By Addison Ozakyol
Many students in chiropractic colleges across the nation find the field of sports chiropractic alluring but are often unsure or unaware of steps they can take to set themselves up for success in the profession. While there are countless routes to take to establish yourself within this specialty, here are four key guidelines that can help put you on the right path toward a future working with athletes.
Hone Your Chiropractic Education
It is easy for all of us to look to the future and be excited at the prospect of being a chiropractor at the Olympics or with your favorite professional team, but no doctor could get to that point without first being good at the basics. While in school, it is important to take the time to fully understand the finer details that will elevate your chiropractic skills and techniques and set you apart from other specialties in chiropractic.
A sports chiropractor must be competent in anatomy, first aid, rehabilitation, modality use, adjusting (master those extremities) and many of the other facets we receive from our education. Find the components that will enhance your practice and learn them well so that you can properly apply them. From there, take the opportunity to explore advanced training from the countless seminars and symposiums that help refine your craft. Dive into those courses on movement assessment, soft-tissue techniques, and emergency medicine, but always remember that we are chiropractors at the root of it all.
Try to be active with your school’s sports council club and even the Student ACA Sports Council Executive Committee. These groups will open countless opportunities for sports chiropractic education and even experiences working various events.
At the same time, students often overlook how involvement in the community could make a difference in their careers. While in school, it is the perfect time to find where you can apply yourself with local organizations or teams in your area. Interested in bringing a masters softball team or CrossFit athletes into your future office? Become a coach or volunteer at one of their events! Learn the athlete lingo associated with these groups and practice to understand how their specific sport may change the application of biomechanics, injuries and treatment.
To take it one step further, use some free time to serve the community and volunteer with nonprofits like your local Rotary Club or Special Olympics. When the time comes for events in your future practice, they will remember your involvement and often your volunteer work will be paid forward.
Find Mentors in the Field
As you progress with your interest in sports chiropractic, you will certainly come across the greats and be able to pick their brains about anything and everything. I am not talking just about our Hall of Famers, but all the incredible chiropractors who are involved with the Sports Council. They all walked so that we could run, and they are often more than willing to lend their advice, give pointers or simply educate. Stay connected with them at symposiums and events or even through social media. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a new technique or rehab approach on one of our doctor’s social media pages, and they have been more than willing to tell me more about it through messages. These are relationships that will help you to reach new heights within the field. In sports chiropractic, as in other fields, it often comes down to who you know that makes the difference.
Shadow, Shadow, Shadow!
When we think of sports chiropractors, we like to imagine that these doctors in the field are only treating athletes or very specific populations, but those who practice that way are few and far between. In fact, for most sports doctors, athletes are only a certain percentage of the patients they see, and many will primarily treat a base of family practice. With this in mind, it is so important to shadow chiropractors who don’t just work with a sports specialty to find the practice style that works for you.
By seeing how other chiropractors flow through their office space, routines, and patient visits, it becomes easier to envision how sports and active populations may be integrated into your own care. Observing other styles of chiropractic care may even change your outlook on other specialties and create ways of incorporating practice styles that are new and unique to your own practice.
For those of you who are interested in pursuing a career in sports chiropractic, we welcome you! This is a field that is constantly growing, changing, and developing thanks to the efforts of those who work in it. As a student, the thought of working in this profession may be daunting, but by following these four guidelines I hope that you will find yourself educated, connected and well prepared to face your future as a sports chiropractor.
Addison Ozakyol is a member of the ACA Sports Council’s social media team and a student at National University of Health Sciences in St. Petersburg, Fla. To learn more about the benefits of membership in the ACA Sports Council, visit https://acasc.org/.