Athletic Performance Enhancement Strategies — Interview with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein

Your nerve system is a communication system.  Full, clear, unlimited communication is going to give you better coordination and better performance. The flow of information from your brain to the rest of the body is paramount for peak performance. If we find any shortcomings or failure of function in the nerve system, we look at the levels of the vertebrae that coordinate with that and look for any misalignments that might be present in that area.

What type of athletes do you treat as a chiropractor? What are some common performance goals?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: The great thing about chiropractic is it kind of applies to everyone. There is no specific type of athlete that we’re going to see. Athletes seek out chiropractic because they want to perform at their best. To perform at your best, it requires that your body really be in sync or what we call that mind-body connection because we all know that your brain is connected to your body. Your brain is telling your body what to do and that connection and the coordination and the flow of information from your brain to the rest of the body is paramount to peak performance. Every time you want to perform any task, messages get sent from your brain to the proper muscles in a coordinated time in a very specific way so you have a coordinated reaction.

It takes a lot of coordination to hit a baseball, throw a football 40 yards to a receiver who’s running at 15 miles an hour. Anyone trying to improve their hand-eye coordination or muscular coordination is going to benefit from having a clear nerve system and a proper connection between their brain and their body. Your brain is telling your body what to do and that connection and the coordination and the flow of information from your brain to the rest of the body is paramount to peak performance.. Because your spinal cord and nerves basically live inside the spine itself which is designed to protect it, when those bones get out of alignment, they’re going to irritate the same nerves they’re designed to protect.

Knowing that your nerve system is just a communication system, if you interfere or slow down that communication, it’s going to have a negative or a deleterious effect on that individual’s performance, just like having a virus on a computer is going to have a deleterious effect to that computer’s ability to perform its functions. It’s no different in the body than it is in a computer. Full, clear, unlimited communication is going to give you better coordination, better performance. It’s that simple.

 In your initial evaluation of the athletes, what do you analyze and factor in before you develop your Performance Enhancement Strategy?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: In chiropractic, it’s always about the nerve system. What we’re going to analyze is nerve system function. We’re going to check coordination. We’re going to look at muscle strength. We’re going to look, is there any weaknesses? Are they having any balance issues? Which, again, balance is controlled by your cerebellum. Your cerebellum gets information from the rest of your body. There is something in the body called proprioception which is your body’s ability to know where it is in space. That’s basically when your nerve system is impaired – like if you’ve been drinking and you do that, a cop pulls you over and he wants you to touch your nose. The reason what he’s testing there is your nerve system and he’s testing what is called proprioception – your body’s ability to know where it is in space. When you close your eyes, are you able to touch your nose or do you miss it and go past? That’s the same thing as coordination.

It’s so important to know that the coordinated movements in looking at balance all come from your nerve system. The faster your nerve system is able to communicate and the more clearly it communicates, the better it’s going to be. It’s going to be easier for you to then decipher how fast that ball is coming, how much curve is on that ball when you’re trying to hit it with that tiny little bat or when a golfer is trying to hit that ball. That is all coordination. Enhancing that performance, that mind-body connection is 100%. Without a proper-functioning nerve system, you’re going to lose motor control and coordination and not be able to perform as high.

What we look at is function of the nerve system. If we find any shortcomings or failure of function in the nerve system, then we look at the levels of the vertebrae that coordinate with that and look for any misalignments that might be present in that area. Correct them and then that should again restore normal performance and balance.

Do you recommend any dietary supplements to improve performance?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: There are a lot of supplements that promise a lot of performance enhancement. In my chiropractic office, admittedly, it’s not the focus. I’m not really a big nutritional guy. I have people around me, I work with registered dietitians and other people in holistic practice that focus a little bit more on nutrition. They have more education than me so they’re more qualified to dispense more specific advice than I feel comfortable giving myself. Honestly, I might not be the best nutritional chiropractor out there. It’s not where I choose to focus on my practice. I definitely would refer people out. There are tons of supplements out there. There is tons of research out there that talk about performance-enhancing supplements. We know that they work. It is something that is recommended commonly and there are a lot of chiropractors who recommend them but in my practice it’s not the focus of my practice. I don’t recommend a lot of performance-enhancing nutritional supplements. It’s just not what I like to do in my office. If someone needs that, I have plenty of professionals that I can refer them to.

