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Dynamic Chiropractic – October 22, 2001, Vol. 19, Issue 22

Barry Bonds - a True Chiropractic Champion

By Alan Palmer, DC, CCST
For the first time, to my knowledge, a major league player has requested that a chiropractor be available to him in every city on the team's schedule!

What an incredible year San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds has had! He has put up unbelievable numbers, despite receiving almost half again as many walks this season as Sammy Sosa, the second-most-walked player in baseball.

Barry has passed several Hall-of-Famers on the all-time home run list, and the really cool thing is, chiropractic care has been a major part of his success. (Editor's note: As we go to press, Bonds has hit 66 homers with 12 games remaining. He's chasing Mark McGwire's record of 70 home runs.)

As the Giants' spring training chiropractic consultant, I have had the opportunity to become close to Barry over the last eight years. He is a private, yet personable man. The media has slanted his public persona, but in his defense, try to imagine being one of the most recognized people in sports and being unable to enjoy any time to yourself whenever you are out in public. The admonition to "be slow to criticize another unless you have walked in his shoes" is appropriate in his case.

Barry has been a big believer in chiropractic for many years. Initially introduced to it by Dr. Nick Athens,DC, who had the opportunity to work with Barry for 10 years, Barry has made chiropractic part of his lifestyle. He has helped carry the chiropractic torch by graciously allowing our profession to publicly announce his feelings about chiropractic in the media.

Six years ago, when Barry fell down a flight of steps during spring training, Mark Letendre, the head athletic trainer at the time, called me to assess Barry's condition before he received an MRI later that day.1,2 When I arrived, Barry was in severe pain. He had pain radiating into his hip and groin. He was significantly limited in lumbar range of motion. When I checked him, his leg length was off by an inch; his pelvis was severely rotated; and his SI joint was locked. After getting the green light from Mark, I simply did what any of us would have done: I balanced him out.

Barry got off of the table, bent left and right, forward and back and said, "The pain is totally gone!" Needless to say, everybody standing around watching, including myself, breathed a collective sigh of relief! When Barry left the clubhouse, there was a large number of media people waiting for him, for apparently the word of his fall and injury had leaked out. They shoved their tape recorders and microphones in his face and asked him how he felt.

"I just saw my chiropractor. I feel 100 percent better," Bonds told them.

Those words made national sports headlines and, as they say, the rest is history. I was contacted by a liaison from the ACA, who asked if Barry would be willing to be interviewed by me so that the ACA could put the story on the newswires. He agreed without hesitation. During that interview, Barry observed: "I think it should be mandatory to see a chiropractor and massage therapist."

The ACA was so excited about the prospect of the positive PR for chiropractic that its liaison contacted me again and asked if I would see if Barry would be willing to do a taped video segment for broadcast. Again, Barry immediately agreed, although he joked, "You guys are really going to owe me."

The ACA had a TV news crew meet us at the clubhouse in San Francisco at the start of the season. The crew filmed Dr. Athens, Mark Letendre, Rod Beck (the Giants' all-time saves leader), Barry, and other players getting adjusted. During Barry's interview, he related how chiropractic adjustments helped clear up his sinuses. He also explained how the body gets out of balance, causing the hamstrings to get tight, and how getting adjusted helps him perform at his best. It was awesome!

Mark Letendre asked Dr. Athens and me to create a organization chiropractic that would help establish a network of DCs qualified to work with professional athletes. This network would understand and follow the same standards and protocols related to player care, but also regarding to their interaction with the team's medical staff. Together we created the Chiropractic Association for Care of the Elite and Professional Athlete (CEPA). In first two years, CEPA provided a certification program to teach techniques and proper communication and protocols for working within a team's multidisciplinary setting. We also worked very hard to educate athletic trainers about the benefits of chiropractic care. We were even invited to speak at the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) to educate certified athletic trainers (ATCs) about the value of chiropractic care for their athletes.

After a couple of years, it became apparent to me that chiropractic would never achieve the status it deserves in sports medicine until we were able to approach the national sports medicine organizations, such as NATA, with one unified voice. NATA had been approached by many chiropractic organizations in an attempt to develop an official relationship, but the feedback I received was that NATA would rather deal with no one than play "politics" by developing a relationship with one organization and not the others.

I went on a campaign to begin creating a dialogue between CEPA and the other chiropractic organizations. I found that we had a lot of common goals and ideals. Slowly, we were able to develop a relationship of trust, and a sense of possibility that it would make more sense to all get in the same boat and row together.

