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Posture and Perfection: Even Olympians Can Slump Like the Rest of Us

By Martha Michael

Olympians and Posture

Every two years we have the opportunity to look to the world stage and watch intense competition between athletes who are outstanding in their fields. While the record-breaking speed and precision of Olympic sports can turn the heads of millions of spectators for the Winter and Summer Games, it shouldn’t mean their own head, neck, or spine take a turn for the worse as a result.

Proper posture is a concern for all people, even those with superhuman strength and agility. Participating in athletics can affect your resting body position, which not only affects how you look and feel, but also your spine health. It’s true for Olympians, it’s true for the pros, and it’s true for the rest of us.

The Mechanics On and Off the Court

Most sports involve shifting positions at inconsistent speeds for various lengths of time -- a dynamic that’s enabled by posture, according to an article in Sports Performance Bulletin. Though body positioning is dynamic for athletes, correct posture affects performance, so it can mean the difference between winning or losing. A skilled athlete uses his/her body position to move with the greatest economy to conserve energy while fueling motion.

Everyone’s posture is challenged by gravity, but athletics bring about environmental factors as well. For instance, in many sports there is resistance from equipment and opponents. In field sports such as football or rugby, a players’ head, neck, and spine are impacted by the surface and intensity of play. Every sport, from a golfer whose neck and shoulders affect every shot to recreational sports activities such as water skiing provide hard evidence that postural elements can challenge your performance.

Sometimes the demands of perfecting a sport has a negative effect on an athlete’s posture. Gymnasts are hurt by the training process, in part because they begin practicing extensively at a young age. Children aged 4 or 5 years old are landing on dance floors and maximizing their flexibility, but there’s also a tendency for gymnasts to accentuate their incorrect body posture. You may have observed between events the way many stand with a deeply curved back and bowed or locked legs.

Like your own sports activities, the performance by Olympic athletes is also affected by the physical toll of their everyday lives. When you use your computer, drive to work, study, text your friends, and carry shopping bags, your body changes form -- and that impacts the same body that later hits the field, pool, court or course.

Benefits of Remaining Neutral

In athletics, neutrality is a worthy goal -- and not just for the referees. Keeping your body properly aligned is a big step toward reducing the chance of injuries.

An article on Stack.com explains that because our bodies are born to adapt, when one part is overworked or your posture is compromised, other physical features alter course, which is destabilizing. A balanced postural position means a plumb line that’s held up to your ear falls straight down past your joints in your hips, knees, and ankles. The front and back of your pelvis should be level.

Whether it’s pro ball or parks and rec league, movements that are dictated by sports can add strength to certain muscle groups and lead to a lack of balance. For instance, building up your quadriceps to a greater degree than your hamstrings can pull your pelvis down in front and result in anterior pelvic tilt, or APT. This affects the curve of your spine and your hip flexor muscle group.

Improving Your Posture

Your game plan for achieving proper posture begins in the brain, the article says. Simply paying attention to your positioning while standing, sitting, running, or any other form of sports participation is the fundamental road map to winning.

The goal is to reduce the chance of injuries -- both at work and play. But good posture also activates muscle groups that maximize your power and speed.

Strengthening your core is a good strategy because it also gives you greater control of your body. But you have to develop the deepest core muscles because they’re the ones that offer the increased stability.

Depending on your own challenges, you may want to incorporate some of the following tips for maximizing your posture:

  • Pilates or yoga - Take part in a physical practice that increases flexibility of your quadriceps, hip flexors and muscles in your lower back
  • Routine chiropractic care - Regularly scheduled visits to a chiropractor offer postural assessment and treatment as well as boosting wellness prevention
  • Exercises - Develop an exercise plan to counteract the tendency to create an imbalance of strength among muscle groups

Much like other members of the human race, all athletes -- Olympians, professionals, and the weekend warriors among us -- should take the time to maintain posture both during and after athletic competition. While it’s in their nature to focus on stats, scores, and eligibility, there’s more than one way to remain in good standing.

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