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The Benefits of Performance Therapy

For those of you that are familiar with Gallagher Performance, you understand the importance we place on the integration of our sports training, chiropractic, massage, and manual therapy services. We feel this model allows for optimizing sport-based outcomes while keeping our athletes healthy and ready-to-train. The model is not completely unique, as chiropractors, therapists, physical medicine providers, and strength/physical preparation coaches are collaborating in similar models to better serve their clients and athletes.

With that in mind, one frequently asked question we receive is,
"How are these services different from sports medicine care I can receive from a physical therapist or other specialist?"
The concept of what is commonly referred to as ‘Performance Therapy’ can be seen as a unique and completely separate approach from traditional sports medicine or physical therapy. To illustrate this, here's a quick look at a comparison of the mindset behind sports medicine and performance therapy.

Traditional Sports Medicine
  • Reactive approach to sports injuries
  • Therapy and rehabilitation focused
  • Emphasis placed on passive modalities, manual therapies, manipulation, therapeutic exercise
  • Tissue-specific
  • Patient-centered
  • Occasional focus placed on "injury prevention" strategies
  • Primary goal is the return to training or sport abilities prior to injury
Performance Therapy
  • Proactive approach between coach, athlete, and doctor/therapist
  • Focus is on mechanical efficiency for skill acquisition and motor learning
  • Continual "tweaking" to optimize performance
  • Manipulation and manual therapies used for facilitation, to enhance the process of building mechanical efficiency
  • Skill-specific
  • Athlete-centered
  • “Injury prevention” is a by-product of the process
  • Primary goal is to enhance sport performance
We are very fortunate to have a skilled and knowledgable team of therapists and coaches working at GP. The dynamic created between therapist and coach allows us to not only screen each client and athlete prior to all training programs, but to also carefully watch their movement during each training session. The goal is identify specific movement qualities that could potentially have a negative impact on sport-specific movements, the acquisition of new skills, or injury prevention methods. This approach continues throughout the duration of the training program and allows movement dysfunctions to be addressed before they lead to greater issues.

Performance therapy becomes not just about normalizing function or "returning to sport", but optimizing the function of the athlete and "enhancing performance". Therapeutic intervention (or "treatment") occurs as needed during training sessions. This can include the use of a variety of exercises to improve stability/mobility or techniques that activate the nervous system to improve movement coordination. Regardless of the intervention, the goal is for athlete to adapt and improve more quickly than if training and treatment were approached separately.

The transition between training and treatment must be seamless. When it comes to performance therapy, we have noticed the following goals are achieved:
  1. Greater Body Awareness. By integrating the appropriate intervention into the training plan, there is an effect on motor control that generates greater permanence on a neurological level. Basically meaning the athlete masters new movement skills faster. The instant feedback from treatment allows the athlete to provide the coach or therapist with an understanding as to how they feel/move during training. Coaching the athlete thus becomes more specific, allowing them to learn and improve quickly.
  2. Optimization of the Training Session.  Performance therapy integrated with training typically involves a lot of “tweaking” in order to meet the demands of the athlete. It provides the framework to keep athletes performing at their best more consistently. Several athletes receive some type of treatment or practice regeneration/recovery methods prior to competition. So why would they not receive similar interventions during an important training phase?  Both serve the same purpose to optimize performance.
  3. Improved Monitoring of the Athlete. Performance therapy provides additional information on the readiness of the athlete to train. Both the therapist and the coach use this information to make educated decisions regarding the details of each training session, allowing for true customization of your training plan. It’s important that athletes are monitored for how well they have recovered between training sessions so you know how hard to push them. Also, athletes tend to have the ability to 'hide' things very well. Being able to identify slight differences in muscle tightness or movement abnormalities not only will allow us to make better decisions about the training session, but also help prevent more serious matters such as injury or overtraining.
Keep in mind that performance therapy is not intended to create athletes who are dependent on this model, but rather athletes who are held more accountable in the pursuit of their own goals. The coach or therapist is provided with the information needed to recommend the most appropriate "homework" for the athlete, such as foam rolling specific muscles, mobility or stability drills, and the use of recovery methods. Furthermore, performance therapy is not intended to serve as a replacement for other forms of therapy. It is not simply moving the treatment room to the training room. Even though the goal of performance therapy is to reduce the amount of time spent on treatment and return to sport measures, there is a time and place for other medical and/or alternative interventions that should be understood and respected.

Closing Words
Both sports medicine and performance therapy are necessary components in the health and performance of athletes. Failure to integrate therapy in a complementary manner can be a mistake. Without performance therapy there tends to be an increase in reliance on other forms of therapy that stress rehabilitation and recovery.

In sports, the term "game changer" is often used to describe an athlete or action that results in a successful outcome that changes the course of a game. The same can be said about performance therapy because of its ability to play an invaluable role in an athlete's development. If you've been experiencing lack of results or just can't seem to stay healthy, performance therapy may just be the "game changer" you have been looking for to improve your abilities as an athlete and GP is where you can find it.

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Thursday, May 30, 2024

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