The immediate effect of thoracic spine manipulation on power output, speed and stroke rate in paddlers
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Background: Kayaking performance can be improved either through reducing drag of the boat or increasing propulsion (Michael et al., 2009). In order to increase propulsion, biomechanical efficiency is required. The trunk muscles have been highlighted as having an important role in the paddler’s stroke. Due to their relationship with the thoracic spine, dysfunction of the movement of the thoracic vertebrae could negatively impact the ability of the trunk muscles to work effectively. Spinal manipulation is used to restore joint range of motion and this has been shown to have a positive effect on the surrounding muscles. Limited studies have investigated the effect of spinal manipulation on performance outcomes, specifically in paddlers. Objective: To determine the effect of lower thoracic spine manipulation, of T7 - T12 vertebrae, compared to sham laser, on the mean power (watts) of a paddler’s stroke, the time taken (seconds) to paddle a 200m distance and stroke rate (strokes/min). Method: This study was designed as a pre-test, post-test experiment, involving 30 asymptomatic, male paddlers from Durban. Participants were divided into an intervention group, receiving spinal manipulation to the lower thoracic spine between T7 - T12 or a control group receiving sham laser. Participants performed a 200m sprint on a kayak ergometer followed by a timed five minute break, during which, the interventions were administered. This was followed by a second 200m sprint on the kayak ergometer post-intervention. Outcome measures were average power (watts), time taken to paddle a 200m sprint on a kayak ergometer (seconds) and stroke rate (strokes per minute). Conclusion: Lower thoracic spine manipulation did not result in a significant change in average power, time taken to paddle 200m on a kayak ergometer or stroke rate. Future studies are necessary to investigate the trends observed.