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Dr. Bill Moreau at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games

The Role of Chiropractic Care in the Olympic and Paralympic Games

As you watch the Olympic Games this year, remember that behind many great Olympians is a great chiropractor. Dr. Bill Moreau shares his experiences and observations from his time on the United States Olympic Committee.

Speaker Feature

By Dr. Bill Moreau

During these unsettling times you may wonder why do we even hold Olympic and Paralympic games? The reasons the “games go on” are varied ranging from tradition, to competition, to finances. Recall there are two “Games” typically held in a set every two years; the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

Primary Goals

There are subtle differences between the primary goals of the Olympic and Paralympic organizations.

Olympic Movement Primary Goal

“To contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”[i]

You might be interested to know that the Paralympic Movement has similar but different primary goals in comparison to the Olympic Games.

Paralympic Organization Primary Goal

“To create the conditions for athlete empowerment through self-determination.”

“To inspire and excite the world: the external result is our contribution to a better world for all people with a disability.”[ii]

These lofty goals of building a peaceful and better world through sport and empowering athletes through self-determination to make a better world for all people inclusive of those people with a disability are certainly inspiring. As Doctors of Chiropractic, we are also inherently interested in enabling people to become physically active to promote their overall wellness. The general idea that countries should lay their political differences aside, at least for a few weeks, to come together to compete in sport in a fair manner to come to understand each other better through sports participation is important. We should all recognize and personally relate to becoming friends with former opponents not only in sport but perhaps more importantly in life.

Fairness on the Field of Play

Both the Olympic and Paralympic organizations have fundamental cornerstones of what might be considered fair play in the sporting arena where the best performance on that specific day wins gold. We recognize the playing field in sport is not always equal. For example, most individuals in the United States are blessed with ample food and many opportunities to participate in sporting activities. Athletes from countries with substantially less resources than the U.S. don’t always have the same opportunities to meet elite sports performance outcomes.

Athlete Regulations

To encourage the fairness on the field of play there are significant regulations placed upon athletes related to how an athlete may enhance their athletic performance. There are probably no greater restrictions on any other athletes than those athletes who are preparing to compete in an Olympic or Paralympic game. These athletes are involved in what is known as a “registered testing pool” where their blood and urine is routinely analyzed to ensure that performance-enhancing drugs are not being utilized to increase sports performance outcomes. To avoid having the athlete, or in some cases you as a healthcare provider, becoming sanctioned for providing illegal performance-enhancing substances be sure to avoid recommending nutritional or herbal supplements to an athlete who is in a registered testing pool. Not all supplements are controlled, some have been certified as safe for these athletes. It is your responsibility before recommending a nutritional supplement to know with certainty that the supplement is not on the banned list.

The Role of the Chiropractor

Many of the world’s finest athletes compete in sport as Olympic and Paralympic competitors. As a drugless healthcare profession who can provide immediate change for the patient athlete under our care many athletes appreciate the services of a well-trained Doctor of Chiropractic. When success is measured in the hundredth of a second or fraction of an inch any difference that helps the athlete perform to the best of their ability is a big difference. The opportunity to provide an immediate and drugless enhancement of health is why chiropractic care is important to the Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

As a former leader for sports medicine for the largest Olympic National Organizational Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, now referred to as the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, I had the first-hand opportunity to both meet the athletes we cheer for as we watch them compete on television and to know these athletes as people. It was a privilege to observe the positive outcomes of conservative care working to the benefit of the athlete. One interesting observation is while we see these athletes perform on a 2 or 4 year cycle, the vast majority of athletes have been dedicating their life for the past 20 years to get to the Olympic or Paralympic games. Every Olympic and Paralympic athlete, regardless of which country they represent, are amazing athletes. Only the best of the best climb and complete the assent to the top to compete on the world stage and represent their country in an Olympic or Paralympic Game.

Athletes Need Their Own Pit Crew

It is obvious that the athlete’s 20 years of effort leading to the opportunity to demonstrate they are the best in the world in a particular sport, at a particular time, is an incredibly difficult task to achieve. Simply not sleeping well or struggling with mental stress can result in decreased athletic performance. A musculoskeletal injury is one of the most common healthcare challenges these athletes face. When it comes to using chiropractic care the majority of the elite athletes are very aware of their body as well as any restrictions or impedance to their body’s performance. You might imagine providing care to an athlete of this caliber it to be like working on the engine of a higher performance fighter jet; little changes can result in significant and measurable changes in power output and performance outcomes.

Most elite athletes have many individuals involved in their healthcare entourage. Individuals may include the athlete’s allopathic physician, sports psychologists, sports dietitian, massage therapist, strength and conditioning coach and in many cases a Doctor of Chiropractic as well as a host of other individuals. The fact that Doctors of Chiropractic are involved in many athlete’s healthcare team is not surprising.

Impact on Health - the Athlete's Driver

It is my observation that during the games the athletes are not looking for interventions that will take weeks or days to result in a positive change. Time is of the essence and the utilization of chiropractic care provides for the opportunity for immediate and significant changes to their health and resultant athletic performance.  Additionally, many athletes have shared they feel that chiropractic care helps them to maintain their health so that they can meet the strenuous requirements of the near continuous high-level training necessary to achieve elite sports performance outcomes. This impact on health is what drives the inclusion of chiropractic care for the athletes competing in the Olympic and Paralympic games; the presence of Doctors of Chiropractic is not affirmatively driven by organizational political aspirations or past positive outcomes, the inclusion of chiropractic is driven by the athletes themselves who seek and demand chiropractic care especially during the critically important Games competitions that they have worked so hard to compete at.

History of Chiropractic Care Involvement

Regarding Team USA, before the 1970s there were few Doctors of Chiropractic officially credentialed to participate as healthcare providers at an Olympic Game within the Olympic Village. This changed in recent Games with 10 Doctors of Chiropractic credentialed for the London Summer Olympic Games and 18 Doctors of Chiropractic credentialed for the Rio Summer Olympic Games.

It may surprise you, based upon recorded Team USA medical encounters at the London and Rio Olympic Games, Doctors of Chiropractic typically recorded more patient encounters than any other category of healthcare provider. This should validate that a Doctor of Chiropractic is both a useful and important part of an athlete’s healthcare “entourage”. Regardless if the athlete is an adolescent, high school, collegiate, professional, Olympic or Paralympic competitor there is a place for a well-trained Doctor of Chiropractic to positively influence the individual to become the best that they can become in their athletic endeavors.

Olympic Team Consideration

Perhaps you are interested in providing services to team USA at Olympic Games. Like the athlete who practices becoming better every day, it typically requires a similar dedication seeking sustained excellence and a significant investment of your time and talents. Team USA looks for the Doctor of Chiropractic seeking to be credentialed for the Olympic games to have either a sports diplomate or a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician® certificate of additional qualification through the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians TM.

Summary

Now as you may choose to watch these 2022 Winter Games, consider the Games as having the power to bring people together and promote a sense of collective connectedness between individuals and nations. While you watch the Games, know also your colleagues are there working hard behind the scenes. They are there helping the athletes to compete with one another. We can also learn from sport to compete, but also respect one another before, during and after the competition.


Sources

All opinions expressed by guest writers are their own and do not reflect the opinions of NCMIC.

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