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Palmer alumni are keeping elite athletes at the top of their game

For many years chiropractors were relegated to sideline status when it came to providing care for world-class athletes at the collegiate, professional and Olympic levels. Fast forward to the world of contemporary athletics, and you’ll find that doctors of chiropractic are not just on the team, they’re blazing new trails. Like the elite athletes they treat, these skilled D.C.s are taking the specialty of sports care to the next level.

With greater frequency, Palmer alumni are emerging as leaders in this exciting field. We’re featuring just a few of the many Palmer alumni who are working with elite athletes on the following pages.

All 32 teams in the National Football League have a team chiropractor on their staff, and nearly a third are Palmer graduates. In fact, two Palmer alumni played a hand in helping their respective teams reach the 2012 Super Bowl: Dr. Rob DeStefano for the champion New York Giants, and Dr. Michael Miller for the New England Patriots. For a list of Palmer alumni who are providing care to NFL players, go to www.palmer.edu/news/120418nflchiros/.

Another impressive demonstration of chiropractic’s emergence as a key player in the sports care field is the fact that a Doctor of Chiropractic, William Moreau, D.C., DACBSP, Davenport ‘81, is the managing director of sports medicine for the U.S. Olympic Committee. (See profile on page 14.)

One of the primary reasons for the involvement of Palmer graduates in the field of sports chiropractic has been the development of the Sports Council programs at each campus. Edward Feinberg, D.C., DACBSP, West ’83, has served as faculty advisor to the West Campus Sports Council since its formation in 1994.

“I think the growth of chiropractic services in elite sports organizations is primarily due to the humble and dedicated efforts of earlier sports chiropractors whose efforts resulted in faster return to play with fewer injuries and better performance,” says Dr. Feinberg. In addition, he says, “our graduates are well-prepared for the challenge to be competent in fullbody evaluation and management.”

The growing incidence of athletes suffering concussions has received considerable media attention, and has prompted practitioners in the field of sports care to examine ways to reduce the risk of severe trauma to the head. “Our work with the San Jose State rugby club has provided the opportunity for our interns to gain practical experience in this important developing area of the field,” says Dr. Feinberg.

Thomas Hyde, D.C., regarded as one of the pioneers in the field of sports chiropractic and a member of the ACA Sports Council Hall of Fame, has helped to advance the field in a variety of roles, including mentor and guest speaker for multiple Sports Council programs at the West Campus. Dr. Hyde, who served as team chiropractor for both the University of Miami and the Miami Dolphins, says of his experience, “I think I made the grade by communicating with the trainers and medical staff and not overstepping my expertise. Even though they opposed my participation early on, I always informed them of everything I did.”

As for factors that are driving the current wave of sports chiropractors, “I think we are seeing a trend toward including chiropractic services in all sports because of the results chiropractic care has achieved through some top-notch, well-educated, competent providers,” he says. “The athletes love the care we provide, and as long as we can provide a quality, evidence-driven service, communicate with the medical community in language they can understand, share and be professional, we will be welcomed.”

Drs. Robert DeStefano and Michael Miller: Helping the Giants and Patriots get to the Super Bowl
Dr. Rob DeStefano
Dr. Rob DeStefano

Super Bowl XLVI could go down in the history books as the “Palmer Chiropractic Super Bowl.” Both teams, the New York Giants and New England Patriots, were assisted in their journey to the big game by Palmer alumni who provided high-level chiropractic care to the players and optimized their functionality, endurance and overall conditioning.

Robert DeStefano, D.C., Davenport ’86, is the team chiropractor for the victorious New York Giants, and Michael Miller, D.C., Davenport ’79, is the team chiropractor for the New England Patriots. Dr. Miller has served as the Patriots’ team chiropractic physician since 1982, and Dr. DeStefano has been the team chiropractor for the Giants officially since 1999, but has treated Giants players since 1989.

Participating as part of the medical team for an NFL team is a big commitment, says Dr. DeStefano, who spent a few moments talking with Palmer Insights after the Giants’ Super Bowl victory. “During the regular season, I am at the stadium on Wednesdays and Fridays,” he says. “I provide chiropractic care along with soft tissue treatment. I use a technique that I developed called Fast Active Stretch Technique (F.A.S.T.), which combines the principles of several soft tissue techniques. I travel with the team on away games and provide treatment on game day.”

