Objective: Our objective was to employ somatic movement re-education therapy with athletes under the age of 27 diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy or other forms of trauma-related motor impairment to effectively increase balance, strength, mobility and improve overall athletic coordination.
Methods: Each subject was initially observed and video-recorded performing movement gestures in order to establish a baseline and subjectively determine restriction in range of motion (ROM) and mobility. With subjects supported either on a massage table, seated, or on the floor, movement patterns and boundaries (e.g. ROM, subjective comfort level, mobility) were further explored by manual evaluative procedures. Verbal feedback of the subjects’ sensory experience was invited throughout. Investigation was conducted of an array of characteristics of connective tissue including, but not limited to: weight, tonus, density, tension, among other variables. When restrictions to ROM and mobility were encountered, alternative avenues to limb mobilization were explored. Post-treatment video-recording provided visual feedback to subjects to assist them in integration and coordination of alternative movement patterns via sensory; visual; verbal; imagery pathways.
Results: Preliminary results indicated significantly greater, pain-free ROM; observable gait and posture changes; significantly greater reported limb and movement perception; significantly enhanced sports performance.
Conclusion: Feedback from touch, movement and sensation effectively offer alternatives to the treatment of motorically impaired athletes by providing enhanced awareness of their bodies. Somatic movement reeducation therapy can contribute a unique, harmless, and effective approach to enhanced sports performance in the special athlete.
Neuroplasticity, Somatic Education, Disabled Athletes
Madelana and Richard are Somatic Therapists and Educators. We are trained in a variety of somatic modalities. This paper is primarily about our work with Trager Movement Therapy or Psychophysical Integration, as it was originally called. Part of our professional practice is to accompany our client as they learn to focus on their body’s ability to receive sensory and motor information through touch and movement via the soft tissue and, we believe, effectively transmit new movement patterns and possibilities to their brain.
For the past 6 years we have been working with young athletes affected with cerebral palsy (CP) or similar neurological disorders categorized as traumatic brain injury (TBI) using Somatic Movement Therapy / Re Education. We have been assisting these young athletes with achieving noticeable improvements in balance, strength and range of motion, as well as reduced injury occurrence.
Our intention is to share a sample case report of one athlete with whom we’ve worked and discuss the principles of the therapeutic approach we use. Additionally, we would like to propose questions that, if explored, could provide useful contributions to the growing research related to body, brain, movement, cognition, and neuroplasticity.