Competing at sport at the highest level requires physical balance and coordination as well as flexibility and quick recovery rates, all which requires a healthy myofascial system. Rolfing integrates the physical structure by systematically treating the body’s muscles and connective tissue, collectively called myofascia. Myofascia is made up of muscles (myo-) and the connective tissue that wraps around muscles and connects them to bones.
The performance demands of sport cause athletes to constantly push their bodies to the limit in order to excel. Fascia is the medium through which force is transmitted from muscles to bones in order to create movement. But this fascial web can become out of balance owing to adhesions and thickenings in the tissue as a result of postural and compensatory imbalances and repetitive movements caused by demanding sports training routines.
Rolfing creates optimal health in the myofascial system thus helping the coordination and synergy of the body’s key moving parts — head, limbs and spine — which in turn leads to biomechanical efficiency. Weaknesses as a result of myofascial imbalances can be addressed and powerful and fluid movement enhanced.
The key to the effectiveness of Rolfing for sports people is its consideration of the whole body in relation to local problem areas. Ida Rolf, the founder of Rolfing, is quoted by her students as saying, “Where you think it is, it ain’t.” I frequently say to my clients that there are usually two parts to a physical problem. First there is the local problem at the site where the pain is felt. Second there is the global problem; by ‘global’ I mean ‘throughout the whole body’.
Let’s take the example of a marathon runner to illustrate this (actually at the time of writing today the London Marathon 2017 is taking place). Frequent long distance running often causes knee problems. In order to treat this effectively it is insufficient to just manipulate the knee. The cause of the problem is often found to be an incongruence between the tracking of the upper and lower legs, which in turn prevents the knees from tracking straight.
So where a knee is seen to track inwards, the lower leg will track outwards in order to compensate and the knee pain is a result of the conflicting strains caused by this tracking incongruence between the upper and lower leg. Rolfing provides the solution to the problem by working both locally (around the knee) and globally (by treating the way the strong upper leg muscles and fascia wrap and exert their force on the knee). The global part of the treatment goes even wider throughout the body’s myofascial net by including appropriate adjustment of other key related structures: feet, hips, thorax, even shoulders and neck.
In this example the marathon runner’s knee is a ‘snagging point’ in the myofascial net, which is resolved in two important stages. First, by untangling the twists in the fascia around the knee by treating the key muscle groups which cause these fascial incongruences and strains. Second, by treating other areas of the body which had been involved in the knee pain pattern — such as feet, hips, thorax, shoulders and neck — and bringing them in line with the new optimal tracking of the knee by easing out the strain caused throughout the body by the stressed knee.
Top Athletes Recommend Rolfing
Dr. Karl Ullis, an Olympic Physician, says: “Athletes always need help with chronic injuries, muscular strain and overuse. Rolfing supports structural realignment for greater efficiency of movement and more precise movement.”
Many top sports people have benefited from Rolfing, including the great 400 metre hurdler Edwin Moses, whose trademark was to consistently take 13 strides between hurdles where all other athletes took 14 and who used to impress me hugely by preparing for a race by lying down on the track in a completely relaxed manner.
Other famous athletes who have received Rolfing treatment and recommend it are:
Amy Acuff, Olympic high jump specialist: ”I use Rolfing to increase my performance. It freed up a lot of space in my movement, increased my range of motion and gave me more efficient muscle control. The increased range of motion helps me refine the use of my proprioceptions, so I know where I am in space. It also streamlined my motor pathways.” (a fuller description can be found here: http://www.rolfing-london.co.uk/rolfing-sport/
Olympic skier, Mickey Egan (wife of Extreme skier, Dan Egan), says, “Rolfing helps a lot, just in the way it helps me to loosen up, so I’m ready to go again. It’s great. Athletes tend to use the same muscles over and over. They get tighter and tighter and this has an effect on the muscles. We can stretch but not reach everything. Rolfing Structural Integration helps me reach areas like the ribs, abdominals, upper body, and hips that are hard to get.”
Craig Swan, former N.Y. Mets pitcher, and Certified Rolfer, whose career ended from a sports injury. “Bodywork can extend athletic careers,” says Swan. “I truly believe if I had received Rolfing in the early part of my career, I would still be pitching today.”
Sarah Will, five times U.S. Paralympic Gold Medal Skier, credits her gold medal to Rolfing. She says, “Rolfing increased my performance time 100%.”
Erin Aldrich, 2000 U.S .Olympic high jumper and 2x All-American
Mickey Egan, Rumanian Olympic Skier
Lance Deal, 2000 U.S. Olympic hammer thrower, 96 Olympic Silver Medal
Joe Greene, two-time U.S. Olympic bronze medal long jumper: “Rolfing works. It really makes a huge difference. I’ve been in track and field a long time and wish I had known about it sooner. My stomach tenses and my hips tighten when I jump. The Rolfing bodywork helped me to breathe and I felt taller.”
Sharon Sander, ranked second on the US Pentathlon team: “I recommend Rolfing for any athlete who has ever had trouble with injuries or doesn’t feel like they are reaching their potential.”
Michelle Kwan and Elvis Stojko, 1998 Olympic Silver Medalists, were Rolfed by Certified Advanced Rolfer Helen James. James says, “It’s key for figure skaters like Michelle and Elvis, to find an exact, balanced position in space. Balance and integration are the primary goals of the Rolfing process. Athletes find they have fewer injuries and recover more quickly through Rolfing work. They feel lighter and have more energy because they’re not working as hard. They complete their jumps with more ease.”
NFL Seahawks wide receiver, Golden Tate: “You always have to do something to prepare yourself for the next game. I’m staying on top of it with Rolfing (Structural Integration).”