Dr. DeStefano adds that there is little difference between preparing for the Super Bowl and preparing for a regular season game. “During the entire season, regular chiropractic care—in conjunction with other healthcare treatment options available to the athletes— allows for an all-encompassing, well-rounded treatment program. Chiropractic care is an integral piece of the puzzle in helping athletes prevent certain injuries and speeding up their recovery from others.”

His advice to chiropractors who want to become team chiropractors is “focus on providing quality chiropractic care with a main intention to get athletes well, and not merely to be involved with a sports team. It is important to have as many tools as possible available to support the chiropractic adjustment, such as a solid soft tissue technique.”

Dr. Kyle Knox: The newest chiropractic member of the U.S. men’s water polo team
Dr. Kyle Knox
Dr. Kyle Knox

Kyle Knox, D.C., West ’10, has spent a good portion of the past two years helping the U.S. men’s water polo team maintain its international status as one of the medal-winning favorites heading into this summer’s Olympic Games in London. The U.S. men’s water polo team won the silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, and part of their success was due to their new coach: Dr. Terry Schroeder, an ’86 West alumnus and four-time Olympian as an athlete, who assumed the coaching reins in 2007.

Dr. Knox, who practices in Westlake Village, Calif., was appointed to the USA water polo sports care staff shortly after graduating, and in 2011 he traveled with the team to the World Championships in Shanghai, China, and the World League Championships in Florence, Italy.

Water polo is a physical game, with the players engaged in constant contact both above and below the water, which explains the types of injuries commonly associated with the sport. “Shoulders and hips are among the most common areas of injury and soreness,” says Dr. Knox. “Having all the tools to treat this type of condition is what places chiropractors at the top for conservative management of sports injuries.”

He adds that he has been fortunate to learn from the best. “I have had the opportunity to meet some great sports chiropractors, many of whom are Palmer alumni, including Terry (Schroeder), who was my personal mentor,” says Dr. Knox. “Palmer’s West Sports Council program is sought after to provide care at many sports events in the Silicon Valley, and provides great learning opportunities for the students who want to specialize in the sports chiropractic field. It definitely played a big part in helping me become a stronger doctor.”

Dr. Saul Luengas: Leading the chiropractic team at the Pan American Games
Dr. Saul Luengas
Dr. Saul Luengas speaking

The official title for West ’94 alumnus Saul Luengas, D.C., MsC, ICSSD, at the 2011 Pan American Games was “chief of chiropractic services,” but a more appropriate title may have been “ambassador” of chiropractic services. The 2011 event marked the first time that chiropractic was included as part of the polyclinic, a multidisciplinary healthcare setting that provides access to teams from the 42 nations taking part in the 36-sport competition.

Dr. Luengas adjusted more than 300 athletes during the two weeks, from Mexico as well as other countries, and was honored to be the first chiropractor to provide care in the polyclinic setting. “Getting to work with the other doctors was an extraordinary experience,” says Dr. Luengas, who practices in Querétaro, Mexico.

Much like the spirit of multicultural athletic events such as the Pan American Games and the Olympics, the field of sports science provides a similar forum of good will and camaraderie by which practitioners from different disciplines can take a team approach to injuries and develop a good working relationship in a setting of mutual respect. “We worked hand-in-hand with the medical doctors and received multiple referrals. In fact, chiropractors served as the primary physicians at multiple events,” adds Dr. Luengas.

He credits his education as the foundation of his success. “My education at Palmer West helped me develop strong diagnostic skills, which are extremely important in sports chiropractic, because when you’re evaluating an injury in the middle of a game or competition, you don’t want to make a decision that could risk further injury to the athlete,” he adds.

Dr. William Moreau: Getting Team USA ready for the Summer Olympics
Dr. William Moreau
Dr. William Moreau

William Moreau, D.C., DACBSP, has cared for athletes for most of his career. In 2009, he was hired as manager of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s (USOC) Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center Sports Medicine Clinic. In just a few years he has advanced to the role of managing director of sports medicine for the USOC.

