Chiropractors in Beijing

Tim Marshall
January 31, 2009
Written by Tim Marshall
Unprecedented presence of DCs on Olympic medical teams

The 2008 Beijing Olympics were an historical event for our profession. This was true not only for Canada, where we saw eight chiropractors working in official roles with various teams, but even for smaller countries such as the Bahamas and the Philippines, where chiropractors were also members of their medical teams. Perhaps most impressive was that the United States had, for the first time, a chiropractor as its Medical Director for Sports Performance.

The inclusion, by the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian national sport organizations, of so many chiropractors among the medical support staff highlights the status and credibility that our profession has earned among the sporting elite. No longer is it just a few “pioneer” chiropractors who have earned their way into these highly regarded roles, but many more have gained the trust and credibility to be working with these elite athletes. Chiropractic treatments are being increasingly accepted and sought after, in this community, mainly because of the expansion of different integrated manual therapies that are regularly being employed by an increasing number of chiropractors. The development and utilization of soft-tissue techniques such as Active Release Therapy, Graston and others, and the combination with adjunctive treatments such as acupuncture, Kinesiotaping or low intensity laser, have helped expand the types of injuries that chiropractors can effectively treat. When dealing with elite athletes, a mixed skill-set is critical to effectively treat the wide range of soft-tissue, articular, and neuromuscular injuries that are common in this population.

In Beijing, the Canadian Olympic medical team consisted of approximately 45 health-care practitioners all working together towards one goal – the optimal performance and health of our athletes. Every appropriate medical specialist was represented on Canada’s medical team, including sports medicine specialists, orthopedic surgeons, massage therapists, chiropractors and sport psychologists. Interdisciplinary co-operation was one of the first priorities for this team. With the medical team consisting of such a wide range of professional specialties, everyone contributed a different perspective. This is often the most difficult aspect of these assignments, as most of us are used to working alone or within a specific specialty. Egos must be checked at the door and team members must always be willing to incorporate the differing approaches, ideas and help of other professionals. If the common goal is forgotten and team members start to become territorial, problems will develop. The ability to work effectively alongside other practitioners, often sharing patients, is one of the most important skills necessary to be an effective member of the medical team.

Secondly, as an Olympic team medical delegate, one should have a detailed knowledge of World Anti-Doping guidelines in order to monitor athletes and advise them on which pharmaceuticals and supplements they may safely use. Also, one needs to be familiar with doping control procedures, in order to be able to assist and supervise the athletes, should they be selected for drug tests.

The Canadian Olympic medical team did an incredible job setting up a temporary clinic in the athlete’s village to deal with any and all medical problems that could arise and to serve all the athletes’ needs. The clinic even contained a “zen” room that provided yoga equipment, comfy chairs and soft music to athletes who needed to focus, meditate or just relax. The clinic saw an immense amount of traffic through its doors and effectively dealt with emergencies and urgencies such as fractures, systemic infections and even a poisoning. Each sport also had a medical team member accompany them to their training or competition venue to provide on-site medical support. Medical team members often split their time between the clinic and competition sites, which made for long days.

To be a member of this team is indeed a lot of work, but is also a great honour and privilege. Representing one’s country, and wearing the Canadian colours in a foreign land, is an experience that makes one feel truly Canadian and certainly proud to be such.

Plans are already well underway for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and chiropractic services will be available, not only to the Canadian athletes through our medical team, but also available, as part of Canada’s Olympic host medical clinic, to visiting athletes and delegates in need of services.

As chiropractors, we also know what an honour it is to be trusted with the health of a person’s body, but this is intensified when one is dealing with an individual who relies on their body to earn a living from sport, and achieve their greatest goals. •

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