From football players to ballet dancers ... sports chiropractors help all kinds of athletes

From football players to ballet dancers ... sports chiropractors help all kinds of athletes

Fall/Winter 2014

cover story

Palmer alumni help all kinds of athletes stay in the game

From adjustments, injury-prevention and rehabilitation strategies to regular spine and musculoskeletal exams to tips on conditioning, strength training and nutrition, chiropractors are ideal health care partners for athletes who want to stay in the game— whatever that game may be. The following stories illustrate how Palmer alumni are helping athletes at all levels achieve their performance goals.

Helping ballet dancers perform with intensity

Margaret Huling, ballet mistress for Ballet Quad Cities, in a performance of “Carmen.” Photo by Joe Maciejko
Margaret Huling in pose

The three chiropractors at Kaminski Pain and Performance Care in Bettendorf, Iowa, rely heavily on the core tenet of the body being able to heal itself, but they’re also instructors for Active Release Technique and use this soft tissue management system as a complementary approach to patient care, says Jesse Walden, D.C., one of the practice’s doctors and a 2006 graduate of Palmer’s Davenport campus. This combination has proven successful with athletes of all levels.

The practice sees a variety of patients from week-old infants to 95- year-olds. “A lot of our patients are people who are intentionally active regardless of their athletic ability,” Dr. Walden adds. “Thankfully we’ve developed a good reputation for getting people better quickly, so we’ve been fortunate to see some higher-level athletes.”

About a dozen of the world-class athletes they see regularly are members of Ballet Quad Cities, a ballet company founded in 1996 that consists of 13 highly trained full-time professional dancers.

Ballet Quad Cities Executive Director Joedy Cook was so impressed by the care she and the dancers of Ballet Quad Cities received at Kaminski Pain and Performance Care, she now recommends her dancers go to the practice first if they experience any kind of pain or injury.

“I recommend to all of my dancers, and in fact to anyone, that they see a chiropractor before any other health care professional,” Ms. Cook says. “Chiropractic care is conservative and natural, and that’s always the preferred treatment before more invasive methods are explored.”

Chiropractic care is beneficial for ballet dancers in a number of ways. “Ballet dancers use and integrate unique combinations of speed, power, control and stamina when they perform, therefore they’re very aware when subtle dysfunctions may be present,” Dr. Walden adds. “Applying appropriately specific adjustments after a thorough biomechanical evaluation allows the dancers to intensely train with a reduced risk of injury, and therefore perform at high levels.”

Pro golfers to middle schoolers turn to chiropractic

Dr. David Johnson in front of his Cedar Rapids, Iowa, practice.
Dr. David Johnson in front of building

David Johnson, D.C., Davenport ’77, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is no stranger to sports. Between watching his son, professional golfer and Masters Champion Zach Johnson, and devoting his time providing care to Mount Mercy College student-athletes, he sees a variety of athletes in his practice. From middle school sports participants to high-level competitors, each day is a reminder of how vital chiropractic care is to the current success and future potential of these athletes.

Dr. Johnson with his son, pro golfer and Masters Champion Zach Johnson.
Dr. Johnson with son Zach Johnson on green

“Athletes are turning to chiropractic first after injuries,” he says. “They’re looking for less-invasive procedures that allow for shorter turnaround times and few side effects and setbacks. Chiropractic is just that. They are seeing the results and continue to see them under chiropractic care.”

They want to stay in the game

Dr. Anne Sorrentino (left), working through WMI Global, LLC, directs a spine boarding drill at the Toyota City Championships Brooklyn for the Dew Tour.
Dr. Anne Sorrentino in front of group of responders on ramp

Anne Sorrentino, D.C., DACBSP, Davenport ’88, Tysons Corner, Va., became interested in sports chiropractic after successful chiropractic treatment of her own shoulder injury.

“I saw the value of using chiropractic with athletes and took the CCSP (Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician) course a few years after graduating from Palmer to learn the specifics of sports injuries,” she says. She then went on to earn her sports diplomate.

Earning her CCSP and DACBSP gave her credibility and the opportunity to work with the recreational teams her sons played on as they grew up, she adds. “As new sports treatments came out, I learned them. Soft tissue work, both manual and instrument assisted, and kinesiology taping are staples for every sports med D.C.”

Even with all of these qualifications, Dr. Sorrentino says it was an uphill battle to care for athletes in school programs because Pennsylvania laws didn’t favor chiropractors working in schools. “Finally, a college club ice hockey team that had no sports medical services was thrilled to have me help them and I have been ever since,” she says.

Athletes make for rewarding patients, she says, because they’re “so appreciative of any help you can give them. They want to stay in the game. Because they’re in such good shape, they respond quickly to care. Athletes are more compliant with their exercises, although sometimes you have to slow them down because they want to do too much.”

