As we reported in October last year, at the American Chiropractic Association Sports Council’s (ACASC) annual symposium, Robert Silverman, DC, DACBN, was selected as the ACA’s Sports Chiropractor of the Year.
We caught up with him recently to find out more about how he gained this recognition and how other DCs might position themselves to achieve the same distinction.
Long in the making
Like many chiropractors, Silverman’s road began with a personal health issue—congenital muscular torticollis, which occurs when the sternocleidomastoid muscle is shortened and pulls the head downward. When surgery and standard medical treatment failed to resolve the problem, he tried chiropractic at age 21 and it completely changed his life.
“It was my Mark Twain moment,” he says, referring to the author’s observation that the two most crucial days of your life are “the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” Because it was at that moment he decided to be a chiropractor himself.
Over the following 30 years, he increasingly came to specialize in treating athletes and practicing sports chiropractic. “Sports, for me, were a natural fit, and a lot of DCs are athletes themselves,” Silverman says. “The reason athletes gravitate toward us is that we can help them on game day, after game day, and our treatments are effective.”
Even though he knew from the time of his graduation from chiropractic college that a sports-focused practice was his objective, his advisors urged him to start small. “First, I looked to treat younger students at the local level, Pee Wee league, grade school, and high school students. I had to hone my skills and get my name out there.”
Today, he gives other DCs the same advice, to start small and grow a niche practice from there. “The Olympic and pro sports opportunities come along later in your career.”
It’s worth noting that some athletes are more challenging to work with than others. Silverman finds that collision sports tend to create difficult cases, with injuries that are more complicated and advanced. “I’m a big proponent of using low-level cold laser to heal the body from the inside out, healing at the cellular level.”
He finds the speed and efficacy from this modality to be exceptionally useful for treating tendon and ligament injuries, and he’ll add nutrition, proprioceptive training, and physical therapy as needed for a course of care.
Expectations and outcomes
When you’re working with athletes, it’s vital to give them an understanding of what you’re doing and why. “First, the DC should do a functional assessment. I like to see how the patient moves,”
Silverman says. “You want to do a full evaluation, on the joints and the shoulders—the whole body puts strain on them. We all know how to adjust, but you want to use qualified soft tissue treatments, other modalities, laser, proprioceptive exercise, taping, and exercise rehab.” And of course your assessment and diagnosis will be key to a successful game plan. “When I incorporate nutrition, I’m ensuring complete healing from the inside out,” he says.
Working with athletes and treating sports injuries is likely to be a growing field. Silverman sees a bright future for those who pursue it: “There are so many people who need us. Just tapping into sports performance, ACL injuries, concussion, and prevention—you can build a practice off that.” He adds that athletes often have parents who become referral patients, too.
It would be natural to wonder whether Silverman was surprised to be chosen as the ACASC’s Sports Chiropractor of the Year. “I was in total shock and astonishment,” he says. “There’s nothing more moving than being awarded that from my peers. I’ll always hold it in the highest regard.”
Part of the reason for the award is that he’s done so many different things in the sports chiropractic arena. He’s been on more than 20 radio broadcasts and five TV programs, he’s appeared in Millennium and Shape magazines, and in numerous blogs. He’s also appeared on Fox and Friends to discuss the “text neck” phenomenon and prevention strategies. His work in the media has led more people to see chiropractic in a positive light. “My message to DCs is that we have to define who we are,” he says. “Otherwise, other people will do that and they won’t do a positive job.”
Another point is that the diversity in the topics Silverman is speaking and writing about demonstrates that DCs are increasingly being seen as healthcare experts and doctors in their own right. “Our profession is not a technique. We have some limitations on our scope of practice, but we can certainly present health-related information.”
A winning game plan
To those DCs who would like to transition their practice into this area, Silverman advises getting involved with local sports teams, such as those in school and church leagues, and making sure all of your family members, church groups, and even library staff know what you do.
“And, No. 2, join the ACASC, the chiropractic organization that’s most involved in sports, then the CCSP, and look to gain a sports diplomate after that. If you donate your time to address audiences, you can build your reputation and visibility in your community. Later, when people come to your office, you have billable services,” Silverman advises.
In addition to his media work, he’s preparing to release a book on his approach to healing from the inside out. “I want to be a voice for chiropractic and help take it to the next level. I wake up every day thinking this is want I want to do.”