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Learning from the human body—a sports chiropractor’s journey

Dr. Dave Juehring, Davenport ’94, is a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and has a Diplomate from the American Chiropractic Rehabilitation Board. He has been the director of the Chiropractic Rehabilitation and Sports Injury Department on the Davenport Campus for the past 15 years.
Dr. Juehring

My introduction to sports chiropractic was as an athlete, like many other chiropractors who specialize in this area. I had a back injury while competing in track and field in college, and, having grown up in Davenport, I thought I’d try chiropractic. I came to the Palmer Clinic, and within a month my back was fine and I was back to competing.

I’ve always been interested in health care and have had a fascination with the human body—I still do; it’s amazing. I wanted a healthcare career that would allow me to help people, so chiropractic was a good fit. So was taking care of athletes. I’m an athlete and I’m familiar with how they think and with their environment and ergonomics. I’ve had numerous soft tissue and other injuries, which gives me an advantage when treating others with injuries. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but I’ve noticed over the years that people with athletic skills tend to work their way into manual medicine avenues like chiropractic. Being a chiropractor is a labor-intensive job. Your body has to be relatively robust and fit to last in our profession.

Some of you may be familiar with my Olympic experiences. I competed for the U.S. bobsled team, but didn’t make an Olympic bobsled team. From there I began treating Olympic bobsled athletes. Working with an Olympic athlete is really no different from working with anyone we’d see here in the Chiropractic Rehabilitation and Sports Injury Department. But with Olympic athletes, there’s more of a sense of urgency because they can’t afford any down time. They need to be fully engaged and ready to compete.

Another difference between “elite” and “regular” athletes is that elite athletes have better acuity in understanding and reading their body, so they can sense minor changes faster. And these minor changes can mean the difference between a bronze medal and a gold medal, so they’re important to athletes at this level. This puts more demand on the chiropractor because your sensitivity to these minor changes has to increase. Sometimes you have to look harder to make sure you address even minor issues quickly for these athletes.

Also, elite athletes push themselves harder. Often, the person who wins, especially in endurance competitions, is the one who can endure the most pain. Chiropractors need to be sensitive to this tendency, too, and make sure their bodies are fine-tuned enough to endure this maximum effort with minimal damage in terms of injury.

My Olympic experiences even included work on the administrative side of the organization. I was privileged to be one of about a dozen team leaders for the 1998 and 2002 U.S. Winter Olympic teams. Our mission was to help the teams bring home as many medals as possible. The job came with a lot of prestige but also a lot of responsibility and stress. My wife tells me my skill was that I could play multiple chess games at once. I was dealing with athletes, coaches, International Olympic Committee officials, attorneys and marketing people. It was certainly an interesting experience.

Over the past 15 years I’ve seen quite a few changes in how chiropractic rehabilitation is taught at Palmer. The biggest change, however, is that students today are so much more knowledgeable to begin with, but also savvy about seeking knowledge. All of us in my department are flattered by the caliber of the students who want to work here as interns. We teach them, of course, but we also learn from them. The entire curriculum at Palmer has improved, and the educational approach we take is better. Our resources are better, too, especially the library at Palmer. Our students’ ability to access information is far superior now. I often say that the clay we get is so much better, but it’s also moldable. The students are bright and come to us better educated, but they are very open to new ideas and approaches.

The future for sports chiropractic is certainly bright. I’m constantly amazed at the high caliber of our students going out into the field to specialize in this area. In addition, there are many more athletes coming into our profession because of the positive experiences they’ve had with chiropractic. Athletes like chiropractors because they help them perform at their best, which is the epitome of wellness.

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