Football is considered one of the hallmarks of American entertainment. Thousands of people flock to stadiums at nearly every level – from kindergarten flag football to professional NFL games. Football is also one of the most popular sports for adolescents, with middle school, high school, and college football teams growing steadily.
However fun football is to watch and to play, though, it also has some serious consequences. Given that it is such a high-contact sport, injuries of many kinds are common. Concussions, torn ligaments, and muscle sprains are high on the list, but many people don’t consider the disastrous effects football can have on spine health.
Over time, football can cause injuries in every part of the spine due to consistent pressure and contact. At Graybar Chiropractic, we understand how important both sports and spine health are to our patients in Wilmington, Wallace, and Clinton, NC. We encourage players and spectators to understand the effects football might have on the spine and how these issues may be treated.
Football’s effects on the spine
In late 2017, Ryan Shazier, linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, endured a severe injury to his spine during a football game at a mere 25 years of age. To the shock of many Steelers fans, Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery and is still working through rehabilitation. Because of this injury, he may never play football again.
Shazier’s injury is one of many examples of how easily playing football can injure the spine. Here are some of the most common ways football stresses the spine.
- May cause and worsen spondylolisthesis: A painful spinal condition called spondylolisthesis causes a vertebra to slip out of alignment and move forward onto the vertebra below it. It is often caused by a degenerative disease but can also occur due to trauma or stress on the spine, meaning football players are at high risk for injury.
- Herniated discs: A herniated disc occurs when the liquidous inner portion of a spinal disc herniates out. This fluid has inflammatory properties that can inflame or put pressure on a nearby nerve and surrounding tissues, causing pain. Herniated discs are very common in football due to players absorbing the force of tackles.
- Spinal cord concussion: A spinal cord injury called cervical cord neurapraxia, or spinal cord concussion, can occur when the neck (cervical spine) is compressed or bent backwards during a tackle or fall.
- Lumbar spine pain: The lower back, or lumbar spine, bears a lot of pressure due to consistent running, tackling, and twisting. With all this added pressure, spinal tissue strains and vertebral injuries are common.
Preventing and treating football-related spine problems
Football is a dangerous sport and can have negative consequences for your spine health, but these potential injuries don’t have to prevent you from playing. Proper care to prevent and treat injuries is necessary to keep the spine in healthy condition.
If you play football, visiting a chiropractor may help treat existing symptoms of pain and spinal conditions like spondylolisthesis or a herniated disc. In fact, many NFL teams have an on-staff chiropractor to aid their players with spine-related pain and injuries. Your chiropractor may conduct manipulations and adjustments to realign spinal segments to relieve pain and pressure.
If you don’t have an existing injury or pain, chiropractic may help as a preventative measure to avoid major spinal injuries. Your chiropractor may provide you with exercises and stretches to do before and after games. These may help strengthen your spine and the surrounding muscles to keep it stable and may actually improve your athletic performance by improving mobility.
Remember, “playing through” back pain can potentially lead to severe or even fatal injuries, so always seek medical help if you experience back or neck pain during any athletic activity.
The chiropractors at Graybar Chiropractic in North Carolina may be able to help you treat back pain and improve spine health if you play football. We use Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP), a holistic approach to patient care, to provide treatment for a wide variety of spinal problems. Visit us today.
Chiropractic BioPhysics, or CBP, is one of the most scientific, researched, and results-oriented corrective care techniques. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health, eliminating nerve interference and addressing the source of pain, fatigue, and disease. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is gentle, painless, and non-invasive.