Dr. Moreau directs the multiple disciplinary clinics that service nearly 30,000 athlete visits annually, oversees the medical care and medical team selections at the Games, and develops a nationwide network of healthcare providers to support Team USA athletes. “I also have the privilege to serve as medical director for the London 2012 Olympic Games, where Chief Medical Officer Cindy Chang, M.D., and I will direct a sports medicine team of almost 100 clinicians to provide care for Team USA,” he says. “It is going to be a busy next few months and I ask all of my colleagues to support and cheer for Team USA in London!”

He cares for athletes daily in a multidisciplinary setting. The staff includes other DACBSP sports chiropractors, physical therapists, certified athletic trainers, medical doctors, massage therapists, sports nutritionists, exercise physiologists, sports psychologists and strength and conditioning specialists. “The staff of the USOC clinics is comprised of some of the best individual healthcare providers I have ever seen,” he says. “The typical patients we see are high-level athletes from around the U.S., as well as individuals with particularly complex medical conditions.”

As one might expect, the training needed to reach the Olympic level of competition is hard on an athlete’s body, no matter the sport. “The athletes that comprise Team USA are the hardestworking, hardest-training and most amazing people I have ever treated,” Dr. Moreau says. “This may lead to wear-and-tear injuries, and increases the likelihood of traumatic injuries such as fractures, concussions, muscle injuries, ligamentous injuries and serious spinal injuries. The athletes we see are akin to BMW racing machines; their joints and muscles are so finely tuned that small differences may make notable changes. At the Olympic level of competition, the difference between an athlete earning a medal and watching the medal ceremony from the stands is statistically .05 percent.”

For D.C.s who are interested in caring for elite athletes, Dr. Moreau has this advice: “Hone your evaluation and management skills and become recognized through the sports educational and certification opportunities offered by Palmer. The Palmer Continuing Education and Events Department should be commended for their steadfast efforts in bringing sports-related educational opportunities to doctors of chiropractic across the U.S. Also, be cognizant that there are many qualified individuals in sports care, and recognize that each individual plays a vital role on the team of healthcare providers.”

Dr. Brandon Nevel: The ‘go-to’ chiropractor for elite and pro tennis players
Dr. Brandon Nevel
Dr. Brandon Nevel

After playing varsity tennis at Hendrix College in Arkansas, Brandon Nevel, D.C., Florida ’08, CCSP, CCEP, USPTA, became a certified tennis professional by the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA). Within the next four years, Dr. Nevel would begin to combine his passion for tennis and chiropractic.

Elite and professional tennis players began seeking care at Dr. Nevel’s Jupiter, Fla., practice because of his specialized knowledge of tennis injuries. In his experience, elite athletes are always looking for that “extra edge.” When not treating a specific injury, he adjusts many athletes about once a week during the competition season with an emphasis on extremity adjusting, which Dr. Nevel suggests is “huge with athletes.” He adds that myofascial techniques such as Graston, combined with Kinesio taping, work well with the fascial restrictions that are associated with sports.

According to Dr. Nevel, regular chiropractic care is of great benefit to elite athletes. “When winning and losing comes down to milliseconds and fractions of an inch, chiropractic adjustments restore the motion to joints and allow the nervous system to coordinate movement and proper function. Chiropractic allows athletes to focus on winning, not on their pain,” he says.

With Palmer at the forefront of chiropractic research and evidenced- based therapy, Dr. Nevel’s outlook is that Palmer alumni will lead sports chiropractic into the future.

“Palmer continues to graduate chiropractors of the highest caliber,” he says. “As a Palmer alumnus you graduate with knowledge in treating conditions of both the spine and extremities.” He points to the growing Sports Council on the Florida Campus, whose members treat athletes at a variety of sporting events throughout Florida.

For those D.C.s who want to work with sports teams, he suggests starting by talking with the athletic trainer about how you can help them by offering an extra pair of hands during emergencies. “Never stop learning,” he adds. “The sports injury world is always changing as new research emerges. The day you stop learning is the day you stop living.”

