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A sports chiropractor works with an athlete to help with her performance.

Four Things to Think About if You Want to Work With Athletes

Is sports chiropractic in your future? If you're thinking about pursuing this particular line of care, consider these four things first.

You don’t have to be a sports chiropractor to work with athletes. Many chiropractors work with runners, golfers, dancers and others who have an active hobby. You don’t have to be on a team with a logo to be an athlete. If you’re passionate about working with elite athletes, and teams, then read on.  

Step 1: Know Yourself 

If you want to build a practice that specifically embraces sports, start by doing a deep-dive into who you are and what you want out of your career and your life. You’ll be more successful and more satisfied if you design your career with you at the center, rather than trying to design your life around your career.  

According to Dr. Kelley Humphries, DC, you need to be “…insightful enough to know if the way you want to practice actually matches the population you're actually trying to target.”  

Step 2: Understand What Sports Chiropractic Is (and isn’t) 

Being a sports chiropractor means you are working with a human that performs athletic activities to optimize their performance and keep them out of pain. You won’t spend all of your time traveling with a team or standing on the side lines of major sporting events. This is a small part of your job.  

As a sports chiropractor for a team – be it an NFL team or the local high school team – you’re part of an ecosystem. The team will have other key members including coaches, physical trainers, therapists, and medical doctors. You need to understand your role, and know that you’re a cog in that wheel, not the wheel itself. Your shared mission is to serve the athlete. You are not the focus. 

Dr. Humphries gives an example: “If the team has somebody that specializes in a specific issue, my knowledge allows me to have a very meaningful conversation with that professional so that professional understands what I did to get the person out of pain and what they need to do to keep the person out of pain.”  

Step 3: Prepare Scholastically and Obtain Appropriate Certifications 

Once you know the environment you want to work in and understand the needs of the individual or group in that environment, take time to understand the unique needs of those athletes. Determine the needs of that niche and then go from there. It definitely helps to have additional certifications so that you can be the ultimate translator in that environment.  

  • If you intend to treat college athletes, a strength and conditioning certification is more valuable than a CSP. 
  • If you’re considering a team outside of the USA, an International Sports Chiropractic Certification might be worthwhile.
  • The Emergency Medical Practitioner designation is also very useful.  

Step 4: Know the Rules 

Documentation is just as important – maybe more so! – on a football field as it is in your office. This is important for risk management, but it’s also important for the athlete’s ongoing care and well-being. Providing clear and detailed documentation tells the athlete you care about them as a whole person. You’re explaining what you’re doing for them now, so they can take that information back to their home doctor. You’re part of an ecosystem.  


Recently we spoke with Dr. Kelley Humphries. Dr. Humphries earned her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Texas Chiropractic College and served on the faculty of Logan University. She is currently the executive director of USA Para Powerlifting. In our Chiropractical podcast, and the webinar “Good Sport(s): All About Sports Chiropractic,” Dr. Humphries shared her experience and thoughts about this interesting topic.  

Listen to the podcast

Watch the webinar

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