An Athletic Therapist is a specialist in the art and science of injury prevention, rehab, education, emergency response, and movement evaluation. Majority of Athletic Therapists hold a BSc. in Kinesiology- this is what sets us apart from other musculoskeletal rehab professionals. We’re specialized to prescribe exercise, assess movement, and improve movement habits for health.
Those are a lot of big words, that I often get questions on. Let’s start with some definitions!
Kinesiology: The study of the human body and movement.
Biomechanics: The study of the forces acting on the human body.
Ergonomics: The study of people’s efficiency within their work environment.
Now- as a kinesiologist (aka someone who studies the movements of the body), what is my scope of practice (or.. what can I do?)?
Kinesiologists have broad training in exercise sciences, and I specialized my BSc. in Athletic Therapy, which focused on injury prevention, rehabilitation, and musculoskeletal care (both in the field and clinically). In general, according to the the Canadian Kinesiology Alliance (CKA), Kinesiologists have scope of practice in three main areas:
Adaptation Through Exercise:Adaptation through exercise is a key principle of kinesiology that relates to improved fitness in athletes as well as health and wellness in clinical populations. Exercise is a simple and established intervention for many movement disorders and musculoskeletal conditions due to the neuroplasticity of the brain. Therapeutic exercise has been shown to improve neuromotor control and motor capabilities in both normal and pathological populations.
There are many different types of exercise interventions that can be applied to kinesiology to athletic, normal, and clinical populations. Aerobic exercise interventions can help to improve cardiovascular endurance. Anaerobic strength training can help increase muscular strength, power, and lean body mass. Decreased risk of falls and increased neuromuscular control can be attributed to balance intervention programs. Flexibility programs can increase functional range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.
Taken collectively, exercise programs cna reduce symptoms of depression and risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases such as diabetes. Additionally, they can help improve quality of life, sleeping habits, immune system function, and body composition.
The study of physiologic responses to physical exercise and their therapeutic applications is known as exercise physiology, which is a major research focus for kinesiologists.
Neuroplasticity:Neuroplasticity is also a key scientific principle used in kinesiology to describe how movement and changes in the brain are related. The human brain adapts and acquires new motor skills based on this principle, which includes both adaptive and maladaptive brain changes.
The effects of physical activity can be distributed throughout the entire brain, such as higher gray matter density and white matter integrity after exercise, and/or specific brain areas such as greater activation in prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Neuroplasticity is also the underlying mechanism of skill acquisition. For example, after long-term training, pianists showed greater gray matter density in sensorimotor cortex and white matter integrity in the internal capsule compared to non-musicians.
Maladaptive plasticity is defined as the neuroplasticity with negative effects or detrimental consequences in behaviour. Movement abnormalities may occur among individuals with and without brain injuries due to abnormal remodeling in the central nervous system (CNS). Learned non-use is an example commonly seen among patients with brain damage, such as stroke.
Motor Redundancy:Motor redundancy is a widely-used concept in kinesiology and motor control which states that for any task the human body can perform, there are effectively an unlimited number of ways the nervous system could achieve that task. This redundancy appears at multiple levels in the chain of motor execution.
That covers a lot of ground! What it really comes down to is that a Kinesiologist is an expert and using exercise, movement corrections, and lifestyle changes to aid in someone’s overall well-being, whether that person is suffering from a chronic health condition, is an athlete wanting to improve their performance, or just an everyday person wanting to be in better health. As CKA states, “Kinesiologists work with individuals with disabling and often chronic conditions to assist in regaining their optimal physical functions. They work with individuals in their homes, fitness facilities, rehabilitation clinics, and in the workplace.”.
The well-being of each individual is paramount, and it’s our job to help them set and achieve their health goals. Each person requires a individual approach to health, and that is what we hope to offer guidance to. It is our aim to better each person who comes into our practice, whatever their goals may be.