FRANKFORT – Of all sports, Frankfort chiropractor Dr. Aaron Wolfe said weightlifting has one of the greatest potentials for injury. With barbells up to 500 pounds, the smallest imbalance can cause a health catastrophe.
“If you catch it at a bad angle,” Wolfe said, “you can completely rupture a disc. They [weightlifters] can drop weights on their necks.”
In October, Wolfe served on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Sports Medicine Team at the Olympics Training Center in Colorado Springs, helping weightlifters with their chiropractic needs at the three-day USA Weightlifting Open.
The selection process was quite rigorous, Wolfe said, but the committee had chosen him for the job twice – in 2005 and again in January 2014.
“I do their chiropractic work before they lift and treat injuries,” Wolfe said. “If they want, they can get a chiropractic adjustment. Some of them ask me to take a look at their spine alignment.”
Chiropractic services are a boon to athletes in any field, he said, but particularly bodybuilders. Wolfe said he saw one competitor at the October event lift 445 pounds. That was the most he’s seen lifted. It was the athlete’s personal best, he said.
“A lot of them see a chiropractor on a regular basis,” Wolfe said of the Olympic hopefuls. “They work on form and mobility of their joints and on stretching.”
The two events in Olympic bodybuilding are the snatch lift and the clean-and-jerk lift. According to the Team USA website, www.teamusa.org/USA-Weightlifting, the snatch lift is done with tremendous power and speed.
The bar is lifted from the floor to arm’s length overhead in one motion, which generally takes less than a second. The best male weightlifters in the world are able to snatch nearly 500 pounds.
The clean-and-jerk involves lifting the bar overhead in two continuous motions – the clean, which brings the bar to the shoulders, and the jerk, in which the athlete raises the bar overhead. Weights of close to 600 pounds can be lifted with this maneuver. The amount lifted is competitive.
“When you’re talking about a difference of one pound,” Wolfe said, “an adjustment can make a big difference. It can help them achieve their personal best.”
Wolfe’s passion is sports medicine, and his ultimate goal is to be on the team for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. For bodybuilders, it’s their hips that take the brunt of the forces, he said. Wolfe might work on alignment of the hips and shoulders in these athletes.
“You need a lot of hip range of motion for weightlifting,” he said, “and you start to lose that when you get older.”
In addition to helping Olympic hopefuls, Wolfe serves as sports medicine adviser for Lincoln-Way High School District 210 and as team chiropractor for the Joliet Slammers.
Baseball players, Wolfe said, tend to suffer from shoulder and upper-back injuries.
“They love chiropractic,” Wolfe said. “It frees up any restriction of motions and healing.”
Wolfe also is the team chiropractor for the Chicago Fire Major League soccer team. He’s been with this team since its inception in 1998.
“Soccer players are probably the top athletes in the world,” Wolfe said. “They run miles and miles and miles every game. You see concussions, whiplash, sprained ribs, low back injuries and hip injuries. ... There’s lots of contact in that game. They get banged around quite a bit.”
During the season, Wolfe attends Fire practices once a week and every game. He works with a team of athletic trainers, orthopedic surgeons, primary care physicians, massage therapists, physical therapists and a strength coach to keep the players in their best shape.
“It’s a huge operation,” he said. “We’re all like tools in a tool box.”
Dr. Aaron Wolfe’s private practice is Sports and Spine Chiropractic, 39 Bankview Drive, Frankfort. For more information, call 815-464-7113 or visit sportsandspinerehab.com. Wolfe also has clinics in Lincoln Park, West Dundee and Hoffman Estates.
Athletes know well to stretch before workouts. Wolfe also recommends that all athletes, whether Olympic hopefuls or around-the-block walkers, stretch before going to bed at night.
“I believe everyone should be stretching before going to bed,” Wolfe said. “That’s the most important time to stretch. It helps you sleep so much better, and it relieves mental and physical stress. ... It helps blood flow, and it helps with morning aches and pains.”
The two before-bedtime stretches Wolfe recommends are the hamstring muscle door frame stretch and the piriformis muscle stretch.
The American Chiropractic Association gives these tips for healthy stretching:
• Never stretch a cold muscle (minimum of five minutes light jogging, biking, dancing, etc. before stretching).
• Good form is extremely important when it comes to stretching – do not bounce.
• Do not limit yourself to the exercises you enjoy or you are good at – make sure you are stretching all of your major muscle groups.
• Your stretch point is the point at which you feel the stretch but not pain.
• Flexibility is unique to each individual. Do not try to mimic another person’s stretch point.