Terence Garvin, a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins and six-year veteran of the National Football League can attest to the value of chiropractic.
“I got into chiropractic care during my first year as a Pittsburgh Steeler,” he says. “James Harrison, a 14-year veteran of the NFL, would have recovery parties at his house every week that would include chiropractic care. Sometimes up to 40 guys would show up! I learned from him that you don’t need to be in pain to get care and prevent injuries. I’ve been going to a chiropractor ever since then.”
Knowing the value of chiropractic care for athletes, four industry veterans have come together to form Doctors of Chiropractic Sports (DoCS). First and foremost, the founders want to bring together chiropractors who treat professional and collegiate athletes and give them the opportunity to communicate, network, and share ideas, innovations and clinical knowledge to take the best care of athletes.
“With better communication, we can enhance care delivery and improve athletes’ overall population health,” says Jay Greenstein, DC, CEO of Sport and Spine Companies, who also serves as the team chiropractor for the Washington Valor of the Arena Football League and, since 1997, has been the official team chiropractor for the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders.
“By bringing all sports-centered chiropractors together to form an organized entity, we’ll have a louder voice to impress the public with our far-reaching effects,” adds Spencer Baron, DC, who first conceived of DoCS and is the owner of NeuroSport Elite. Baron is also the former team chiropractor for the Miami Dolphins and Miami Marlins, and co-founder of the Professional Football Chiropractic Society. He says that the latter as well as the Professional Baseball Chiropractic Society have already achieved this goal. “We want to create more public awareness about the chiropractic model of care, which is to try natural, conservative treatments first before resorting to medications or surgery.”
Tying it all together
The founders also want to facilitate inter-professional relationships between chiropractors, athletic trainers, physical therapists, massage therapists, medical doctors and surgeons, while simultaneously revealing to the chiropractic profession the value of intra-professional referral sources. Health care providers with an interest in athletics are encouraged to join the organization.
“Our goal is to promote camaraderie and provide coaching,” Baron says. “We want chiropractors to learn to develop relationships with their peers so they can advance each other as a unified profession and exchange educational information. We are stronger in numbers.”
“We also want leading chiropractors in different sports to share their knowledge and experiences with young chiropractic students, so they will be in a much better position when they graduate,” says Alan K. Sokoloff, DC, clinic director of the Yalich Clinic. He’s a team chiropractor for the Baltimore Ravens and the University of Maryland Terps, and president of the Professional Football Chiropractic Society. “We are each passionate about helping young athletes and young chiropractors to get involved and stay involved in sports care.”
The founders’ vision
In addition to Greenstein, Spencer and Sokoloff, Cindy M. Howard, DC, founder of the Innovative Health and Wellness Center, is the fourth founder. Each of these experts has a unique perspective and background. “We each bring something to the table that synergistically allows an audience to learn,” Sokoloff says. “Dr. Greenstein keeps up on new studies and statistics, Dr. Howard excels in nutrition and internal medicine, Dr. Baron is an expert on concussion and neurological aspects, and my strength is understanding and working in the athletic training world. I learn something from them every time I hear them lecture.”
The foursome embarked on a previous initiative together called POWER Play in Sports, which taught chiropractors how to present educational content to parents and coaches on the prevention, recognition and management of sports-related injuries. “Our current venture is an evolution of this initiative,” Greenstein says. “The difference is that DoCS is about education, and exponentially creating impact by building a large and strong community of official sports team doctors of chiropractic.”
Another goal of the founders is to increase public awareness in the sports arena. “We hear comments from sports teams such as, ‘We don’t use chiropractors,’ ‘Chiros are not allowed on the sidelines,’ and ‘We use a medical (or osteopath) doctor,’” Baron says. “Sometimes the MDs or DOs specialize in family practice or dermatology; I’ve even heard of a boxing, ringside physician that was a gynecologist—none of whom had any substantial education in sports medicine.”
Chiropractors can use DoCS’s lectures, articles and videos to influence a pro or collegiate team’s professional governing body to overturn any longstanding professional prejudices and make chiropractic an integral part of the team’s health care triage.
Another objective is to present educational “sports tracks” to other state associations and chiropractic colleges as they successfully did with the Florida Chiropractic Association. “One of the most exciting features of the sports track is taking a field trip to an athletic training room of a pro or college team,” Baron says. “We have done this in Florida with the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars, MLB Miami Marlins, MLS Orlando City and Florida Atlantic University. We then do a presentation with the athletic trainer on co-managing injuries with their sports chiropractor.”
