Apr 15

The Importance of Posture in Sports Performance

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Coaching Best :
The Importance of Posture in Sports Performance

Correct and Incorrect Posture

One of the unique aspects of ballet training is the requirement that one learns to stand correctly before moving. The balanced placement of the torso over the legs-feet is crucial whereby the pelvis is centered, not tipped forward, sideward or backward. The abdomen is slightly drawn in and the diaphragm is raised. The shoulders are lowered (depressed), dropped naturally resting downward. The head is centered (fixated), and held straight with the eyes looking forward.

One should ‘feel energized’ in the standing position because ‘standing’ is an active position Not a resting one since all actions originate from here.

Posture is all about body awareness, which is interpreted as “being cognizant or conscious of personal postural habits” (Schloder, 2010). We often hear the phrase “Stand up or Sit straight!” Such comments refer to our posture during daily functions or exercise. ‘Proper’ is construed as ‘correct’ body alignment whereby the pull of gravity is evenly distributed over the base of support with undue stress on the body. Postural training is a major focus in ballet training whereby body alignment and core strength are continuously reinforced as part of all technical requirements. This aspect is one of the most beneficial contributions to the training of athletes in general.

Posture can be defined in several ways:
…The position of the body in any environment or mode such as standing, sitting, lying down, leaning forward/backward/sideward, walking, moving, or running. Posture is based on the position of the spine and all the joints in the musculoskeletal system, i.e., the relative arrangement of body parts…

…It refers to the physical carriage: The way somebody holds his/her body, especially when standing…
…It is a body position the body can assume (standing, sitting, kneeling, or lying down)…
…It is also an attitude or frame of mind…

Posture is linked to a combination of neurological factors such as vision, touch, balance, kinesthetic awareness (sense of the location of muscle and joint movement), and a well functioning vestibular (inner ear). Psychological and/or emotional states, low self-esteem, depression, lack of sleep, and burn out are contributing factors that affect body carriage.

Disease, physical defects, muscle imbalance, pain, injuries, and nutrition deficiency can also contribute to postural deviation. Children may experience postural problems during growth spurts but these may disappear without corrective treatment.

However, it is easy to develop ‘bad’ postural habits during that time since the body ‘learns’ to compensate for possible deviation. If the condition continues or deteriorates further medical treatment is essential.

According to the Posture Committee of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (1947), “good posture is the state of muscular and skeletal balance which protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity irrespective of the attitude in which these structures are working or resting” (Retrieved May 31, 2010, from: http:/www.pt.ntu.edu.tw/hmchai/Kines04/ KIN application/Standing Posture.htm).

So, we can propose that ‘ideal posture is maximum physiological and biomechanical efficiency with minimum stress and strain on the body.’ In contrast, poor posture is the ‘faulty relationship of various body parts, which increases tension or pulls on supporting body structures’ resulting in less efficient body balance over the base of support.

Three vital principles enable athletes to attain and maintain a neutral spine, and thereby ‘good’ posture:
a) stretching the front of the body;
b) extending the back; and
c) strengthening the back. Functional neuromuscular coordination exercises are relevant to maximize both future performance and injury prevention because balance is not purely about improving proprioception (joint position sense and detection of movement) but also about improving normal neuromuscular coordination.

This occurs when exercises are directly relevant to the functional and dynamic positions of the activity or sport.

Alex McKechnie, well-known athletic performance director of the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA Basketball) has treated several star basketball and soccer players for chronic injuries due to poor posture. According to him, “muscles do not work in isolation; they work collectively to produce strength, power, and coordination” because functional strength is the key.” Leg muscles (quads, hamstrings, and gluteus muscles, i.e., all muscles tied to the thighs) have pelvic control and any lack of such affects the knees as well.

He believes strongly in the re-education of movement and correction of posture through exercises in front of a mirror so athletes can experience and correct core balance. Subsequently, if coaches could incorporate more ballet-type exercises many such instances and conditions would be prevented (remedial as well as upper-lower body awareness and progressive leg exercises.

Postural Assessment and Tests

‘Good, normal, or ideal’ posture is identified as an ‘imaginary’ straight line which passes through the earlobe, the cervical vertebrae, acromion (tri-angular projection part of the scapula – shoulder blade that forms the point or tip of the shoulder), the lumbar vertebrae, the center of the hip, just in front of the mid-line of the knee, and slightly to the anterior of the ankle bone
Good Posture includes–

• Straight line from the ear through the shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle joint.
• The head is centered.
• Shoulders, hips, and knees are of equal height.

Most Common Postural Flaws–

• Forward protruding head
• Rounded shoulders
• Arched lower back
• Excessive anterior pelvic tilt (protruding backside)
• Excessive posterior protruding pelvic tilt (protruding abdomen/pelvis)
• Scoliosis– Spine curvature from side to side – may also be rotated.
The spine of the typical scoliosis on an X-ray looks more ‘S’- or ‘C- shaped rather than a straight line.
• Lordosis– The condition is commonly referred to as ‘swayback, saddle back’ or hyper-
lordosis. It is an inward curvature of a portion of the vertebral column.
• Rounded Shoulder or ‘Slouch’ syndrome– common in sports with dominant forward
It can be the result of excessive time spent in the forward ‘slouch’ position (video or computer games).

Posture is important

Incorrect Posture

Side View: Incorrect posture along the ‘imaginary’ line

A number of tests are available for postural assessment. Testing, however, should be administered at the beginning of the season, in mid-season, and again at the end of the season because posture can change due to growth spurt in younger athletes, medical reasons, or injuries. Individual assessments are recorded on the so-called ‘posture grid’ database. If needed, remedial exercises are designed and incorporated immediately into each daily training session.

Dr. Monika Schloder

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