To make a long story much shorter, the United States Sports Chiropractic Federation (USSCF) was formed, thanks to the insight and vision of such leaders as Drs. Tom Hyde and Brian Nook of FICS; ACA Sports Council member Drs. Jeff Solomon; Carl Heigl; Tim Ray; Mike Branch; Abby Irwin; Bill Bonsall; Margaret Karg; and Fran Czajka; John Downes from Life College; Monte Wilburn of ProSport; and many others too numerous to list.

This past spring marked an historic event with the formal election of the first board and development of bylaws. It all happened in my hometown of Scottsdale, happened in my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. The catalyst for formation of the USSCF was the need to have one national governing body to provide chiropractors for any international sporting event in the U.S. This was required by the international governing organizations, such as the Global Association International Federation of Sports (GAIFS) and the IOC (International Olympic Committee). I see it as both the culmination and birth of something new and exciting for our profession.

As one of the founding organizations, CEPA is excited about the future of chiropractic in sports. Its role now is to educate and organize. We will provide education for the athletic trainers on the value and process of incorporating chiropractic care into their system, and education for the chiropractors as to how to set up and maintain a solid working relationship with players and teams. CEPA has an awesome video, also available on CD-ROM, produced with footage for the taping I described in this article. It is professionally mixed, with great action shots.

CEPA is also organizing all of the DCs who officially work with the different professional sports teams, so we can develop the same standards and protocols for the care of athletes. Numerous athletic trainers from different professional teams say that once we do this, chiropractic will finally be accepted on a much greater level in professional sports. This effort is building bridges over the divides that still have chiropractic segregated from official recognition and participation. If anyone reading this article currently works officially with a professional team, or knows someone who does, please have them contact me to become a part of this groundbreaking effort.

Now, back to Barry - I guess the segue from the beginning of this article is a powerful example of the ripple effect one small event can have on many others. That's the whole premise of CEPA: getting all superstar athletes under chiropractic care so that eventually, they will all have their own chiropractic "miracle story," and many will attract local or international media attention. Large companies pay athletes millions of dollars to endorse their products. Even Mark McGwire saw DC Ralph Filson before every game. Chiropractic care has been a big part of Mark's success. How exciting it is to receive professional athlete endorsements about what we do!

During spring training this season, Barry and I discussed the possibility of him getting adjusted in each city on the road. He had been seen by our CEPA network doctors at times during previous seasons, but never on a prearranged basis in every city. Shortly after our conversation, I was approached by Barney Nugent, the team's assistant athletic trainer, for a list of all the chiropractors in the CEPA network.

This year, Barney prearranged for a CEPA chiropractor to come to the ballpark to work on Barry when the team first arrives for the beginning of each road series, and look at the results! Now, I don't think too many of us would claim that this is the whole reason for Barry's success. After all, he is an incredibly talented athlete with natural abilities not seen in many others. He has worked very hard in his off-season conditioning, and certainly has the genetics for it. His father, Bobby Bonds, was a famous major leaguer. (Being the godson of Willie Mays hasn't hurt him either, I'm sure.) However, it is fun to contemplate the role chiropractic has played in his success.

Imagine for a moment what might happen to many of the records in sports if all of the best athletes put the same emphasis on proper structure and function that Barry does. I think sports represents a lot more for us individually than just entertainment. Sports gives each of us the opportunity to see records broken, and history being made.

Sports represents the possibilities for each of us: the achievement of our own goals, aspirations and dreams. Thanks, Barry!

References:

  1. See "Professional Athletics and Chiropractic: a Winning Combination" at www.chiroweb.com/archives/15/12/02.html.
  2. See "Treating Professional Team Athletes" at www.chiroweb.com/archives/17/18/14.html.

Alan Palmer, DC
Scottsdale, Arizona


Dr. Alan Palmer graduated from Northwestern College of Chiropractic in 1985. He is the longtime chiropractor for the Arizona Diamondbacks (Major League Baseball) and has served in various capacities with other athletic teams over the years. He is the founder of the Chiropractic Association for the Care of Elite and Professional Athletes and co-founder of the United States Sports Chiropractic Federation. Dr. Palmer is also the author of the free e-book 1200 Studies – Truth Will Prevail, which includes thousands of studies that contradict what the public is being told about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. It has easy search and navigation features with links directly to the article abstracts on PubMed or the source journal, and can be downloaded at www.1200studies.com.

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