Football study finds small improvement in field performance after pregame OMT
Virginia Tech football player Antoine Hopkins first learned about osteopathic manipulative treatment when he was a freshman. He saw his teammates getting it, and he wanted to try it, too. Now the senior defensive tackle receives OMT before every game, and he says it’s made a big difference for him.
“Your body may be a little out of place or a little sore, and then they start adjusting your back, and if you have a problem with your shoulder, they’ll start popping the shoulder,” he says. “They’ll make everything all loose, so you’re all ready to go. It does help you feel better, so you can play better.”
Researchers recently found a positive correlation between player performance and pregame OMT in a preliminary study of pre-competition OMT on Virginia Tech football players. Published in the September issue of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, the study is the first evaluation of OMT on sports performance using real-life athletes and games, to its authors’ knowledge.
In this study, which spanned two seasons, researchers tracked the number of times each player received pregame OMT. Players also received treatment from the team chiropractor prior to home games. After each game, Virginia Tech coaches watched video of the players and graded their performance. The research team examined the number of pregame treatments a player received and his mean performance score during the season. They found that players who received more pre-competition treatments had slightly higher mean performance scores.
Although the results of this study are not statistically significant, researchers plan to release a larger study comprising seven years of data in 2013, says Per Gunnar Brolinson, DO, the head team physician for Virginia Tech and the associate dean for clinical research at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Virginia Campus in Blacksburg. The next study will examine pregame OMT on Virginia Tech football players from 2005-12, and Dr. Brolinson believes the findings will have statistical significance. The team expects to publish their research in the JAOA.
OMT and physician-player relations
In addition to helping the team play better, pregame OMT changed players’ attitudes toward Virginia Tech’s athletic training room, says Michael Goforth, the school’s associate athletic director in charge of sports medicine. Instead of a venue where athletes only went when they were injured, it became a place they viewed more positively and visited more often.
“Now our doctors are treating healthy people and making them perform better,” Goforth says. “They’re putting their hands on them, and relationships are being developed. The players are looking at our department in a much different light.”
Team physicians are more approachable now, and players are more likely to come to them with questions and concerns, he says.
OMT is very popular within Virginia Tech’s football program, but it’s not very prominent in football programs at other universities, Goforth says.
“I don’t know if people view it as voodoo or as something magical, but here at Virginia Tech we think of it as a valid treatment modality,” he says. “Our athletes see that, and they use it.”
Dr. Brolinson would like to see OMT more widely adopted in sports medicine following this study and the follow-up.
“I’m very hopeful that others will pick up the ball and run with it,” he says.
‘It does work wonders’
OMT may not be prevalent in U.S. athletics, but physicians have given athletes manual medicine throughout history, and Dr. Brolinson is thrilled to chronicle the effects of an age-old practice in a new way.
“Ancient Roman physicians and ancient Greek physicians documented the use of manual medicine in the treatment of athletic injuries,” Dr. Brolinson says. “Of course, there were no drugs and surgery back then, so it was the only tool they had in the toolbox. So there’s a long history of the use of manipulation in athletic medicine, and for the first time, this documents the fact that we see a trend toward improved performance with the use of manipulation.”
Hopkins is happy OMT is an integral part of Virginia Tech’s toolbox, and he agrees that it gives athletes an extra boost.
“It does work wonders,” he says. “You feel loose and more mobile.”