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Dara Torres-Olympic Gold Medal Swimmer

Dara Torres and Chiropractic

Adjusting Dara Torres - All it's cracked up to be

Dara Torres doesn't put all her eggs in one basket. Her secret to success isn't just about good genetics, good training, good resistance stretching, good core work. She is also committed to great chiropractic care.

An August 2003 article in Swimming World explains that many coaches and colleges as well as a number of Olympians make considerable use of chiropractors.

 Dr. Jack Barnathan, a New York chiropractor says that "injuries can build up and cause nerve pressure-in other words, pain. Chiropractors are trained in treating such problems."

Barnathan has worked with athletes worldwide, including super swimmer Dara Torres, who used chiropractic for her back, hips and shoulders before resuming training for the Olympics in 2000. In the pool, she found that chiropractic provided great relief for her body-post-workouts and prior to competition.

"When you need a quick fix and don't have time to rehab something, I always found quick relief from chiropractors," she says.

 In a separate article from New York Strength International, Dr. Jack Barnathan, DC, one of Dara's chiropractors, says that women, especially, need effective training, recovery, and competitive technique are required to improve performance and prevent injury.

Support: The knee is impacted by stress from both above and below. Excessive bodyweight will increase pressure on the knee - four pounds of pressure for every single pound the athlete is overweight. From below the support of proper footwear and/or orthotic (molded shoe/arch) support can be a big help. If an athlete has a fallen arch (flat feet) and excessive pronation it dramatically changes the angle of "Q" (quadriceps) creating damaging stress.

 Core Stability: The use of 'wobble boards', physio balls and other devices to develop stabilizing muscles that support the knee is crucial. The stronger the support muscles the less stress on the ligaments. Training of the center or 'core' muscles - the abs, hip and back muscles should be a priority. Twisting movement should come from a powerful 'core'.

Pre-Training: Athletes should begin a pre-training program 6 to 8 weeks before the season begins. In a true sense, the training season never ends for the serious athlete.

Jumping / Landing Technique: Coaches need to drill their athletes constantly on jumping straight up and landing light - toe to heel without twisting movements. It should be noted that in a recent study it was found that more injuries occur in non-contact sports as opposed to contact. Avoiding straight knee landing, one-step stop landing and sharp planting and cutting maneuvers may decrease injury.

Balance between Hamstring and Quadriceps: There is a normal 3:2 ratio in Quad/Ham strength. Men tend to use Hamstring as stabilizers, women use Quadriceps as stabilizers and tend to be more "ligament' dependent. Reaction time of female athletes is slightly slower and needs to be improved to place the stress on the muscles, not ligaments. Drills like "land - strength - start" can help an athlete develop correct form and play technique.

Genu Recurvatum: Reversal of the normal curve of the knee (backward) causes hamstring weakness. Over development of the Quads will add to the problem. Our own research has yielded evidence that Gastrocnemius (calf) over development can result in reversal in the curve and create instability. High heel shoes, excessive calf development without flexibility, etc., will cause undue stress.

Technique: Smith machines and seated leg extensions cause increased shearing forces on the knee. Near perfect training form with the use of training devices that support primary muscle growth along with the stabilizers is essential. Careful development of the leg and pelvis muscles through free weight dumbbell or barbell squats in a safety rack if far superior to any machine on a guided track.

 Ovulation: Research from the University of Michigan demonstrate ACL injuries tend to occur on days 0 to 14 of a women's cycle as a peak in estrogen causes laxity of the ligaments. Although this information should be considered, it would be a terrible injustice to use 'estrogen' as an excuse for all such injuries- labeling it as an excuse for women being 'weaker' or unable to compete. Many people throughout history have been treated similarly labeled 'weak' because of difference.

Scientific information about the impact of hormonal changes is important but we must be wary of conclusions or generalizations made. Increasing Drug Use among Female Athletes: The reluctance of sports federations to realistically institute and enforce drug education, testing and rehabilitative effors has created an environment where many pro, amateur and even High and Junior high school student's feel it impossible to compete without performance enhancing drugs. Many "performance" steroids and growth hormone weaken ligaments. Trainers, Doctors and Coaches must make a unified, concerted effort to turn this dangerous trend around and promote drug free athletes as the true champions deserving of accolade and reward. The media must also be encouraged to promote and recognize the drug free athlete and sports working to realistically correct this ever-growing problem.

 Pelvic Stability: Balance of the pelvis and lumbar spine impacts core stability and strength. Chiropractic evaluation and manipulation with corrective training technique as a follow-up support is essential. Modern Chiropractic treatment is uniquely qualified to correct these common biomechanical imbalances.

 Dara's success clearly comes from taking advantage of every possible modality that will strengthen her body and help it heal when it is overtaxed or injured, and that includes paying careful attention to chiropractic care. According to Dr. Barnathan, even middle school athletes should take advantage of the type of care chiropractors can give both to injuries and injury prevention. It's a lesson any of us athletes, professional or Olympic or amateur, can easily learn.

 See the tribute to Dara Torres by New York Strength International

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