Utilizing the Core During Sports Rehab

The body moves as a whole and the core muscles help to provide power and strength to the limbs during functional movements. Therefore strengthening the core will help build stability to the trunk and support to the upper and lower extremities during activities like throwing, running, jumping and throughout your sports athletic games.

Could you start by defining what the term “the Core” means and where it is on our body?

Dr. Kim Bauernfeind: The anatomic core is a broad term for the torso or more specifically the back and the abdomen. The abdomen is the region between the chest and the pelvis and is composed of several key muscles that provide movement, strength and stability to the torso. When people think of abs they may picture a six-pack but this is just one of many abdominal muscles that we use. The core is home to many other muscles including the diaphragm which is an important muscle in breathing and also in building intra-abdominal pressure for strength and spinal stability. The back also incorporates movement and stabilizing muscles. The muscles of the back and the abdomen both work together to allow our trunk to flex, extend, side bend and rotate so this way we can functionally move throughout our days.

Is there a common set of guidelines that applies to all sports rehab programs or are they usually customized to the athlete and the injury sustained?

Dr. Kim Bauernfeind: I think that the most beneficial sports rehab program should be customized to the athlete and the injury sustained. The physical therapist treating must not only take into account the mechanism of the injury or the severity of the injury but they must also assess the way in which the athlete moves for their specific sport. The body is connected and therefore injury to one part can affect other parts of the body as well. Customizing a sports rehab program for the individual allows the physical therapist to evaluate the athlete as a whole rather than just treating their injury alone.

How does strengthening the core muscles help all athletes during sports rehab?

Dr. Kim Bauernfeind: Over the years, physical therapists have been more frequently incorporating full body rehab programs rather than isolating the injury and only treating that body part. For example, if an athlete comes in with an injury to the shoulder, rather than only treating the shoulder I will incorporate a treatment plan that works to improve the shoulder, the abdomen and back or the core and even the lower extremity or the legs. The body moves as a whole and the core muscles help to provide power and strength to the limbs during functional movements. Therefore strengthening the core will help build stability to the trunk and support to the upper and lower extremities during activities like throwing, running, jumping and throughout your sports athletic games.

What are some examples of core conditioning or strengthening used during sports rehab?

Dr. Kim Bauernfeind: One of the key components for strengthening the core is properly using the diaphragm during breathing. Using the diaphragm when you breathe is a strategy that I will ask the athlete to use the core muscles which are the main breathing muscles during sporting activities rather than using compensatory muscles like the muscles of the neck. Benefits to proper breathing mechanics include not only an increase in oxygen supply to the muscles for improved sports performance but it also allows the athlete to build intra-abdominal pressure for power and strength through the trunk and the limbs.

In addition to core strengthening with breathing, the athlete should be able to obtain a balance between trunk mobility, stability and controlled mobility during athletic movements. This basically means that the athlete needs to undergo a progressive core mobility, strengthening and stability program that will help them specifically improve their sport performance.

Will a stronger core help prevent injuries and also improve overall sports performance?

Dr. Kim Bauernfeind: Yes. A stronger core can help prevent injuries and it will improve overall sports performance. One example I like to use with my athletic patients is to picture themselves lifting something heavy. If just the arms do all the work, yeah, they’ll be able to still lift the object and maybe strain or injure their body but this could lead to an injury. However, if they utilize the core and even the legs, now they can lift the object with the entire body supporting the weight, decreasing the risk of injury to just the arms.

During my treatment sessions, I emphasize educating the patient so that they can understand why they’re doing certain exercises. I believe the big emphasis on how the entire body is connected and strengthening the core can have such a large impact on overall sports performance and injury prevention.

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If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Kim Bauernfeind, visit www.ferrarospine.com or call 973-478-2212 to schedule an appointment.

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