Working with community athletes

black and white of volleyball players blocking over net

Karen Roitz, D.C., DACBSP, San Jose ’96, was in a car accident the summer before she was due to attend UC-Berkeley, from which she’d earned a scholarship to play on the Bears’ nationally ranked women’s volleyball team. She sought chiropractic care, and the positive results not only enabled her to continue training for her first season on the UC-Berkeley volleyball team, but also inspired her to become a chiropractor.

“Being a sports chiropractor was a natural progression for me, because I’m an athlete, and I love all sports,” she says. She’s the founder and director of SOL Santa Cruz, a multidisciplinary clinic providing evidence-based chiropractic care and other sportsperformance programs. “The emphasis in my office is working with the ‘community athlete.’ ”

She has served as chiropractor for the Santa Cruz Derby Girls since 2008 and provides care for members of the Cabrillo College women’s volleyball team. She has provided care at multiple athletic events, including Sports Council events like the Sea Otter Classic, Ironman triathlons in Hawaii and Canada, AVP Pro Beach Volleyball and numerous cycling races.

“I love being a sports chiropractor,” she says, “and helping any athlete, from the first-time marathoner to the professional mountain-bike rider to the collegiate volleyball player. It’s not about getting to the starting line or to the championship, it’s about getting there without injury, ready to perform at the highest level.”

Paying it forward for those with sports injuries

Dr. Baker adjusting a patient in his San Jose clinic.
Dr. Baker standing over patient on adjustment table

As a tennis player at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, for Chris Baker, D.C., San Jose ’11, the physical rigors of practicing six days a week, combined with competitive tournaments, resulted in a mid-match injury, which led to his introduction to chiropractic.

His care enabled him to quickly recover from his overuse injuries and served as the inspiration to become a chiropractor. Dr. Baker practices with fellow San Jose alumnus Justin Brink, D.C., CCSP, (’06) at Premiere Spine and Sport in San Jose.

He emphasizes the preventive benefits of chiropractic care with his patients.

“Chiropractic is very effective at facilitating the healing and recovery process from an acute injury, but athletes also need to know how they can proactively prevent the injury from recurring,” he says.

Becoming a Doctor of Chiropractic was the best thing he could do, Dr. Baker asserts. “It’s a great feeling to ‘pay it forward’ for people who need the care, just like I did. The everyday athlete is just like me. They’re often hyper-competitive, and care so much about being able to play their sport or do their fitness routine.”

For the love of the game

In addition to her work with the Outlaws, Dr. Morris has provided care for world-class swimmers as a chiropractor for USA Swimming.
Dr. Morris standing over prone swimmer with hands on back

One of the reasons the Austin Outlaws are the country’s longest-running women’s full-tackle football team (15 years)—and posted a 6-1 record during the 2014 season—could be the clinical skills and philanthropic spirit of San Jose campus 2000 alumna Tara Mahar Morris, D.C., CCSP, who’s volunteered her sports-care services for the past eight years.


The Outlaws, part of the semipro Women’s Football Alliance, are “everyday athletes” in every sense of the words, Dr. Morris says. “I treasure working with these women. They embody the spirit of everyday athletes by working all day and then training with the team in the evenings.”

But while the Outlaws may compete “for the love of the game,” they do share one thing in common with their professional and collegiate counterparts: the risk of injury and the possibility that every play could be their last.

“When you play a game simply for the sheer joy of competition, and you suffer a severe injury, it’s just as devastating to walk away from the game as it is for their professional counterparts,” Dr. Morris says. “I love volunteering my time to provide care for these athletes, because they’re so appreciative and gracious. It gives me just as much pride, if not more, to work with them as it does with Olympic and professional athletes.”

Treating everyone with elite-level care

Dr. O’Tool adjusts a Relay Iowa participant.
Dr. O’Tool standing over athlete on table

Being a sports-focused chiropractor “is a fun and rewarding path,” says Joe O’Tool, Davenport ’11, Grimes, Iowa. For him, there were several key factors to becoming a sports chiropractor.

First, you need a passion for the individuals seeking your care, he says. “Genuine care always comes first for me, and the money and fun follow along with that.” Second is understanding the principles of chiropractic and the unique perspective that chiropractic brings to the athlete’s health care team.

The third key factor is being able to speak the specific language of your target patient base. “Being a competitive, multi-sport athlete since childhood has helped,” he says. “Having a wide range of experience to draw from can be a benefit.”

