Business Talk: What athletes want – revisited

Information for aspiring sports chiropractors
Anthony Lombardi
April 05, 2019
Written by
Professional athletes are willing to pay for practitioners who are able to provide for their needs.
Professional athletes are willing to pay for practitioners who are able to provide for their needs. Photo: Getty Images
In 2012, I penned “What Athletes Want,”. The piece was the first of its kind to feature high-performance professional athletes talking about what they looked for in a chiropractor. Seven years later we re-visit this topic to bring new perspectives to chiropractors looking  to make treating professional athletes a revenue-generating stream in their practice.

In the 2012 article, I interviewed players from eight different NFL teams and asked them what they looked for in a chiropractor. Their answers demonstrated that high-performance athletes are looking for more than just an adjustment – they are looking for care that maintains their performance. Amazingly, each of their answers had extremely similar undertones that clarified their needs. Here are some of their comments:

“I choose my doctors based on reputation. If other respected athletes recommend them, and if they do acupuncture and muscle work, I am there.”

“The biggest thing I look for is someone who understands the kind of treatment I need. I prefer more muscle treatment.”

Additionally, an important question I asked the pro athletes was how they felt about chiropractors that provide treatment to them for free. The answers were shocking and demonstrated that professional athletes are willing to pay for practitioners who are able to provide for their needs:

“I just wouldn’t expect a doctor who doesn’t charge for treatments to really be concerned about who he is treating.”

“I feel that when I’m paying for treatment I become more accountable for my health.”

“I don’t want anything for free. It makes me question the level of treatment I would get.”

These sentiments echo true in the NHL as well. Even McEneny of the Vancouver Canucks said: “Generally, my opinion is that if the treatment is free then the therapist won’t care as much and have any personal incentive to do the job the right way.”

During the summer months I usually have the pleasure of treating some Olympians as well. Recently I interviewed Nick Poloniato, a pilot for the Canadian Olympic Bobsled Team. Nick finished 7th in the world (Two-Man Bobsled) at the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea. I was extremely impressed with the quality of answers he gave me – which shows that athletes are becoming accountable and more involved in their care.

“The types of treatments I prefer to receive from a chiropractor would be acupuncture (whether that be work with the pointer plus or electro stim and IMS) and if I need any soft tissue work or adjustments as well,” Poloniato says. “It’s important that a chiropractor has many different tools at their disposal. Performance care is mandatory when competing at the Olympic level in a sport where medals are lost by hundredths of a second. We are trying to squeeze every last bit out of our bodies.”

Naturally, to best serve aspiring sports chiropractors, it would be prudent to speak to someone in our profession who is providing the services pro athletes want, while at the same time getting fairly compensated for it.

IN THE FIELD
Enter Dr. Vasko Grujovski (@v.g.chiropro). Dr. Grujovski is an Ajax-based chiropractor who travels across the country providing care to a variety of NFL, CFL, and NHL players during both the regular season and the off-season.

“Pro athletes are typically referred to me by other pro athletes or teammates in the off-season to help in the recovery of nagging injuries from the previous season,” Grujovski says. “Athletes typically present to my office with muscles that are inhibited, which leads to mechanical breakdown in the joints causing pain and weakness.”

Dr. Grujovski has been fortunate to provide performance care to Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, and Grey Cup Champions (sometimes in the same season), while being paid well to do it.

Some of Dr. Grujovski’s athletes were interviewed and shared what they look for in a chiropractor who provides performance-enhancing services:

“Whether I’m lifting weights in the summer, or playing during the season, I always look to chiropractic care with acupuncture to help those aches and pains.”— Brandon Montour, Anaheim Ducks (NHL)

“I’ve noticed that getting regular treatment of acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage helps me manage and prevent injuries, which can give me the opportunity to have a long hockey career”— Andy Andreoff, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL)

“Acupuncture and muscle work help my body prepare itself because as a professional athlete your body breaks down even when you’re not in pain.”— Jonah Gadjovich, Vancouver Canucks (NHL)

“I enjoy acupuncture and soft tissue [work]. Personally, I like to get my hips and low back worked on every day.”— Dylan Sikura, Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)

“I’ve always responded well to muscle work but the acupuncture has definitely helped me over the years. The more a chiropractor can offer the better. I think getting treatment all year long helps me maximize my performance so I can play as long as possible.”— Zach Collaros, CFL quarterback, 2012 Grey Cup Champion

During the 2017 season, Canadian-born, Super Bowl XLVIII Champion and Seattle Seahawks tight-end Luke Willson reached out to Dr. Grujovski to receive performance care on a regular basis. From here his NFL roster began to grow.

Treatment arrangements need to be set with players since they are often travelling all over the country during the season. Dr. Grujovski figures out number of treatments delivered over a set number of days by taking a look at their schedules.

“Athletes typically arrange flight itineraries and cover airfare, hotel costs and pay a daily fee that is set by myself. Other times, depending where the athlete is, they will travel to me,” Grujovski says.

“Typically a trip will be over the weekend from Friday to Sunday, or two to three days during the week.  Treatments are done daily and can last anywhere from two to three hours, and are occasionally broken up into morning and evening sessions depending on the athletes time commitment to practices and meetings.  

Longevity wins
In my article “For Love – and money”, I revealed that chiropractors in the CFL and NFL are not handsomely rewarded financially, and in fact many work for free and some team physicians actually pay the club to be the official team doctor. I wondered if this could play a role in an athlete’s decision to pay for their own chiropractor, rather than using the free services provided by their club.

“It simply comes down to mathematics. On a football team there are 60 or so players, so time constraints do not allow the athletes to get the necessary one-on-one attention that is needed to finely tune them to perform at their best,” Grujovski says.

“I think today’s athletes realize the importance of keeping their bodies tuned up for performance because playing their sport is not only their passion but their livelihood. Their longevity will lead to better overall compensation allowing these athletes to retire comfortably without having to worry about their financial future. It is an investment for these athletes to seek out and pay out of pocket for their own chiropractors in order to secure and prolong their playing futures.”

To echo Dr. Grujovski, I recall in 2011 Wayne Smith of the Toronto Argos (CFL) suffered a knee injury and was contemplating retirement. He received a treatment combination of acupuncture and muscle work and he went on to play six more seasons and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars along with a Grey Cup win in 2012.

Times may change but clearly the needs of athletes seem to be static today compared to seven years ago. Professional athletes are choosing chiropractors with a variety of manual tools to complement and enhance sports performance.


ANTHONY  LOMBARDI, DC, is  a  private  consultant  to  athletes  in  the  NFL,  CFL  and  NHL,  and  founder of the Hamilton Back Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic. He teaches his fundamental EXSTORE Assessment System and practice building workshops to various health professionals. For more information, visit exstore.ca.

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