“Most doctors have never seen the inside of a professional sports stadium before,” Greenstein says. “Having the ability to listen to a team’s chiropractor or athletic trainer and see what happens behind closed doors creates a huge buzz within the chiropractic community. Ultimately, sharing these game-day experiences builds awareness of just how important sports chiropractic is to the status elevation of chiropractic in the mind of the public.”
Baron adds, “We want to create novel educational pieces with chiropractors who treat pro and collegiate athletes and disseminate that information to other chiropractors who have aspirations of treating athletes.”
Howard focuses on an aspect of care that is often overlooked—how to support a patient’s care with nutrition and diet. Through her presentations at DoCS-sponsored events, she provides basic treatment protocols that can help athletes. “I teach chiropractors how to address concerns athletes have such as high blood pressure, insomnia, inflammation and infections that can occur from injuries,” she says.
For example, if a patient is not healing properly, taking homeopathic arnica and pancreatic enzymes can shorten the healing timeframe. “I’ve seen athletes with sprains and broken bones no longer needing splints or casts two to three weeks earlier than expected, when nutrition and supplementation are properly used,” she says.
Chiropractors can also use blood chemistry profiles, gastrointestinal evaluation, food sensitivity testing, adrenal and hormone testing, and nutrient testing to evaluate a variety of conditions that athletes experience such as thyroid disorders, menstrual problems, anemia and viral infections and treat them with herbs, vitamins, minerals, homeopathic remedies or diet recommendations.
Howard also lectures about the importance of taking anti-inflammatory supplements like fish oil and curcumin, and avoiding inflammatory foods like sugar, dairy and gluten. Healthier foods such as avocados, raw nuts, olive oil and blueberries can expedite healing.
“I want to bring awareness to additional aspects of care that chiropractors treating athletes may not be too familiar with,” Howard says.
DoCS provides a variety of ways for members to network and learn. Leading-edge seminars, some of which are offered in person and others that are accessible via electronic media, emphasize the importance of communication with athletic trainers and physical therapists.
“We are currently compiling a library of resources and case studies from our sports docs,” Baron says, to which members will have full access. “They also provide novel examination and treatment options for certain conditions that they render to our pro and collegiate athletes.”
Members also get an up-to-date list of the doctors who serve on sports teams and access to soon-to-be-published survey results, which will include insight on how much a sports chiropractor charges, how often teams render chiropractic care, how to get in with a team, best methods for payment and how to promote yourself as a sports chiropractor.
DoCS also has dedicated resources for teaching athletic trainers and sports-oriented physical therapists on how to work with sports chiropractors and vice versa. “This type of communication requires some detailed insight and is more of a skill than one might think,” Baron says.
Sokoloff believes that chiropractors are taught how to be great practitioners in their own offices, but they aren’t taught how to communicate well with other health care professionals. “That is why our profession isn’t as well sought after for care as it should be,” he says, adding that in his practice 80 percent of new patients come from referrals from other providers. “That is because we have clear-cut communication with other health care professionals.”
For every new patient who comes to Sokoloff’s office, he will send the referring provider and the patient’s primary care physician a “start-of-care” letter informing them about the type of care he is providing and his rationale for treatment. “The purpose of the letter is to coordinate care and not duplicate care,” he says. This involves being able to access records and medical information from other health care providers that may be beneficial in treating the patient.
For every athlete that Sokoloff treats, he also sends a note to their head athletic trainer. “The chiropractor is a part of a team to help athletes return to play or increase their performance enhancement,” he says. “Our care must be documented and provided to the coordinator of care, which is usually the head certified athletic trainer with an individual team.”
Proper communication etiquette is also paramount when working with athletes. For example, a sports chiropractor shouldn’t ask athletes for autographs because it will change the relationship’s dynamic. A chiropractor should also charge an athlete for care. “Just because someone is a superstar athlete doesn’t mean that you should provide them with free care with hope that he or she will promote you in return,” Baron says. “Create value in what you do, which creates value for the profession.”
And be sure to work with an athlete’s trainer. Seek their opinions and insights on a patient’s condition.
A long-term goal of DoCS is to create an event that is well-attended by sports chiropractors from many teams and sports. Baron wants to have an educational forum and communicate opportunities. Invitations will be provided to athletic trainers, physical therapists and to each sports’ governing body, especially commissioners from top sports.
DoCS, whose main sponsor is Performance Health, owner of Biofreeze, Theraband and Kramer products, would also like to align with a national brand such as Nike, Under Armour or Adidas. “This approach is consistent with the brands that sponsor pro teams and their professional athletes,” Baron says. “This would open many doors for sports chiropractors. It would provide instant credibility for the profession nationwide.”
Karen Appold is a medical writer in Pennsylvania. She can be contacted at 610-812-3040, kappold@msn. com, or through writenowservices.com.