Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Dr. George Sheehan The Greatest Visionary Ever

© 2003 Dr. Tim Maggs

Many runners have gruesome stories of injuries and their nasty “quest back” to running. Me included. It took me 8 years to solve my condition, and I’m supposedly a specialist in sports injuries. Getting injured is one thing, but trying to find a doctor who knows about the injury is another. Today’s industry is so focused on illness, pathology and disease that it’s virtually impossible to find a doctor who understands the importance of structure and the architecture of an athlete. Yet, structure is the key when talking about most running injuries. Just yesterday, I had a runner with low back pain come in and tell me he’s been to 2 chiropractors and 4 orthopedists over the past 6 years, and none of them have yet to tell him what his injury is. Well, none of them have done a structural exam on him either, and he’s still injured. What a surprise.

In 2001, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article on low back pain, stating that 85% of the time it was near impossible to detect the exact cause of low back pain. Therefore, pain killers and anti-inflammatories were the best that could be done. In 2002, the Annals of Internal Medicine did another story on low back pain and imaging, and stated that less than 3% of all low back pains were due to pathology (disease), and 97% were due to mechanical distortions.

Well, if this is the case, (and it is), then why are our pathological doctors suggesting they are the experts on mechanical disorders, which they know nothing about? The very thought that 28 years ago, Dr. George Sheehan wrote his thoughts on running injuries loud and clear in his book, Dr. Sheehan on Running, pleases me to no end.

Over 2 years ago, I wrote an article on building a national sports doctor network. That dream is becoming more of a reality everyday. My vision of having a structural specialist in every community in this country is getting closer. When this day arrives, the overwhelming incidence of injury in runners will go down drastically, as well as the costs that are spent on needless tests looking for pathology and symptomatic treatments that hide the real cause. Race directors, get ready. When this day arrives, you’re the ones who will have to handle the massive crowds. What a great day that will be.

And, to think, Sheehan knew all of this back then. What a genius.

“When I began running, I was an educated specialist who concentrated on one area of the body. I was an expert who relied on other experts for advice. I soon needed it. Although my ancestors could run forever, my limits were quickly reached. Serious running led swiftly to a series of foot, leg, knee and low back injuries that threatened to end my new found happiness on the roads.

I went dutifully to my specialist friends and found to my surprise that they were of little help. They were pre-occupied with giving relief to my aching foot, my swollen knee and my throbbing sciatic nerve. They treated the effect, not the cause. And, when I resumed running, back came my misery and pain. Clearly, I needed someone more sophisticated, some super-specialist.

I had not gone high enough on the specialist ladder to find the wise man to help me. I soon discovered, there was no such wise man.”

“I am a cardiologist, but my relationship to sportsmedicine has been as an athlete rather than a doctor. What I have experienced as a runner-and what judgment I have been able to bring to this experience as a physician-has convinced me that traditional medicine isn’t dealing adequately with athlete problems.

In more than 10 years as a distance runner, I have experienced almost every injury of the foot, leg, knee, thigh and back. During this time, the medical profession has only been able to provide me with symptomatic relief.

It wasn’t until I came under the care of a podiatrist that I was able to run for prolonged periods and be free of foot, leg, and knee difficulties.”

“This convinced me that no matter what an athlete’s problem is, we should look first to the feet as the source of the problem. The foot is an architectural marvel-an engineering masterpiece that has 26 bones, four times as many ligaments, and an intricate number of tendons that act as guy ropes or slings for the arches.

When these components are perfectly balanced, the foot can handle almost any amount of work. However, even a minute deviation from normal can cause adjustments that will eventually produce injury either in the foot, or in its supporting muscles and tendons, or even in the structures above.”

“The human body is a marvelous instrument. When in perfect alignment and balance, there is almost no feat of endurance the body cannot handle even on a regular basis. However, structural imbalance of even minor degrees can result in incapacitating injuries and persistent disabilities.

Prevention and treatment of musculo-skeletal injuries in the athlete, therefore, rests in the establishment of the structural balance and architectural integrity of the body-and its re-establishment should injury occur.”

 “I cannot emphasize too strongly that most athletic injuries are structural, almost architectural, not medical. You would almost be better off in the hands of an engineer than a medical doctor when this type of injury occurs.

At least you would not have your problem complicated by medication that in the long run will do no good. What the runner needs is to be restored to structural balance.”

If George were here today, I’d assure him his vision is alive and well.

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