From the Logan Classroom to the London Olympics
Dr. Jon Carlson trained for this moment his entire career: practicing chiropractic for the world’s most competitive athletes.
It’s the sight emblazoned in our minds from this past summer: Five intertwined rings—one red, blue, yellow, green and black—suspended underneath London’s iconic Tower Bridge high above the River Thames. To athletes, these rings signified their arrival, their final destination after an intense journey filled with grueling training sessions and personal sacrifices. Here, at the Olympic Games, every lesson they learned and every technique they worked to perfect would be tested under the watchful eye of the world.
To Logan graduate Dr. Jon Carlson, those five rings hoisted in the sky perfectly pitted against the backdrop of London’s famed cityscape represented his journey, too—a journey of persistency, adversity and, most of all, accomplishment. But unlike the athletes who came poised to compete, Dr. Carlson came to the Olympics to work—as one of the world’s best team physicians.
And it was on this global stage that he would apply all he’s learned and practiced to help his patients take home that precious Olympic medal. A wrestler throughout his undergraduate career at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., Dr. Carlson understands firsthand what chiropractic care offers athletes. Never forgetting his experiences at the mat, he set his sights on becoming a chiropractor to help athletes. Early on, he was determined to meet three career objectives: open his own practice, become a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician and, somewhere down that line, practice at the Olympics.
To accomplish these goals, Dr. Carlson began his chiropractic career at Logan. Shortly after completing his Doctor of Chiropractic degree in April 2009, he started his own practice, All-Star Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation, in Emporium, Pa.
Goal No. 1: check.
“My education at Logan prepared me for opening my business,” he said. “At Logan, I gravitated toward the rehabilitation offerings, so I planned to pursue more of a sports-focused practice—incorporating the functional instruction and rehabilitation lessons I learned.”
With his practice officially open, Dr. Carlson took the necessary steps to become a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician. During his certification process he worked for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club in State College, Pa. At first, he assisted athletes with injury prevention and performance. Eventually, he became the club’s chiropractor.
He completed his certification in 2011.
Goal No. 2: check.
As the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club’s chiropractor, Dr. Carlson began working with Team USA and Team Puerto Rico who trained at the club. After working alongside Puerto Rico’s wrestlers for a few months, the team designated him as their sports physician.
Dr. Carlson traveled with his American and Puerto Rican athletes to the 2011 World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. As a result of Puerto Rico’s powerful performance at the World Championships—60-kilogram wrestler Franklin Gomez became the first Puerto Rican to ever win a world medal, the silver,—Puerto Rico contracted with Dr. Carlson to attend all of the team’s future competitions.
In this newfound role, Dr. Carlson joined Team Puerto Rico at the 2011 Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and also at tournaments in Sassari, Italy, and Dortmund, Germany, to name a few. Soon after, the career path he’d been traveling since his days at Logan led him to London—the home of dukes and duchesses, Big Ben, Abbey Road, and the Arsenal Football Club—for the 2012 Olympics with Team Puerto Rico.
Goal No. 3: check.
Dr. Carlson spent the Summer Games mat-side as Team Puerto Rico fought to pin down a medal. “I equate my treatments to fine-tuning race cars,” he explained. “These athletes are competing at such a high level that anything you can do for them helps them to perform at 100 percent. Our program is proactive—working together weekly on injury prevention and performance. Once we’re at the match, we transition to injury management, working to keep them performing at their highest capacity.”
Their efforts paid off. With Dr. Carlson behind him, Puerto Rican wrestler Jaime Espinal took home silver at 84 kilograms, becoming the first-ever Puerto Rican wrestler to medal at the Olympics.
“Jaime grew up in Puerto Rico,” Dr. Carlson explained. “As of a couple of years ago, he was delivering pizzas and just scraping by, working odd jobs while training. He got the opportunity to come work with us in the United States, and a year and a half later, he is a hero in Puerto Rico.
“Jaime’s accomplishment was a major event for Puerto Rico as a country, and a huge event for Puerto Rican wrestling as a whole.”
While in London, Dr. Carlson also witnessed one of his close friends win the Games’ most coveted medal.
“My friend Jake Varner wrestles for Team USA at 96 kilograms,” he explained. “His goal was to win the gold just like his idol Cael Sanderson did in 2004. Jake wrestled for Cael in college and was a two-time national champ at Iowa State University. “To be there with Cael when Jake accomplished his life-long goal of winning Olympic gold was emotional.”
Now, a few months removed from his thrilling experience across the pond, Dr. Carlson is already looking ahead to Team Puerto Rico’s future and possibly another Olympics.
“If my athletes from Puerto Rico qualify, I am already invited to Rio de Janeiro in 2016,” he said. Ever grateful for what he has accomplished during his short chiropractic career, Dr. Carlson has set new goals for himself to advance his path to become the best chiropractic physician Logan prepared him to be.
“I’m working on developing an integrated sports medicine program with orthopedic surgeons, athletic trainers and physical therapists,” he said.
Goal No. 4: a work in progress
In retrospect, Dr. Carlson offers a few words of advice for Logan’s current and future chiropractors who are beginning their careers with Olympic dreams in mind.
“The harder you work, the more it pays off,” he said. “Things might not always look like they are going in the right direction, but you just have to keep trying and keep working, and you will be rewarded. Be persistent, and believe in yourself."