Raising Chiropractic's Value in Pro Sports

Through Vision, Management and Communication

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Chiropractic has gained significant visibility and popularity in all sports in the past 10 years. Coaches and athletes are now beginning to appreciate the importance of biomechanics, balance and full motion in all joints of an athlete. After all, keeping players well is the sole objective of a team's medical staff.

Most chiropractic benefits seen to date actually pale next to the true potential chiropractic has to offer all sports. Under the assumption that no other professional is as well equipped as the chiropractor to evaluate, diagnose and treat the biomechanics of an athlete, the time is now for chiropractors to envision their role as an authority in the locker room. A qualified chiropractic protocol needs to be established as well as the development of cooperative relationships with other members of the medical staff working for the team. That necessary protocol consists of a plan of treatment originating from a thorough pre-season evaluation, including history, examination and necessary standing x-rays. This is followed with a report clearly communicated to the athlete outlining what recommendations and treatment will be required to make objective biomechanical improvements during the course of the season and then the management of that athlete throughout the season. Although this requires tremendous confidence and managerial skills, this is the role now available to the chiropractor in the locker room. This is a far more comprehensive approach to treating the athlete than simple symptomatic treatment when an athlete feels the need to be adjusted. In order for chiropractic to gain the respect it deserves, it must prepare itself to become the biomechanics authority it claims to be.

Once a thorough history and exam is completed on the athlete, the chiropractor must then develop a program in conjunction with the strength and conditioning department so that all personnel involved in the conditioning and treatment of this athlete are working towards the same short term and long term goals for the athlete.

Newer Heights and Higher Visions

While chiropractic is by far the most qualified profession to locate biomechanical faults and correct them, many sports chiropractors have fallen victim to providing treatment based only on symptoms, thus competing with all allopathic counterparts. Although we tend to still see ourselves as treating the cause of the problem, in truth we are merely treating "the pains", but using chiropractic manipulation as the medicine.

Many pro teams have chiropractors on staff to provide manipulation to players. Players, however, often are the ones who decide when and how frequently treatment is needed. While this involvement in the locker room is truly a success for chiropractic to be included with the trainer, physical therapist, orthopedist, dentist, massage therapist and a host of other professionals, this limited role should never be accepted as the ultimate objective. Chiropractic is capable of offering so much more. And if the profession can fully grasp their potential as the biomechanical experts in the arena of the pro locker room, they can then take that protocol to the colleges, high schools, grade schools and mass market. Every athlete wants the very best care they can get, and chiropractic has an opportunity to be a primary contributor to that care.

To gain this recognition and respect, chiropractors first must elevate their protocol to help the athlete attain higher levels of success. The athlete should never be the one determining frequency of treatment. All treatment considerations should be based on history, examination and appropriate standing x-rays. Once x-rays are marked and all information is reviewed, a season plan needs to be structured for that player for the coming year. Many chiropractors are unable to manage an athlete through 3-6 months worth of acute care, rehab and conditioning care. These shortfalls will prevent the profession from gaining the level of respect desired. But, if the profession can adapt a protocol which promotes management of the athlete through objective changes in biomechanics as well as improved communications with the staff and athlete, chiropractic will succeed in a large way in the sports world.

Joining Forces

In the pro locker room, as well as colleges and many high schools, the strength and conditioning department is in charge of assessing all players in pre-season with periodic evaluations throughout the season. The strength coach is then responsible for determining what pace an athlete can become conditioned and the specific conditioning program appropriate for each athlete. The ultimate key to success is based on the coaches ability to manage that player before and during the season. A successful Strength Coach provides those exercises which help educate an athlete's nervous system. A successful Chiropractor locates and removes interference to that athlete's nervous system. Working hand in hand is critical.

Chiropractic must couple their efforts with the strength and conditioning coach for the good of the athlete. Both parties have tremendous interest in the biomechanics, joint motion, balance and skills of the player, and some of the testing is identical. But, both parties also provide totally diverse biomechanical benefits to the athlete, and joining forces will help create an exponentialism of benefits for both athlete and team.

Chiropractic Athlete/Patient History

The chiropractic history must not only focus on the present list of symptoms or injuries, but should also consider prior injuries. Keeping in mind that chiropractic has been very limited to many athletes currently involved in sports, the likelihood is strong that prior injuries, especially those to the spine, are still evident through limitations in the normal range of motion and creates an increased vulnerability to re-injury. Secondly, much of the chiropractic care given may have been symptom based care, and the actual fixations and restrictions of certain joints may still exist.
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