Finally, he says, making connections is vital to success. “My break came from treating every patient with the same elite-level care,” he says. “Shortly before our grand opening, a pharmaceutical sales rep scheduled an appointment for a neck issue from a bike accident that had bothered her for 18 years. Shortly after that, her husband came in for care. As it turned out, he owns an endurance athlete coaching company.” The referrals kept coming from there.

“Athletes are constantly pushing themselves and need a person on their health care team that understands the function of the nervous system and how to keep it functioning at an elite level,” Dr. O’Tool adds. “This pushes me to constantly review research, hone my skills and learn to communicate in a manner that elevates everyone around me.”

kids playing soccer

Chiropractic is for athletes of all ages

Dr. Ryan Johnson
Dr. Ryan Johnson standing in front of spine model

Ryan T. Johnson, D.C., graduated from Palmer’s Port Orange campus in 2013 and began his own practice, Integrated Chiropractic, in Sarasota, Fla., a year ago. He’s been treating athletes from Riverview High School in the Sarasota area, working mostly with the football, track and soccer programs. He also provides sports physicals and exams for the students.

His passion for working with young athletes has extended to working with athletes from the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. IMG is world-renowned for producing top athletes from high school to professional players training during the off-season. College football players training for the NFL Combine also work with IMG. One of Dr. Johnson’s favorite stories is about how he had the opportunity to treat a college national football champion the day before he went to the 2014 NFL Combine and Draft.

“Chiropractic care is essential for athletes of all ages, no matter where they are in their career,” he says. “Adjustments help provide the body the opportunity to heal, stay balanced and prevent future injuries.”

More resources for athletes

Dr. Mark Chen
Dr. Mark Chen

Mark Chen, D.C., DACBSP, is a 2006 graduate of Palmer’s Port Orange campus. He and his wife, Amber Plante, D.C., a 2005 Port Orange graduate, own their practice in Ocala, Fla., which focuses on wellness, sports and pediatrics. They provide care to local athletes ranging in age from eight to 50 years old.

Dr. Chen has been a team physician for several area high school football teams, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball and baseball teams. He’s also been part of the medical staff for several national and international taekwondo tournaments. Drs. Chen and Plante also participate in a county-wide school-physical program each year where 600-700 athletes are examined in one day.

Dr. Chen’s advice to chiropractic students interested in being a sports chiropractor is to be over-prepared. “You never know what you’ll encounter in the field and you should always be ready,” he says. “Sports chiropractors are usually preferred by athletes.”

runners starting to run

Impacting recreational athletes

Dr. Kevin Rose
Dr. Kevin Rose

A former minor-league baseball player in the Philadelphia Phillies system, Kevin Rose, D.C., CCSP, San Jose ’11, is the owner and director of Pro Form Sports Chiropractic in San Diego, Calif. He practices with his brother, fellow San Jose campus alumnus Travis Rose, D.C., (’13).

Having benefited from chiropractic care as a competitive athlete, Dr. Rose now enjoys helping his patients achieve their athletic goals. “Advancements in the field of sports chiropractic have come about by the growing number of elite athletes seeking chiropractic to help them stay at ‘the top of their game,’ ” he says.

But the majority of athletes he and his brother treat are recreational.

“The skills we learn from working with top athletes enable us to help the recreational athletes achieve much-improved outcomes. Often, when working with recreational athletes, we tap into our clinical knowledge and expertise as chiropractors a bit deeper, because we’re called upon to not only help them with care and management of their primary injury, but also coaching, strength-training and nutrition. Having the ability to impact different aspects of their health makes working with my recreational athletes so rewarding.”

Helping active people feel their best

Dr. Rodman takes care of one of his athletic patients.
Dr. Rodman working on female athlete

Todd Rodman, D.C., CCSP, CSCS, Port Orange ’08, is the founder of Sports Chiropractic and Natural Health Solutions, a non-surgical sports-medicine clinic established in June 2009 in Boca Raton, Fla. The majority of his patients are high school, college and professional people and active individuals who want to feel their best, maximize athletic performance and “not be told to stop doing what they love to do,” he says.

Dr. Rodman is the official team chiropractor for Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and West Boca High School and is the director of athlete services for the Cross-Fit Southeast Regionals. While he attributes his success to many things, he says most specifically it’s due to focus, dedication, work ethic and ability to relate to the athlete.

“I played Division 1 college baseball and had many injuries from playing hard and heavy weightlifting,” he says. “I’ve been on the treatment table many times.”

His proudest practice moment came when he became the official team chiropractor for the FAU Owls.

“They already had two excellent team chiropractors for about 10 years and weren’t looking to hire another D.C.,” he says. “FAU gave me a chance because they believed in my abilities to treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal issues and my philosophy toward treating athletes. I believe in treating the entire musculoskeletal system, not just the muscles and not just the bones, but the entire inter-related system.”

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