Chiropractors make Commonwealth Games history as part of integrated healthcare team – but what does this really mean for the profession?
For the first time in Commonwealth Games history, Chiropractors play an integral role as part of the healthcare team at Birmingham 2022. Catherine Quinn, President of the British Chiropractic Association and Kathryn Deverson, Chiropractor, and part of the newly formed Chiropractor, Osteopath, Physiotherapist and Sports Massage (COPS) team for Birmingham 2022 discuss what this significant step means for Chiropractors, athletes, and the wider healthcare industry.
Which of the sports featured in the Commonwealth Games have the most impact on musculoskeletal (MSK) health?
Musculoskeletal (MSK) health is multifactorial but there are sports and activities that put athletes at greater risk of injury. Injury prevalence is usually highest in team sports, followed by combat sports, racquet and track and field. At the Commonwealth Games the sports which typically cause the most injuries are basketball, hockey, and rugby, followed by tennis, badminton, cycling and athletics.
Whilst all sports pose relative pressures on the musculoskeletal system, athletes will understand how best to manage this with input from expert integrated medical and coaching teams. From the precise and technical skills seen in diving, gymnastics, and lawn bowls, to the impact seen in boxing, judo, and netball, each athlete competing at the Games will be carefully maintaining their MSK health to ensure they perform at their best. The types of injury seen will vary from sport to sport, be it acute tears and sprains, or more repetitive stress injuries – for example, ankle injuries are the most common in netball, leg injuries in lawn bowls and head or hand injuries in boxing.
How do athletes use Chiropractors during training and for recovery?
Chiropractors regularly play an integral role within the medical teams of professional athletes in the lead up to, during, and post-competition. Many BCA Chiropractors work alongside other healthcare professionals in sports, including at Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club, Bristol Rovers Football Club and Leicester City. They provide vital support for injury prevention, treatment and performance-based care using a combination of manual therapy, exercise prescription and lifestyle advice.
Athletes often report that their athletic performance is enhanced through chiropractic adjustments which allow the body to function better and perform at its best. Chiropractic care helps with injury prevention by enabling an athlete to best control their powerful bodies throughout strenuous activity and intricate movements alike. Chiropractors support recovery from acute injuries and help patients best manage chronic conditions through their wide package of care. Chiropractic addresses mobility issues and provides effective pain relief and recovery after competitions and between training sessions.
How do athletes look after their body during the Commonwealth Games and how can the everyday person use these tips to adapt their sporting skills?
The ways in which athletes look after their bodies will be specific to the needs of the sport. This will involve a combination of physical training, to strengthen and sustain good mobility, as well as maintaining good habits to ensure optimum performance. These habits include ensuring adequate hydration and diet, getting enough sleep, and taking time to look after their mental health.
An athletes training plan during competition will be very different to the preparation they commit to beforehand. But in both cases, rest is a key component to ensuring an athlete can compete at their best. Following a suitable training program during competitions – which includes high quality nutrition, sleep, and mental rest – is essential in avoiding injuries.
Athletes must fuel themselves before and after training so understanding the nutritional balance and hydration they require to provide the energy needed to compete and train is vital. When dehydrated, your total blood volume decreases, thereby causing a reduced blood flow to your skin and muscles. This can result in higher body temperature, reduced sweat rate, increased muscle glycogen use, increased perception of effort and higher heart rate. All of this contributes to reduced concentration, skill, and physical performance. Given the negative effects of dehydration, it is essential that athletes of all levels begin their training session or competition in a hydrated state.
Whilst often overlooked, getting an adequate amount of sleep is crucial to enhance performance and good health. Sleep is key for muscle recovery and memory. A lack of sleep can lead to inhibited ability, quicker exhaustion, decreased reaction times and higher risk of injury or illness.
Most importantly, whether leading up to or during a competition – or when taking part in sport for any other reason – listen to your body. Athletes and their medical teams will watch for signs of fatigue or mood swings that indicate they may need rest. Knowing when to take it easy because of stress, exhaustion or managing injuries is vital to ensuring your body can perform at its best. Listening to that tight muscle or little niggle can significantly reduce the risk of a more serious injury later down the line.
Why is working as a multi-disciplinary team important? / How will chiropractors be integral to the medical services at the Commonwealth Games?
At Birmingham 2022 Chiropractors are part of the Chiropractor, Osteopath, Physiotherapist, Sports Massage (COPS) team which brings these healthcare professionals together, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Games, to provide manual therapy options to athletes.
Chiropractors have many skills that overlap with other professions – and vice versa. Many Chiropractors perform soft tissue techniques while Physiotherapists and Sports Therapists have now learnt spinal manipulation. What sets Chiropractors apart is our specialism when it comes to the spine and nervous system. In todays’ healthcare system we should be combining our skills and expertise and working together as an integrated multi-disciplinary team to provide the best care to patients, be they athletes or otherwise.
The approach taken by the Commonwealth Games recognises how valuable and important this level of integration is with the whole COPS team being present at the Games to assess, diagnose, refer on and/or treat athletes for a wide range of MSK conditions. By working as part of a well-integrated team we can recognise the skill sets available at each Polyclinic – these are the clinics which have been set up to house the COPS teams at Birmingham 2022- and importantly, ensure that athletes see a professional who can best deliver the care required, regardless of which profession they belong to.
Patient choice is an important part of any healthcare setting. For the athletes at the Games to have access to a range of high-quality services across these professions sets the gold-standard benchmark for how healthcare should be delivered for all patients.
What impact do you hope this will make on the industry?
The Commonwealth Games’ model of providing a wide range of options to patients (athletes) at Birmingham 2022 not only offers a great deal of patient choice but also an opportunity for healthcare professions to better understand each other’s skill sets and competencies as well as their professional status.
In an educational setting, we see professions that learn alongside each other have an improved understanding and therefore professional respect of their healthcare colleagues. It is hoped that all medical professions represented at the Commonwealth Games will take the chance to get to know their colleagues and develop their knowledge of other professions so that they can better serve their patients as part of a diverse, integrated, multi-disciplinary team.
Moving forward, we would also hope to see enhanced recognition for Chiropractic and its integral role within healthcare settings from the sporting community, healthcare practitioners and their governing bodies, and the general population more widely. Our place at Birmingham 2022 is a huge step towards elevating the significant roles Chiropractors play in providing effective healthcare and highlights the value of the support we can provide. We hope that this will now pave the way for our BCA Chiropractors to be involved in other events and form part of other multi-disciplinary teams within other settings.
Catherine Quinn has been President of the BCA since 2017 and is the youngest President the BCA has ever had. She is the third female president in the BCA’s history, with its first in 1945 and the second in 1970. As well as making a lasting impact on the BCA by breaking down some of the barriers and myths about the industry, Catherine has empowered those in the profession so that its breadth and support is better understood by a wide range of audiences.
Kathryn Deverson is a BCA Member and an Associate Chiropractor in Cardiff, working with local sports teams and completing her International Certificate in Sports Chiropractic (ICSC) with the International Federation of Sports Chiropractic (FICS). She is also a member of the BCA Communications Committee supporting the Association with clinical and professional input for our PR and Communications programme. Kathryn is passionate about the importance of integrating chiropractic care with exercise to be most beneficial to patients. She has a particular interest in the role social media plays in the public awareness of chiropractic and she has used her Instagram as a platform to encourage patients and followers to get moving.