Context: One of the goals of providing manipulative treatment such as osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is to restore maximal, pain-free movement of the musculoskeletal system and to enhance neuromuscular function. Anecdotally, some athletes have reported that their athletic performance improves after manipulative treatment.
Objective: To develop preliminary data to gain more understanding about the association between precompetition manipulative treatments provided to Division I football players and their athletic performance during each game for 2 consecutive football seasons.
Methods: The study design was a retrospective cohort study. Participants were football athletes at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Board-certified osteopathic physicians who were trained in osteopathic manipulative medicine and sports medicine performed OMT and determined the type of OMT techniques used and the spinal segments treated. One chiropractor provided chiropractic manipulative therapy. Prior to each game, the athletes who elected to receive precompetition manipulative treatment (ie, OMT or chiropractic manipulative therapy) underwent a focused physical examination and received manipulative treatment on the basis of clinical findings. After each game, the coaching staff "graded" the players by using a standard coaching algorithm. Offensive players received a percentile score (0 to 100) and defensive players received a numeric score (> 30 was considered "very good").
Results: A total of 1976 manipulative treatments were provided to 115 football players in 2 consecutive football seasons. Sixty-two offensive players received 985 manipulative treatments, and 53 defensive players received 991 manipulative treatments. Treatments were applied to the affected regions of the spine: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral sections. Mean (standard deviation) performance scores were 67.8% (22.8%) and 11.1 (9.9) points among offensive and defensive players, respectively. The correlation coefficients between the numbers of the manipulative treatments and the performance scores were 0.107 (P = .407) among the offensive players and 0.218 (P=.117) among the defensive players.
Conclusion: Precompetition manipulative treatment was positively associated with improved performance among both offensive and defensive Virginia Tech football players. Although the associations between these 2 factors were relatively small and not statistically significant, we found positive correlations in performance of the offensive and defensive players.