Always interested in promoting healthy movement, I thought I'd pay a visit to Sydney Trapeze School to discuss injury prevention with these athletes, as well as learn about the art of trapeze. The group showed their gratitude by offering a free lesson. We all benefit, because there's a mutual exchange in understanding.
That this business is owned and operated by twin brothers Frank and Robert Taylor somehow suits the mystique of the trapeze. Their head instructor, Jesse, is an excellent instructor with good verbal cueing. He even shouts, "HEP."
Trapeze is a suitable experience for those with a moderate amount of upper body strength and who feel comfortable with heights. As a sport I find it interesting for many reasons, but from a practitioner point of view, the body mechanics are a fascinating reversal to many traditional sports. For example, trapeze begins with your hands affixed to the bar; your body then pivots around your hands. Essentially, this "reverses" the traditional "origin" and "insertion" of muscular attachments. For this reason, there is the potential for more torque through the wrist, and the shoulder girdle is put under different load compared to, say, a ball throwing sport. Also, hanging against gravity puts more traction through your spine and body. Again, this is different compared to how we spend most of our time, which is in compression.
I like that you hang from your feet upside down. This puts a unique force through your body. When was the last time you were upside down? A downward dog yoga pose would be the closest I can think of coming to an inversion position, and perhaps a handstand or two in the past 30 years since. Yet really, hanging from your legs on a swinging bar is very different from a handstand or yoga pose. On the trapeze, your joints are unloaded and stretched in long axis distraction. Furthermore, your circulatory vessels are challenged, as are your sinus cavities. The most challenging sensation for myself was the feeling of fullness in my sinus cavities, which the coaching staff assured me is quite common. Lastly, on on the trapeze, when one goes into the exchange, there is a large amount of extension through the whole of the spine and upper kinetic chain.
This is great for working the extensors, which are not suitably exercised in our modern lifestyle.
The injury profile in trapeze is seemingly quite low, although as far as I could tell it has not been studied extensively. I found this study and this study but neither is specific to trapeze. Without thinking, I prepared a discussion for the group prior to my lesson. My discussion focused on myofascial release for the shoulder girdle using a tennis ball, as well as the importance of good scapulohumeral rhythm. I also assumed these athletes might have tight hip flexors, since the sport requires the a decent amount of hip flexion.
Why I think it's important for a chiropractor or manual therapist to have primary or secondary experience in the sport he or she may be treating is that participating in the sport, you experience first hand the actual movement patterns. Primary experience is participating in the sport; secondary experience is treating many athletes who participate in the sport. Both primary and secondary participation in the sport allow a therapist to attend to the athletes' injury more timely, and also allow the practitioner to guide the athlete through sport specific rehabilitation.
As such, I learned that a few of the coaches at Sydney Trapeze School suffered wrist pain. My experience with rock climbers proved valuable, as I was quickly able to identify a few culprits. With so much torque going through their wrists, Triangular Fibrocartilage damage is a consideration. This structure provides stability to the wrist, especially in ulnar deviation. I found this press test to be helpful in determining if this is amenable with bracing via the wrist widget.
Also, some structures along the ulna, including the pronator quadratus, are often resolved with conservative treatment. For this reason, it is often wise to approach a conservative manual therapist as a first port of call.
Otherwise, one of the head instructors has had some low back pain, and at sports and spine, we are always willing to offer our services to anyone who can benefit. We expect to have all the coaches and athletes from Sydney Trapeze School functioning 100%, and are more than happy to do our part.
For yourself, I highly recommend booking a session in with the Sydney Trapeze School. It's fun, it has great movement patterns, and, in our modern sedentary life, any exercise is good exercise.