As the father of a student who recently entered high-school sports (soccer), I have come to recognize an untapped opportunity for the chiropractic profession. In a nutshell, high-school sports differ from recreational and club sports in a number of ways; the biggest – and most relevant to our profession – may be the number of injuries incurred by the players. Here's how we can help ... and what it will do to advance awareness and appreciation of chiropractic care.
Let's consider the sport my son plays: soccer. The average club soccer team at the same age level will field 16-18 players. By comparison, a high-school soccer team (consisting of all club players) will carry 24 players. The additional 6-8 players are there for insurance against injuries.
Because of the more intense nature of high-school soccer, 2-6 players on the team are almost always injured. The injuries range from sprains / strains to broken bones and torn ACLs. Players may be out for a game, take a week or so to recover, or miss the rest of the season.
According to a recent report by ESPN,1 not only do high-school athletes sustain more injuries than college and professional players, but they "also lack the standard of care that is afforded to college and pro players, who have teams of neurologists and other medical experts managing their injuries. Many high schools cannot afford athletic trainers or proper equipment."
According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are 26,407 public secondary schools and 10,693 private secondary schools in the nation.2 That's essentially one high school for every two doctors of chiropractic. According to this same source, there are approximately 14.7 million high-school students in the U.S.; that's about 210 students per DC.
About half of all high-school students participate in sports, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.3 For the 2012-2013 school year, that equates to 7,713,577 participants (still approximately 110 athletes per doctor of chiropractic).
I can tell you from experience that at almost every high-school soccer game, at least one player (usually several) will limp off the field during or by the end of the game. I also can tell you that the parents and coaches are generally willing to do whatever is required to not only help the players recover for the next game, but also ensure that the players do what they need to do to maintain peak performance.
Most high-school sports injuries are either acute (bruises, sprains, strains, fractures, etc.) or overuse injuries (typically musculoskeletal or growth plate). These conditions are made-to-order for chiropractic management.
Of course, there is a cost to getting involved in high-school sports. You will have to give up 1-2 afternoons / evenings each week to attend the games / events. In the soccer world, you could attend as many as six games (two each for the frosh / soph, JV and varsity teams), but many of these are played one right after the other.
You also will have to take the time to develop relationships with the coaches and administrators. As might be expected, they may not immediately see the value of chiropractic and understand why you should be at every game.
While at each game / event, you also will have the opportunity to educate players' parents. At some point, you may find yourself involved in a discussion with an MD or RN parent who may or may not understand chiropractic. Like the teams you care for, you won't "win" every discussion, but you will convert a lot of families when they see what you can do for their children.
Depending on the size of the high school, it could require 2-3 docs to cover all of the sports played in a given season. Fall sports typically include football, water polo and cross-country. Winter sports include basketball, soccer and wrestling. The spring season includes most of the other sports – baseball, tennis, track, golf and others.
A concerted chiropractic effort across the country could change the direction of health care in the United States in as little as 10 years. Assuming every high school had at least one DC caring for most of their athletes, 20 million young adults and another 20-40 million older adults would understand the value of chiropractic care firsthand. That would equate to approximately 15 percent of the U.S. population by then, which could be the tipping point between a drug-oriented society and one willing to consider the alternatives.
Regardless of what is accomplished nationally, it is easy to see how your participation could affect the health of your community and practice. You might even find yourself being recognized at sports banquets, by the school itself or in a statement of appreciation by a newly signed pro athlete who wants to thank everyone who played a part in their success.
The goal is simple: provide chiropractic to those in need. High-school athletes have substantial needs and the vast majority is left wanting for someone to address them. A little effort and a few hours a week could take you and chiropractic higher than you might imagine.
- Farrey T. "Preps at Greater Concussion Risk." ESPN.com, Oct. 31, 2013.
- High School Facts at a Glance. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education.
- National Federation of State High School Associations 2012-13 Athletics Participation Summary.
Click here for more information about Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher.