By Dr. Tim Maggs
March 3, 2005
National Indoor Track & Field Meet--New York City
Shaker High School boys team (upstate New York) misses the national 4 x 800 relay record by 6/10ths of a second. 6 weeks prior, 2 of the 4 members couldn’t run because of injuries. Due to some persistence and good injury management, I’m sure “Pre” was smiling down on these guys.
Eighteen months ago, I contacted the National Federation of High School Athletics in Indianapolis. The president of the organization, Jerry Diehl, was kind enough to take my call. “Mr. Diehl, my name is Dr. Tim Maggs, and I work with many middle and high school athletes. After many years in a sportsmedicine practice, I’ve come to a conclusion, and I hope you’ll find some interest in my conclusion. There’s a crisis within this group of athletes. Structural exams are non-existent in middle and high school sports. School physicals, which are mandatory for participation, for the most part consist of tests ranging from eyes, ears, nose and throat to scoliosis “screening” and vaccination verification. No one is looking at joint mobility, structural imbalances or postural distortions. Their biomechanics are virtually ignored, yet that’s where most sports injuries occur.”
There was a pause, maybe even a little sigh, before Mr. Diehl said, “You know Dr., you hit a nerve. We know this void exists, yet we don’t know what to do about it. In fact, we’ve even gotten to the point where we call it a ‘hey you physical’. If the kid looks when the Dr. says “Hey you”, he or she passes”.
I was surprised by his answer. No, I was thrilled with his answer. Someone other than me is acknowledging the problem. I need more people out there recognizing this huge void, and the thought that someone of Mr. Diehl’s stature would get it was great. I’ve said for years that doctors don’t have to be experts in biomechanics, but just tell the truth. Tell the truth that most docs in our system don’t understand biomechanics, yet it’s critically important for athletes to find someone who does. Every athlete alive would improve under the guidance of a biomechanics expert, as well as learn how to preserve their structures over the course of their lifetime.
I’ve found parents to be the most receptive to this message, as they inherently want the best for their kids. Look at what’s happened to orthodontia over the past 20 years. Parents would rather stick bamboo shoots under their fingernails than not have their kids wear braces. Even though there’s very little health crisis with crooked teeth.
Yet, if they knew a “hey you” physical was all that was done in the schools, there’d be an uproar. My goal is to alert them of the absence of good structural evaluations, then figure out how to provide them with the “expert” who can perform such tests. My plan is often met with resistance by some, but I know parents care. And if I can just get the message out to them, they’ll help to make things change. The importance of this effort would have far reaching implications, from injury prevention while in high school sports to delaying joint and muscle degeneration as these kids reach middle age.
“Well, Mr. Diehl, I think I have an answer”.
And with that response, the long and arduous process of attempting to change the establishment began.
A “Concerned Parent’s” Search
Two years ago, I was the guest speaker at a coaches’ night for a local high school. My message was the same as always, kids need structural, biomechanical exams before the season begins. Don’t treat injuries with symptomatic relief. We need to think in terms of structural management.
Two months ago, I received a call from a mother who had attended that meeting. Her son, a member of the Shaker 4 x 800 indoor relay team, was suffering with severe low back pain and unable to run. Unfortunately, the timing of this injury couldn’t have been worse. A 4 year athletic scholarship was at stake. So the mom made an appointment with our office and we did our Structural Fingerprint™ Exam on him, trying to find the imbalances that were causing his pain. The imbalances were obvious and his corrective program started immediately. Our corrective program includes many different components, determined by the structural issues we find on the patient’s exam and x-rays.
What I didn’t know at the time was this 4 x 8 relay team was vying for national attention, as their times were seriously challenging the national record of 7:42 indoors. Within a couple weeks after meeting this runner, two of his teammates came in to undergo their Structural Fingerprint™ Exam. One was suffering with hip pains while the other hadn’t run in 6 weeks due to knee pain. Fortunately, youth responds quickly, especially when you can isolate the exact cause of the symptoms. As expected, all of these guys responded very well.
Without really knowing the talent level I was working with, I wake up one morning and read that Shaker High School boy’s 4 x 8 relay team comes in 2nd place to another national powerhouse team, while both of them break the national record. One of the young men who hadn’t run in 6 weeks due to knee pain runs a 1:57.4. I told him “I’m glad you didn’t ask me if you could run, I would have told you no.” He laughed. I cringed.
So, they go out again on March 3rd, and miss the national indoor mark by 6/10ths of a second. All of them run between 1:54.7 and 1:57.4. And, most importantly, all of them felt great. No dings, no pulls, no excuses. Nothing but excitement heading into the outdoor season. Youth, optimism and success, the formula for guaranteed happiness. For me, helping them reach the starting line in one piece, that’s my excitement.
Keep an eye out for our Concerned Parents of Young Athletes Program. Until biomechanics is available to all middle and high school athletes in this country, I won’t quit the mission. Have a great month.