Dr. Justin Fowler and NBA Superstar Toronto Raptors player Serge Ibaka

Basketball & Chiropractic Care

It is well documented that many professional athletes seek regular Chiropractic care to ensure they continue to perform at an elite level and reach their maximal athletic potential in their respective sport. Earlier this year, NBA Superstar, and Toronto Raptors forward, Serge Ibaka, presented to our clinic and saw Dr. Justin Fowler for some treatment. This post has the intent to inform you, the reader, on what injuries are common in basketball, and how regular Chiropractic care can help.


Watch out for those ‘ankle-breaker’ cross-overs


He/she broke the defenders’ ankles with that cross-over”. A common term/phrase used when describing a quick change of direction or pace by an offensive player, shedding the defender, usually leaving them looking helpless in the meantime. While ankle fractures are rare in basketball, the most commonly seen injury is an ankle sprain.


There are two main types of ankle sprain injuries: an inversion sprain, and an eversion sprain- both of which are characterized by the direction the ankle rolls/rotates during the time of injury. The more common of the two is an inversion ankle sprain, accounting for approximately 70-85% of ankle sprains. During an inversion ankle sprain, the ankle rolls outwards (laterally) causing severe stretching of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. In particular, the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) takes the brunt of the force during this type of injury, as it located on the lateral aspect of the ankle. During an eversion ankle sprain, the ankle rolls inwards, putting added stress to the medial (inside) aspect of the ankle, affecting the deltoid ligament.


After sustaining an ankle injury, it is crucial to visit your local Chiropractor and have it assessed. First and foremost, it is important to rule out any chance of fracture- the Chiropractor will perform a thorough physical exam, and develop a plan of management. If an x-ray is needed, your Chiropractor can write you a requisition for imaging. As mentioned previously, the likely scenario is sprained ankle- and yes, we do not just specialize in back problems. During the acute phase of any ankle injury, it is important to relieve pain, decrease swelling, and improve ankle mobility. This is typically achieved in the first 2-3 weeks. At Back In Balance Clinic, we have had great success in treating ankle injuries using a combination of low level laser therapy (LLLT), electro-acupuncture, taping, ankle mobilizations and adjustments to the ankle joint. Following the acute phase, it is essential for your Chiropractor to introduce a home-based active care program. This refers to a rehab exercise program that you can perform at home to further improve the mobility, strength and stability of the ankle. Such things include working on balance/proprioception, and strengthening the ankle to decrease the chance of re-injury.



Back-to-Back games are a real pain in the… back


Upper back (thoracic spine) and low back (lumbar spine) pain is quite predominate in basketball players. More specifically, tall players are vulnerable to lower back issues, especially when they have limited mobility in their thoracic spine and in their hips. Having a Chiropractor assess movement in these regions, and identify tight muscles is just the initial step in proper management.


Quadratus Lumborum muscle- the ‘King’ of low back pain. Often referred to as the ‘QL’ for short, the quadratus lumborum muscle is a low back muscle that connects the spine and the pelvis. The predominate action of the QL is lateral flexion (side bending) and extension (backwards bending) of the lumbar spine. It is also intimately involved in inspiration as it attaches to the 12th rib. The QL is part of the low back erector group- erect, meaning upright: the muscle is responsible for keeping you upright. As Chiropractors, we often see this muscle to be especially tight in individuals working sedentary desk jobs, working away at the computer all day, with limited standing breaks. That being said, this muscle also causes issues for basketball players due to prolonged travel schedules, back to back games,  and repetitive running, jumping, and low back twisting/bending. This muscle is a likely culprit of low back pain, and often contributes to spasms in the area. The best way to relieve your QL pain: see your Chiropractor for a combination of soft tissue work, mobilizations, spinal manipulation (adjustments) administered to the low back, and acupuncture to further relieve the tension in the QL. Furthermore, having your Chiropractor demonstrate stretching techniques and at home management strategies will play an integral role in dethroning ‘The King’ of low back pain.


Optimal thoracic rotation. Proper mobility of the thoracic spine is critical for basketball players, and plays an important role in the prevention of injuries. Having your Chiropractor assess your functional movement plays a large role in identifying proper mechanics, and injury prevention. Something I frequently do with basketball players is assess their thoracic spine rotation, and put them through a movement screen. Why- you may ask? The goal of a movement screen is to identify dysfunction, or a dysfunctional movement. It is then my job to work closely with the player to ensure they obtain a proper range of motion in the upper back, and correct the dysfunctional movement. This can be achieved through soft tissue work to tight muscles, adjustments to segments that are restricted, and working through dynamic mobility drills, focusing on proper movement patterns to further increase range of motion with the end goal of obtaining optimal movement. If we achieve this, players will have a greater chance of staying healthy over the duration of their careers.


Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a star player for the Toronto Raptors, incorporating Chiropractic care as part of your prehab or rehab regime can help you reach your fitness, and movement goals!


Dr. Fowler is a chiropractor at Back In Balance Clinic in downtown Toronto. For more information on our treatments, or to book an appointment, please visit www.backinbalanceclinic.com, or call 416-660-9932


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