Many chiropractic practices treat professional and recreational athletes and, as this subspecialty grows, providers are looking for growth opportunities.
Certain elements of a practice are essential in maintaining a strong patient base, e.g., collaborating with other disciplines, improving provider personal health, and seeking to better educate clinical assistants.
And as health care at large is evolving, the public is demanding more cost-effective and higher quality care.
Indeed, chiropractic is increasingly being recommended at all levels, from large regulatory bodies down to local primary care physicians, as the opioid epidemic reaches a crisis point. You’re also seeing articles focused on the positive benefits of chiropractic for professional athletes as it relates to decreasing pain, reducing injury rates, and improving performance in various sports.
Remember the recreational athlete
In the primary chiropractic practice, a large segment of the population encompasses recreational athletes, those patients ranging from 20 to 80 years of age who enjoy sports and exercise as a hobby. More of these patients are turning to chiropractic because of the positive messages they hear from their doctors, the media, the internet and their friends.
Collaboration with local primary care physicians, orthopedists, neurologists, and physical therapists, among others, is essential to developing a practice with a high recreational athlete population. These providers are seeing the patients you want to be treating. The effectiveness of your ability to communicate to your patients and their doctors will impact their trust and confidence in your care.
Stay current and collaborate
Staying up to date with current evaluation and treatment techniques is paramount in a sports-based practice. Attending seminars and reading literature with a focus on sports injury improves your understanding and rhetoric, which in turn improves collaborative trust.
Stay current with sports injury topics by reviewing three to five journal articles a week. You can subscribe to internet services such as Read by QxMD, allowing you to select various topics in health care, and alerting you when new articles are published. Regularly review video clips and read editorials about new concepts in treating athletes to broaden your knowledge.
Treat recreational athletes with the most up-to-date treatments you would use with a professional athlete and you will raise your standing and improve your clinical outcomes.
As you examine a patient to begin a course of care, send a quick note on your letterhead to their primary care physician, letting them know you have begun treatment, and offer your diagnosis and care recommendations. This simple form of communication fosters collaboration and places your name in front of local doctors, cultivating awareness and acceptance among local providers.
Be the change in your sports-injury practice
Don’t overlook the patient’s perception of your health and athletic activity. Do you play sports regularly, exercise and maintain a health-conscious diet? Providers who have struggled with their own health or healthy habits and figured out how to conquer these vulnerabilities are more effective at relaying the importance of lifestyle and behavior change in ways that encourage patients. It is one thing to educate patients about healthy lifestyles, getting proper exercise, and eating intentionally, but combining this practice with tips that helped you or acknowledging your own struggles can convey the understanding that you have walked in their shoes.
For example, earlier this spring, I took part in the Ragnar relay race, which combined two personal passions, running and advocating for those with special needs. My teammates and I ran 200 miles from Chattanooga to Nashville, Tennessee, without stopping through the night, in support of a wonderful organization called Ainsley’s Angels of America. Their mission is to build awareness of America’s special needs community by participating in endurance sporting events.
As part of Team Kayleigh, who suffers with pulmonary hypertension, our team pushed her “chariot” through the back hills of Tennessee alongside many other athletes. This experience is only one example of the many opportunities that allow you to improve your personal health, interact with other health care professionals and foster meaningful connections that align with a sports-injury-focused practice.
Education equals elevation
A frequently underrated aspect of practice is the importance of your paraprofessionals, the people in your office who support you clinically and administratively. These are the team members who assist you in providing therapy, giving exams, and possibly conducting diagnostic tests.
Those who provide patient education are an extension of you as a chiropractor. Their knowledge and caregiving are vital for cultivating relationships with patients and those outside the clinic.
Hiring assistants who enjoy sports and treating sports injuries creates a platform for learning and developing skill sets that enhance their role in your practice.
The training of your clinical assistants is not lost on your patients. When you have diagnosed femoral acetabular impingement with subsequent labral disorder, how is your team relaying your treatment instructions and demonstrating their understanding of the issue? Do they understand the underlying anatomy, treatment approaches and ways to communicate home-care behaviors? Annual training helps to raise a clinical assistant’s bar and encourage them to conduct more self-education.
Have a weekly staff meeting with a portion directed toward clinical training on a particular topic such as rotator cuff syndrome or cervical radiculopathy. Provide a quick write-up of the topic with visuals and communicate a patient example.
To be a successful primary chiropractic office with a subspecialty in sports injuries, don’t overlook these essential elements. Collaborate with other professionals, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and develop your sports-injury-trained clinical assistant if you want to attract athletes of all levels.
Cole Hosenfeld, DC, DACBSP, practices in Knoxville, Tenn. He is board-certified in sports medicine and practices in an integrative setting with a team of paraprofessionals. He sits on Tennessee’s regulatory board and is the coauthor of Chiropractic Therapy Assistant: A Clinical Resource Guide. Learn more at ctaprogram.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.