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The Occupational Athlete

A construction worker can be considered an occupational athlete.

The Oxford Dictionary defines an athlete as “A person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.” or “A person who takes part in competitive track and field events (athletics).”

An athlete possesses such attributes as strength, speed, agility and power, all within the context of their chosen sport or event. At the professional or elite level these athletes must compete at the limits of their functional capacity, where external demands and internal strain is at a maximum. This is where records are broken and subsequent injuries arise.

But what about the blue collar or white collar workers as occupational athletes?

For an occupational athlete to succeed in their chosen occupation, they must meet the requirements of the job description and overcome the specific demands (e.g. heavy manual labour) and/or limitations (e.g. sedentariness).

The demands of blue collar work can involve heavy manual labour and/or long hours and include skilled trades such as electricians, plumbers, and mechanics for example. Work related injuries in this group usually occur due to poor lifting technique, awkward working postures, poor fitness and/or fatigue.

The white collar occupations are basically any desk-bound office or administration type job that can include, but not limited to accounting, customer service, secretarial duties, I.T. support or architecture, for example.

Sedentary jobs may not seem physically demanding but are more insidious in nature with regards to tissue overload and (micro) trauma. Repetitive unvaried movements sitting in a constrained posture at work causes fatigue, repetitive strain and microtrauma to tissue. The cardiovascular effects are even more detrimental .

Whether treating an elite sportsperson or occupational athlete, the fundamental principles of sports medicine and rehabilitation apply to both.

First address the acute phase of any soft tissue injury to reduce pain and inflammation. This might mean modifying work duties or work environment (e.g. ergonomic assessment). Next, while tissues are still healing, any bad movement patterns or postures must be corrected to ensure healthy motor function. Muscular endurance and subsequent strength can then be trained for the specific job task.

Please contact RG Chiropractic and Rehabilitation if you would like more information on treatment of soft tissue injuries sustained at the workplace or for any sports injury management queries.

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