Dr. Kelli Pearson: Keeping Gonzaga athletes at the top of their game
Dr. Kelli Pearson
Dr. Kelli Pearson

In what truly qualifies as a stroke of good luck, the 16-year association of Kelli Pearson, D.C., DABCO, West ’82, with the Gonzaga University athletic department began when she received a call from the coach of the men’s crew team, who was looking for a chiropractor near the Spokane-based university.

Her association with the Gonzaga athletic department has since expanded to providing chiropractic care for all of Gonzaga’s NCAA-member sports, including the men’s basketball team, which has made 14 straight appearances in the NCCA tournament. She initially provided care at her practice. As more athletes sought Dr. Pearson’s care, she began to provide care in the Gonzaga training room. When the university built a state-of-the-art training center, the facility included a room specifically for chiropractic care.

Dr. Pearson commonly provides care before, during and after the games. She says the two key words that any D.C. needs to embrace and understand when attempting to develop a similar relationship with a sports team, whether college or professional, are respect and patience. “It can be frustrating to watch the team orthopedic surgeon work the athlete up and make a diagnosis that you feel is short sighted, knowing that there is so much function that could be restored with manipulation and soft tissue work,” says Dr. Pearson, who also utilizes Graston, Active Release Technique and Muscle Activating Technique.

Dr. Pearson says she’s fortunate to work at Gonzaga with Steve DeLong “the most amazing trainer I’ve ever met,” because he quickly recognized the benefits of chiropractic care, which fostered a team collaboration with a common goal: helping the athletes reach their full potential. She acknowledges that not all ATCs may welcome chiropractors into the training room as warmly as her experience at Gonzaga, and other members of the sports care staff may try to minimize the chiropractor’s role. She says the key is to learn “when and how to share your opinion with the trainer and to listen carefully and authentically.”

Dr. Stephen Press: Providing gold medal support for Olympians
Dr. Press providing chiropractic care for Ekaterina “Katia” Gordeeva in Moscow in 1988.
Dr. Press with hands on athlete

Stephen Press, D.C., CCSP, Davenport ’78, has taken his passion for chiropractic and sports to a global level. In 1992, he was the chief physician for the entire Soviet Olympic team during the XVIth winter games in Albertville, France. He has just written a new book, “History of Sports Chiropractic,” which will be available this summer.

In early 1979, Leonard Schroeder, D.C., the founder of the American Chiropractic Association’s Sports Council (ACASC), asked its members for input as to who should be on the United States Olympic Committee’s Sports Medicine Council. Until this time, there were no chiropractors officially involved with the U.S. Olympic team, even though athletes were requesting them. Chairman of the ACASC Irving Dardik, M.D., asked Dr. Press if he would like to go to the Olympics. He declined, saying having just one year of practice experience wouldn’t be fair to the athletes, and recommended Dr. George Goodheart of Detroit.

But his journey to the Olympics was not over. Already a member of the ACASC, Dr. Press went on to become the first (and only) chiropractor to become a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). In 1987, he founded and was the first president of the Fédération Internationale du Chiropratique Sportive (FICS) and the International Academy of Olympic Chiropractic Officers. “Twenty-three national representatives came to our first FICS meeting in London,” says Dr. Press. “By my fourth and last year as president, 30 more countries recognized our organization.”

FICS went to Moscow in 1988 with Dr. Press as chef-de-mission, and he began a relationship with Russian athletes that would last for decades. He treated figure skater and Olympic gold medalist Ekaterina Gordeeva for sciatica, helped raise a quarter of a million dollars to set up a chiropractic clinic in Moscow, and was presented with a gold medal of his own—the Coach of Champions award, “тренер побидителы.”

“Thirty years ago, it was the dream of a chiropractor to go to the Olympics,” says Dr. Press. “Today we have more openings for Olympic chiropractors than there are qualified chiropractors to fill them.” His tips for those who want to be sports chiropractors: “Get your CCSP certification. Sports chiropractic is a specialty, and you need to be on top of it. Volunteer at your local Little League and work your way up from the trenches. Join FICS and a national association and its sports council. Also, be aware of what’s going on in the world; it’s hard to say where you might end up.”

