What a great experience collaborating with experts in the field, learning from some of the most forward thinking professionals, and applying some fundamentals from both a physiology and therapy point of view. This started off with a bang.
Day 1: The day started off with two awesome keynote lectures that were connected by a great point of stress and stress management. The human body will ABSOLUTELY always have stress. And as human beings we will always find a way to cope with that stress or develop pathology. As humans there are a number of coping factors that will help to alleviate the “negative stress” that we encounter, mainly stress relieving activities like meditation and through friendship and communication, which are pretty safe and positive events that we can partake in. However, we can teach all the stress relieving/meditation type activities we want to an individual, but the individual must “like” the activity if they’re going to actually use it—what good is yoga if the client/patient finds it tedious and annoying?
By evaluating the client/patient, we can see exactly what state of stress the autonomic nervous system is in. In athletics, basically every powerful movement is an explosive extension patter. What if the person already lives in extension though (closing down the posterior mediastinum mainly the sympathetic trunk—T1-L1)?
Do we really want anyone driving into explosive hyperextension? This is a great point, especially if we consider the huge movement to teach breathing techniques to our athletic population (athlete is anyone who walks really, not just the people you see performing on TV!). If we as clinicians/performance coaches remember our anatomy, specifically of the diaphragm, we will remember that their exists an asymmetry in the size and shape from side to side. This is necessary to accommodate the large filter/processor of the liver on the right side and the tremendously vital pump of a heart on the left side. So, the right side takes on a much more “dome-like” shape while the left is “flattened”. This makes the right side much more efficient for breathing as it has more potential to drive down during inhalation. Don’t stop there though, the right side of the diaphragm also has its distal attachments ½ to 1 full lumbar vertebral level lower than the left. So not only does the right diaphragm become more of the “breathing” portion of the diaphragm, but it also creates an internal torsional component—coupled with the traditional hyperinflated state of most individuals is a disaster waiting to happen. We will be left with an athlete who is unable to breathe properly, rotate through their trunk, and hangs out with the bulk of their center or mass on their right heel. Remember when your mother said: “stop making that face or it will stay like that”? That’s basically what the response is in the body, a left anterior tipped innominate (hip bone), an externally rotated left femur with an associated internally rotated right femur, right innominate hiked upwards jacking up the way the sacrum and lumbar spine are supposed to orient themselves creating a super lordotic lumbar spine and a flattened thoracic spine. All that from not breathing properly, no way! What do we do about it? Well, that’s a complex answer that is basically: it depends. Reposition, Retrain, Restore.
What was also very interesting was how we can change our brain. Basically, you can teach an old dog new tricks contrary to popular belief. Experts in any particular field have an ability to create new connections in the brain. This just confirms what everyone is thinking, we don’t know the brain like we thought we did. “Ten thousand hours can’t always undo 100 dumb ones”. This particularly sticks out to me because of how much importance we place on 10,000 hours as being a milestone for an expert in a field of study. Not only must an individual perform 10,000 hours, but they must choose wisely because it’s so difficult to break already existing connections in the brain. As a great side note to this point, sleep which makes up approximately 37% of your life, is absolutely important for more than relieving being tired, but also for consolidation of motor learning that occurs throughout the day.
In the classroom setting, there were some great points being made. Here there was a case by case approach with the lectures I attended, and it regarded specifically to how high level athletes were corrected in a relatively short period of time (as little as 2 weeks!). Understanding the biomechanics of a sport that your client/patient takes part in, or simply how people should be moving or breathing in general is a great start. Collaboration is a key component to the success of any program, but more on that for day 2.