By Judy Soborowicz, Active Health Chiropractic
Timing is everything, especially in sports. The brain controls all movement and coordination of body timing, such as responding to the sudden change in walking and properly maintaining balance when stepping in a hole, and for explosive movements required for competitive sports. The brain is responsible for coordination, communicating with specialized nerve cells found in every joint and ligament of the body, which allows for the coordinated response of muscles. These specialized nerve cells are activated when the slightest movement occurs within the joint, making the brain able to instantaneously respond with muscle contraction and repositioning of joint position for stabilization in motion.
Functional MRI has shown that the brains of participants post-ACL repair during bending and extending the knee respond differently, as compared to controls. Studies suggest that due to loss of the specialized sensory receptors within the knee, the brain shifts function to rely more on the visual centers of the brain. Even with exercise and movement, the brain displays changes in response. Aside from the input of the inner ear, communication between joint sensory receptors is the primarily way we balance and respond in movement. Relying on visual motor response may be why performance can be so negatively affected.
Take for example, an ankle sprain, or when any joint and surrounding supportive tissue is injured. The motion of that joint is altered because of problems within the joint. During the healing time, the communication between the specialized nerve cells and brain are altered. Post-injury, the body may be able to regain use, but small issues within the joint may persist, decreasing the fast timing and responsiveness accompanying previously healthy movement. This means you may be able to perform, but may notice changes in your speed of responsiveness, balance, or persistent re-injury that negatively affects you overall.
A simple balance test, done in your home, can be a great way to determine how efficient your brain is at gathering information from the specialized nerve cells stimulated by joint position and inner ear. With a partner, in a safe place, attempt to balance on one foot. If you are able to balance with your eyes open, attempt the same with eyes closed. If you are unable to balance without using your eyes, you may be relying on your visual motor response. This may translate to slower performance as an athlete, chronic injuries, or the loss of ability to walk confidently in the dark or on irregular ground.
Optimizing the output from the sensory receptors throughout joints depends on stimulation, which occurs with healthy movement. Chiropractic adjustments address problem movement issues within the joints. Specific adjustments to restore healthy movement translate to big changes in performance. Nerve cells have a “use it or lose it” requirement. Increasing information relayed between the joint receptors and brain begins a process regaining response and performance. Restoring function to joint movement and sensory communication to the brain reduces the likelihood of injuries/re- injuries, and restores brain function to original design. The healthier the movement in the joint, the more robust the signaling for better timing, response, and stabilization.
Judy Soborowicz, DC CCN obtained her chiropractic degree at Palmer College of Chiropractic. Dr Judy enjoys practicing chiropractic and nutrition at Active Health in Eau Claire, alongside her husband Dr John.