Peak Sports Performance and Sports Injuries Part 1: The Foundation for Sports Performance Development

Peak performance is the ultimate goal of athletes and their coaches in sports.  Many experts in the field of exercise physiology have devoted their entire career to determine the requirements for peak sports performance and develop cutting edge training programs to achieve these goals.  Although there is a very long list of factors that impact sports performance and sports injuries, in this series of articles we will focus on the neurological and mechanical factors that impact sports performance and how chiropractic can enhance these factors to improve performance and reduce the risk for injury.

Is a person born a champion or do they develop into a champion?
One question that has frequently been asked is, “Is a person born a champion or do they develop into a champion?”  The answer to both is yes.  Movement scientists have found there are two prerequisites for peak performance in any activity.  They are “ability” and “skill.”  

Abilities are what we are born with.  They are genetically determined and for the most part unchanged no matter how much practice a person performs.  A few examples of abilities include body coordination, reaction time, good decision-making, body structure and flexibility.  These are abilities that make one person more likely to become a better football player instead of a gymnast.  Although a person may be born with the “abilities” to potentially become a quarterback for example, they must still develop the “skills” to have a chance to play in the NFL. 

Skill is something people develop as a result of practice.  If a person is born with the “ability” to be a good tennis player, they still must practice the important components of the game such as the serve, various strokes, ball spin, and hitting the ball with accuracy to different parts of the court to win each point.  They must also develop foundational components to the sport including strength, speed, power (strength+speed) and endurance to become their best.  

Skill development comes from good coaching and training.  It is beyond the scope of this article, but there is research that indicates the type of practice, exercise and drills a person performs can determine how well their skills develop and how good they become at their sport.  You may have two people with equal “abilities,” but the “skill” development in one person may far exceed the other person depending on how and what they practice.  

In summary, the athlete or coach needs to determine if they have the foundational “abilities” required to excel at a particular sport.  If they have the flexibility, strength and body coordination to be a gymnast, for example, they can work on developing the “skills” through practice to try to become the best gymnast they can be.

Besides having the required “abilities” and developing “skills” for a sport, proper alignment, joint mobility and motor (muscle) control are three very important factors that can impact sports performance.  In part 2, we will discuss these factors and how chiropractic can enhance sports performance.


Schmidt, RA, Wrisberg, CA. Motor Learning and Performance: A Situation-Based Learning Approach. Human Kinetics 2008.