Dr. Hal Rosenberg: Helping top-level triathletes win
Dr. Hal Rosenberg
Dr. Hal Rosenberg

Hal Rosenberg, D.C., CCSP, West ’01, developed an interest in sports medicine as a high school student in Phoenix, Ariz. A past president of the West Campus Sports Council, Dr. Rosenberg has served as team chiropractor on the USA Triathlon Medical Staff since 2004 and is one of four West alumni practicing at Chiro-Medical Group, a multidisciplinary clinic in San Francisco that offers medical care and physical therapy in addition to chiropractic.

In 2011, Dr. Rosenberg enjoyed two major career achievements: In August, he was selected to serve a two-week rotation providing care at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and in September, he ventured to Beijing, China, to provide care for members of the U.S. team competing in the ITU World Triathlon Championships, where competitors vied for the title of World Champion as well as position points for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The OTC rotation exceeded his expectations. “At the OTC, everything is athlete-focused, and there’s mutual respect among all fields of care. It was a great opportunity to show the other doctors what I do as a chiropractor, in addition to treating acute injuries. We also restore functional biomechanics to reduce the risk of injury and improve the athlete’s performing efficiency.” An endurance athlete who’s competed in Ironman-length triathlons, Dr. Rosenberg says the fact that more and more chiropractors are becoming a common component of the sports care staffs for pro, college and Olympic teams speaks to the scope of skills that D.C.s bring to the sports care arena. “The athlete can go to a variety of different practitioners for individually focused therapies, or they can go to a sports chiropractor who can coordinate all of their treatment, such as adjustments, soft-tissue work, taping or exercise rehabilitation—whatever the situation requires.”

Dr. Susan Welsh: Caring for athletes from high school to professional levels
Dr. Susan Welsh with the Tampa Bay Storm.
Dr. Susan Welsh on sidelines with football players

Susan Welsh, D.C., DACBSP, started in sports chiropractic by volunteering to provide care for members of high school football and wrestling teams in her community of Tampa, Fla. That led to the University of South Florida and then to the Tampa Bay Storm arena football team. Word of her skill spread, and, at one time, Dr. Welsh also was a chiropractor for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Tampa Bay Mutiny and a women’s professional softball team.

She is currently a chiropractor for the University of South Florida Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, where she has been caring for student athletes—there are 450 total athletes—each Thursday for the past 31 years.

While she believes chiropractic care is paramount for optimal athletic performance, Dr. Welsh has learned over the years that “each athlete responds differently. Sometimes I see the athletes on a weekly basis and some are treated for acute injuries. Chiropractic care benefits the athletes on multiple levels, but for professionals, getting them back to competition faster and with fewer complications is critical for their careers.”

As for her advice on getting involved in caring for elite athletes, Dr. Welsh encourages chiropractors to get their CCSP and DACBSP post-graduate education and start by working with high school athletes. “I still work with high school kids, and nothing is more fun,” she says. “Once you have the experience, the opportunities are endless.”

Dr. Stuart Yoss: Taking care of Chicagoland’s stars
Dr. Stuart Yoss adjusting a Chicago Bears player.
Dr. Stuart Yoss adjusts football player

When ESPN’s SportsCenter broadcast on Feb. 20 included an interview with Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose and the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player commented that “the whole week I was seeing a great chiropractor, Stuart Yoss,” the chiropracticendorsing quote yielded an audible that quickly achieved equally legendary status as “the adjustment heard, ’round the world.”

And where was Stuart Yoss, D.C., Davenport ’95, when Rose’s sweet-smelling compliment aired about the chiropractor who helped him return to the court after a five-game absence, the longest of his NBA career? He was seeing patients as the director of the Bannockburn Chiropractic and Sports Injury Center, which is Dr. Yoss’ primary focus of day-to-day life in practice.

“To hear my name on SportsCenter was above and beyond; just to be part of and included in his care was an honor,” says Dr. Yoss. In addition to the Bulls, Dr. Yoss also has provided care for players from some of Chicago’s other pro sports franchises, including the Bears and the White Sox. He currently is the team chiropractor for the two other teams in the Windy City, the Blackhawks and the Sky (of the WNBA).

“Most of the time, during the team’s season, I make weekly visits to the practice facility, or if it’s more convenient for the athlete or they require more specific care, they come to my office,” he says. “I maintain my primary practice first; my work with the athletes is icing on the cake.”

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