Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Similarities Between March Madness and Your Health

One of the most frequent topics of conversation I have with you, face-to-face, is about how well you are managing your health amidst the other responsibilities in your life.  As mentioned in our New Patient Orientation Class, I consider stress management to be the most underrated vital aspect of healthy living and, since unmanaged emotional stress is the leading reason why patients lose their Upper Cervical corrections, I not only discuss it with you often because I want you to be the best versions of yourself possible, but also because it typically has such a direct effect on how well you will maintain the foundational work that we're doing at TUCC. 

For me, the primary stress management tool in my playbook is sports.  There is a lot going on in the world that presents us with daunting challenges to overcome, the core issues with American healthcare certainly at the top of my list of wrongs I am taking personal responsibility to help right during my time on this earth; honestly, if the only thing I did was think about our big picture problems and how to solve them, I imagine I would feel pretty consistently lost and overwhelmed, so sports provide me an outlet to lose myself in something of a (mostly J ) constructive distraction.  Today, I want to blend the seriousness of healthcare with the more youthful-type joy that I still find in sport, conveying this month's newsletter-led message for your consideration with an analogy befitting of the month of March. 

The third month of the year brings to the forefront the state of North Carolina's crazed obsession with college basketball; no state, in fact, embodies the spirit of March Madness to a greater extent than we do.  The 2018 NCAA Tournament is underway!  Among the most impressive things in sports, to me, is the psychology of winning consistently in college basketball, due to the fact that the star players can leave for the professional ranks so quickly after high school, as opposed to the rules in football that keep kids in college until three years removed from their high school graduation.  To build a program like Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) has at Duke or like Bill Self has at Kansas is fascinating really; the discipline that goes into established routines through every aspect of the operation offers a life lesson on success, no matter the endeavor. 

If we were to compare, then, the success of a college basketball program to your health, the coach would be the equivalent of the brainstem.  Facilitating the connections to the entire body, it is the quality of the “coach's” decisions that lay the foundation for victory; its organizational skills in combination with the brain, similar to an athletic director, are vital to the health of the systems in place designed to make winning an expectation.  The organs, muscles, and tissues (all made of cells) are the players, the heart, lungs, digestive system, and immune system regularly among the figurative leaders in scoring, rebounding, assists, and defense, all under the direction of the coach's game-plan, with the nerves acting as the assistants to ensure all the players know their responsibilities for improving the well-being of the team.

To round out the analogy, the director of basketball operations would equate to structural alignment, without which the balance necessary to ensure a winning culture would simply be made far more challenging than it needed to be; the training staff takes care of the exercise necessary to ensure the body is in peak physical condition; and, finally, practice would serve as the comparison to stress management, in that there is a strange assumption among some circles that practice is not actually necessary to achieve optimal results – even a team with all of the innate talent in the world would not be able to win the ACC Championship and a #1 seed in the Big Dance without practice. 

The piece that ties a winning program together that will be the primary focus of our educational efforts this month is recruiting, college basketball’s version of nutrition.  Contemplate how frequently the cells (players) that make up the organs, muscles, and tissues of the body are produced and recycled.  Every 6-8 minutes, the cells of your stomach lining are replaced; every 4-6 weeks, your liver cells are renewed; every four months, you have fresh blood cells.  Our bodies make new cells with the food that we consume, so the quality of our cells is dependent on the quality of the materials that we feed our bodies.  Would you rather “recruit” new cell production from a fast food restaurant (for you fellow basketball aficionados, a 1-star player) or would you rather “recruit” a higher caliber player of the 4-to-5-star variety (i.e. non-GMOs, real food, fruits, vegetables, etc.)?   

Wellness and winning are an expression of the efforts put forth in each area of health.  Unquestionably, the coach and his assistants, the AD, the director of basketball operations, and practice regimens (i.e. the optimal function of the brainstem/brain/nervous system, structural integrity, and stress management skills) lay the groundwork for a top-tier, extraordinarily healthy college basketball team, but recruiting is just as important.  How well – and, most importantly, how consistently well – your cells are replenished is a major part of the difference between elite health (28-5 year-in and year-out with deep runs in the tournament periodically), above average-to-good health (20-10, fringe tournament team), or just plain mediocre (18-15) or poor (10-20) health. 

Excellent health is a desire we hope to cultivate in all of you, even those of you who have underlying circumstances that make becoming the Kentucky basketball of mental, physical, and social well-being far more challenging.  Remember, some of you begin your journey toward changing your life when your “program” is in shambles, in need of revamping at every level (think Wake Forest this decade); some of you are looking to regain your powerhouse health position after a couple of down years (think Ohio State); some of you have more limited resources (think Wichita State or Gonzaga); some of you struggle to maintain the necessary better habits to sustain your health (think Texas Tech); all of you, though, have the ability to put together a winning formula.

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