Athletes have often sought chiropractic treatment for pain management and injury recovery, but chiropractic can provide much more than pain relief. In fact, an athlete will perform better and is less likely to injure themselves during play when they are under great chiropractic performance care.
Built on the philosophy of vitalism—the body’s inherent ability to self-organize and heal—Life Chiropractic College West’s Sports Performance Institute (SPI) is centered on the belief that a subluxation-free athlete will perform better. SPI offers a unique learning experience for student interns to assist and participate in athletic chiropractic care at on-site venues for an array of sporting events, including numerous elite level, community- and campus-based athletes. This type of experiential opportunity sets Life West apart in what it can provide for students.
Students in the SPI program provide primary care for Life West’s men’s and women’s Rugby club teams. The student-faculty teams have also provided care at Life West-CCIG Invitational Rugby events, and could be seen recently on the sidelines offering treatment for AVPFirst, run by the premier U.S. pro beach volleyball league, and winter and summer DewTour athletes. SPI Director Scott Lessard, DC, said he often receives invitations to attend as a chiropractor at other unique events. However, unless the students are part of the deal, he’s not ”in.” Says Lessard, “It’s not about me — it’s always about the students, and what an educational experience can do for them.”
Three years ago, SPI faculty and students received an invitation from Dominic Scott, DC, from AVPFirst’s Board of Directors, to attend a beach volleyball tournament and provide playing athletes with on-site performance care. AVPFirst is a signature youth volleyball program that, through a nationwide series of beach volleyball tournaments, offers young athletes the opportunity to compete at the highest level and work their way into collegiate beach volleyball programs. It also serves as a national pipeline for the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. Dr. Dom envisions a better-than-ever approach to reducing injury by increasing body awareness and applying play-care measures focused on proper body mechanics and nutrition. He is dedicated to designing and implementing a performance, prevention and recovery education and an onsite care system from which the AVPFirst member-players may benefit.
That first year, SPI served as the onsite chiropractic team for one event, and the next year, three events. This year, SPI is providing care at eight 2019 AVPFirst events, spanning the western states from southern California to Phoenix and Seattle. At the matches, interns conduct exams, provide an adjustment if necessary, offer prevention education and post-event follow-up. Typically, a player is seen prior to a match and in between matches if deemed necessary. These tournaments usually consist of 40 to 60 two-person teams playing 3-4 matches per day, and depending on how far the team goes, maybe 8-10 matches in a weekend. Chiropractic care is eligible to any playing athlete, and the Life West team may see players multiple times during the course of a two- or three-day weekend tournament. With a variety of chiropractic equipment at the matches, students are qualified to work on outpatients and perform both extremity and spinal adjusting, including proprioceptive taping when necessary. The Life West group also acts as the on-the-spot medical team, providing basic first aid and emergency care while remaining mindful of player health to prevent dehydration, heat exposure, heatstroke and more.
At AVPFirst and other Life West SPI-sponsored events, interns are gaining real knowledge in chiropractic performance care that cannot be replicated in an office setting, which typically caters to post-injury care. Instead, they witness firsthand what it’s like to be at a major event with true sideline experience. But unlike a single game that may last 4-5 hours, a student’s day at an AVPFirst event is exceedingly rigorous. Starting at 6:15 a.m., the team sees the whole spectrum of the tournament operation—from set-up to take-down—not leaving the site until every player is gone and working hard 12- to 14-hour shifts each day.
This is not only a learning experience for Life West students, it’s also a learning experience for the players. While subjecting themselves to demanding physical performances for long periods, these U16 and U18 players are competing with their sights set on earning a spot on a collegiate or pro team. Through performance and health education, the Life West team introduces these young players to the concept of taking care of their bodies, and players leave events with a better understanding of chiropractic and knowing how to seek care before help is needed. With performance care provided at such a young age, these players often take chiropractic along with them through their sporting careers, continuing treatment as they go on to higher levels of competition.
Life West is happy to share chiropractic’s vitalistic message with athletes, and proud of the appointment as AVPFirst’s chiropractic team for the 2019 playing season. Dr. Lessard said he is grateful for the partnership with AVPFirst’s Executive Director Tony Giarla, Director of Programs Marty Suan, and, of course, to Dr. Dom for extending the invitation for Life West students to participate in real-world sports performance care at these matches. Lessard’s goals for SPI going forward are to continue providing opportunities for Life West students that help them to look beyond the office. He said that because students come from such a wide variety of backgrounds, their interest in a specific sport was most likely sparked at a young age. Through chiropractic performance care, they have found a new way to participate.
“There are so many sports and youth programs that chiropractic is currently not involved in but could be, and chiropractic doctors can follow where their interest lies and become involved in their community at any level,” Lessard said. “DCs can offer performance care and injury prevention all through proper evaluation and adjustments. The opportunities are boundless—only limited by how much you want to be involved.”
To learn more about SPI, visit the Life West website.