teens) who frequently overuse their lower back muscles, or sustain falls during play.1  Incorporating strength training into practice is essential for developing key stabilizing muscles and preventing frequent falls.

3. Gymnastics

\It is easy to understand how easily a gymnast could sustain an injury in such a physically demanding sport. The tumbling, twisting and contortions they perform involve repetitive extension and rotation of the lumbar spine, increasing the risk for injury.Gymnasts also tend to be encouraged to maintain an above average flexibility that may lead to hypermobility of joints. Recognizing risk factors is a key component to reducing the risk of injury. Walkovers in gymnastics, for example, place added pressure on the posterior spine and should be exercised with caution. Athletes may need to limit the number of repetitions, particularly if there is pain associated with these maneuvers. Core-strengthening exercises and stretches for tight hamstrings and hip flexors may help reduce the risk of low back pain.3

Include a Chiropractor as part of your Healthcare Team

Doctors of Chiropractic have traditionally been involved in coaching and managing amateur and professional athletes across Canada. It is not surprising that many professional sports teams include at least one chiropractor on their core medical team to help manage musculoskeletal conditions and enhance performance. In fact, nearly 140 chiropractors are volunteering at this year’s Pan Am and Parapan Am Games to help treat athletes and volunteers. Chiropractors use a variety of treatment options, including spinal manipulation therapy, which has strongly supported evidence for the treatment of low back pain.

We look forward to watching these sports, and many others, compete at the Toronto Pan Am and Parapan Am Games this month!

1. (
2. Watkins RG.Lumbar disc injury in the athlete. Clin Sport Med. 2002;21:147-165 [PubMed]
3. Simon LM, Jih W, Buller JC.Back pain and injuries. In: Birrer RB, Griesemer BA, Cataletto MB, editors. , eds. Pediatric Sports Medicine for Primary Care. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2002:306-325

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