 Is injury prevention part of your strategy? If yes, how do you work on that?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Liz, you’ve known me for a little while. You know that we’re all about prevention in my office. It’s the key to health. It’s the key to everything. I really look at myself much more as a dentist to the spine.  When you go to the dentist, they do some cleaning, they check the health and you do periodic checkups to make sure everything is okay. I view myself that my job is to look at the spine –  check it and make sure that there is no interference or pressure irritating the nerves that might cause incoordination because we all know like spraining an ankle –  it’s an incoordination. Your body would never fold its ankle over intentionally and try and hurt itself.

If the body is not 100% aware that it is standing half on the base and half off the base and you go to run and you twist your ankle or something like that, it can really be a problem. Making sure that there is full communication in the body will prevent injuries from happening in the first place because the body is paying attention to so many different things when you’re in an athletic situation. When I really look at a lot of these cases, what’s interesting to me is that part of it is what we’re conscious of. The more open dialogue the brain has between the brain and the body, the more efficient and more accurate the body is going to be in performing what it needs to do.

When we don’t have it –  if you’re standing on an uneven surface or you’re disconnected, it’s easier to misjudge a fly ball or misjudge the distance or falling short or over-running something or hitting something too hard or over-throwing the ball too hard. It’s really about these learned pathways. The body has this nerve system which learns how to do it. One of the things that I like to bring in …. and music is not exactly the same thing as athletic performance but it is similar. I play a little bit of guitar. When I’m playing guitar and I’m really in the moment and everything is flowing out of me, I’m not thinking, I need to go from A minor to E and then back to F. Everything just flows naturally. I’m not thinking.

We get into that state of what we call flow. Athletes who perform really high are always in that flow. When you’re in that flow, you’re connected. You’re less likely to get injured. It’s really that state of full mind-body connection and pure performance. We’re always striving for that. That’s really what I’m talking about –  injury prevention and being in the flow. It’s just being at your best, performing ideally and less mistakes are going to be made. It’s that simple in my opinion.

Lastly, what are some other components of your Athletic Performance Enhancement Strategies that we haven’t discussed yet?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Performance is performance. It doesn’t matter if you’re performing basic skills to move your chess pieces around the board or the multi-coordinated action of downhill skiing. We’ve got to have all those components. If the brain is connected and the brain is able to disseminate and receive information quickly and process it without delay, your reaction times are going to be faster. Again, the same analogy is using that virus on the computer. When that virus is there, it slows down the performance and that can really be an issue. The components of athletic performance are making sure that you’re properly connected, that you’re strong enough, that you’re flexible enough because you need strength, you need endurance, you need flexibility. They’re all components of that. On a segmental joint level, we need to have each joint be flexible. They need to be in good alignment. They’ve got to make sure that there is no irritation to the neural system.

Everything that we look at there are all components of athletic performance. If you’re having a bad day and your mind is somewhere else, are you going to perform well? Probably not. It’s about focus, getting enough rest. All those things that put you into that state of flow like I was talking about. Or before with music and they’re happening without thinking. If you ask a professional baseball player to break down the mechanics of throwing a curve ball, he could probably list it in this long drawn-out thing but really when he is doing it, he ain’t thinking about it at all. It’s all there and ready for him to access, accessible to him because he’s done it so many times. That’s really what performance is about. Enhancing performance is enhancing that mind-body connection. You’re focused, maintaining good strength, good flexibility and that’s what makes a great athlete.

If you’re interested in speaking with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein, visit www.chiropractormidtown.com or call 917-534-6484 to schedule an appointment.

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