“Practice makes perfect,” a phrase Marcus’s coaches had told him over and over throughout his football career. After suffering an injury to his cervical spine, what Marcus realized was that “Practice with proper posture makes perfect.”

Since flag football at 7 years old, it was always the “no pain, no gain mentality.” If you were hurt, don’t show it. Athletes were fighting for those starting positions any sign of weakness meant you could be riding the bench for the season.

Marcus was a tough guy. In the semifinal game of the State Championship of his junior year Marcus suffered a hard hit resulting in a minor concussion and cervical trauma. Marcus wanted his moment to shine so he shook off the pain, saying, “it hurts a little bit, but I’m fine.” When he was pulled from the game and not given clearance to play the following week in the championship, the shock of sitting on the bench hurt more than his neck did.  To learn more about Marcus’s injury read Friday Night Lights, Football Madness, and FITPosture.

This was the defining moment for Marcus where he shifted his mindset from practicing harder to practicing smarter. No pain, no gain?… not necessarily. Marcus understood the important role his posture played in keeping him strong and injury free. He finally understood that practice isn’t about going through the motions a million times, it’s about going through the motions with perfect form. Mastering the basic movements of the game with perfect posture makes it easy for athletes to maintain a strong postural presentation when the pressure is on during game time.

Unfortunately, cervical spine injuries in football players are common, and can be very dangerous. Although athletes are instructed how to perform tackles properly to protect the tissue of the neck and head, accidents happen. Athletes sacrifice their bodies for the glory of victory. This sacrifice can only go on for so long before the athlete takes a hit they can’t bounce back from. Football and Traumatic Cervical Spine Injuries explains why.

By looking at Marcus’s posture image it is evident that he has forward head posture, head tilt, shoulder unleveling, and chest flexion with anterior rolling of the shoulders. Other clinical findings from the complete posture analysis include:

  • Decreased range of motion of the cervical spine during right and left lateral flexion
  • Acute muscle contraction of the right trapezius
  • Decreased sensory findings at C7
  • Hypertonicity of the pectoral muscle groups bilaterally
  • Pelvic unleveling with uneven weight distribution bilaterally
  • Postural collapse during the plank functional movement
  • Postural sway to the right
  • Major Levels of Postural Instability: T1, T5, L1, L4

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Postural Correction Plan

Spinal Alignment: The Complete Posture Correction (CPC) protocol was utilized to correct postural distortion patterns of the cervical spine, the major levels of postural instability, and pelvic unleveling. Neck traction was performed to draw the head in the posterior direction with extension to reverse forward head posture. The patient was also instructed to wear head weights at home while standing or walking.

Postural Rehabilitation: Reverse posture exercises were performed with resistance to correct lateral head flexion and forward head posture. Trigger point therapy was performed on the right trapezius and PIR stretching was performed on the pectoral musculature bilaterally. Plank functional movements were performed until the point of postural collapse to build postural fitness, and balance exercises were performed on wobble boards.

Posture Habit Re-education: Marcus was instructed how to sit and stand with proper posture and how to perform common activities such as reading, texting, and typing on his computer without forward head posture. Marcus was given a posture reminder bracelet to remind him to be conscious of his posture throughout the school day.

Marcus not only felt much better after the phase of cervical and head posture structural restoration, but had objective improvements as well. “I can’t believe my posture looked like that before!” exclaimed Marcus in reference to his first posture image.

Postural correction did not stop there for Marcus. After his posture was corrected he wanted to stay healthy and reach his peak athletic potential so he did the FITPosture preseason program for athletes. Marcus’s dedication paid off when he was awarded the MVP trophy after winning the State Tournament.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice with proper posture makes perfect.

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Written by:
Dr. Krista Burns DC, DrHA, CPE CPEP
Co-Founder The American Posture Institute
Doctor of Chiropractic
Doctor of Health Administration