World Games 2022: A ‘Spectacular’ Event for Chiropractic Inclusivity

Doctors of chiropractic from eight countries represented the International Federation of Sports Chiropractic (FICS) from July 7-17 at the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Ala. Throughout the event, FICS chiropractors treated more than 3,400 athletes participating in 30+ unique sports. Of the 48 chiropractors in attendance, 28 were American Chiropractic Association (ACA) members.

FICS chiropractors treat athletes at the canoe polo venue at the 2022 World Games (Photo Credit: FICS)

For some members, like Keith Overland, DC, CCSP, who has worked many elite athletic events over his career, the experience in Birmingham was a revelation in how far chiropractic has come in the sports world and the growing appreciation for what it provides. He said at the Games this year, participating chiropractors worked in fully equipped, air-conditioned tents at all 15 venues of the competition. They were granted special credentials by the Alabama Legislature and given lodging and uniforms like the rest of the medical team. “[Our services] were treated as a vital component of health care. It was one of the most spectacular events for the inclusivity of chiropractic care,” recalled Dr. Overland, who also serves as secretary-general of FICS.

The warm welcome is the result of years of relationship building between FICS and the International World Games Association (IWGA). FICS began its partnership with IWGA in 2003 and has since developed a contract to supply sports chiropractors for the World Games, which are held every four years in locations across the globe.

“Through our work at the World Games, we now have seven different sports federations that we have contracts with,” said Brian Nook, DC, DACBSP, ICSC, FICC, who serves as the FICS representative to the International Sports Federation Commission. “The strategy is to prove how sports chiropractic can assist in the world of sport.”

During the event, chiropractors treat credentialed individuals associated with the games, including athletes and officials. “We work only in the warm-up areas,” Dr. Nook explained. “Our primary focus is getting the athlete ready to perform at their best and their optimum, and also recovery after their competition and getting them ready for their next competition.”

Drs. Keith Schaller, Jose Balseca, and Wendy Mehaffey work with artistic skate athletes from Italy, China, and Germany (Photo Credit: FICS)

Another FICS goal is to earn chiropractic care regular representation at the Olympic Games. While chiropractors do support athletes at the Olympics, their participation depends on the host country, as well as individual participating countries, teams and athletes, Dr. Overland explained. At the World Games, however, DCs are as much a part of the healthcare structure as MDs and PTs.

“We are trying to educate the IOC (International Olympic Committee) on what we provide and our benefit, but also to make sure that there’s an equitable and level playing field for all athletes,” Dr. Nook said. “Putting [chiropractic] into the Olympics, that’s been a long 30-year project that we’ve been working on, but we have to prove ourselves. We need to demonstrate what we’re doing, and the World Games and working with the international federations allows us to do that.”

“The pinnacle of FICS is that every athlete deserves access to sports chiropractic, and this is a way in which we can hopefully help to make that happen,” he added.

Working with FICS at the World Games or another world championship event is a unique opportunity for chiropractors. “To work at an international event, on world champions, in a sport that may not be in the Olympics, is as close as you can get to the Olympics,” Dr. Nook explained. “The World Games — which a lot of people don’t really understand — features the top athletes in the world in sports that just don’t happen to be in the Olympics. It is a chance to work with sports that they may never be exposed to. Most people have never worked on fin swimmers or sumo wrestlers.”

DCs also have the chance to collaborate with colleagues from around the world and learn from each other. “The friendships and enjoyment that [chiropractors] get out of that is just as strong as the feedback and the fulfillment of treating athletes and accredited individuals during the games,” Dr. Nook said.

There were eight nations represented in the FICS delegation this year, with chiropractors traveling to Birmingham from Australia, South Africa, Denmark and more. The group consisted of 48 doctors of chiropractic, four student researchers, an administrator and a research coordinator. Dr. Nook said that FICS selects each team carefully to balance backgrounds and experience. “We have to have international representation, we have to have inclusion and equity, and we also balance experience,” he continued.

The FICS delegation at the 2022 World Games included 48 chiropractors from eight countries (Photo Credit: FICS)

“We take those that have been to the World Games, those who have done other FICS events, and those that have an ISCS (International Certificate in Sports Chiropractic) but have not done many or any FICS events. We build this delegation of veterans, experienced but non-veterans, and newbies, and we cluster them together. It’s a unique opportunity for people to get involved.”

Chiropractors who are interested in participating in an international event with FICS must complete an International Certificate in Sports Chiropractic (ISCS). More information about FICS and the ISCS is available on the FICS website.