Pursuing Performance: Logan's Sports and Rehabilitation Department Earns Wins for Athletes and Chiropractic
As director of the BIOFREEZE® Sports & Rehabilitation Center on the Logan College campus, Dr. Laney Nelson promotes more than athletic performance. Ever since Logan opened the center’s doors in 2006, Dr. Nelson and his staff have practiced a consistent game plan: advance chiropractic as a critical component of the sports medicine field.
In the past year alone, Logan’s sports and rehabilitation department has made significant strides toward this goal—going the distance for the athletes of all abilities.
“It’s been a challenge to change the mindset of the medical community and to demonstrate the value that chiropractic can add in the treatment, therapy and performance of athletes who have suffered life-altering injuries,” explains Dr. Nelson.
Nevertheless, people like Willie Duester prove the value of Dr. Nelson’s work. Several years ago, Dr. Nelson, a volunteer with the Gateway Disabled Ski program, developed a special suit for Willie.
The design of the suit allows for elastic banding of varying forces to be applied in specific orientations and vectors. The bands can either pull the body into a normative alignment or facilitate a movement by augmenting a muscle’s ability to move through its range of motion.
As a result, the suit allowed Willie, who has cerebral palsy and spent most of his life in wheelchair, to actually ski standing up.
Teaming Up with DASA
Building on the suit design and his community relationships, Dr. Nelson and his staff are slowly changing the view of chiropractic treatment for disabled athletes.
Today, Logan clinicians and student interns are working with para- and quadriplegics on the Logan campus and at the Disabled Services Offices and Paraquad facility in St. Louis. Logan is also involved with the Disabled Athlete Sports Association (DASA), which provides these athletes with opportunities to participate in therapeutic sports and fitness activities. DASA teams participate in a variety of sports competitions across the country.
Currently, Logan clinicians work with athletes on DASA’s rugby and hockey teams as well as the DASA disabled ski
program. Several Logan students, including Brad Davis, Trimester-9, serve as volunteers in various capacities, and this year Brad was honored by DASA as volunteer of the year.
“It’s an amazing, rewarding experience,” says Brad. “I’ve taken what I have learned in my classes—the biomechanics and how the body works—and applied that knowledge and training to help these athletes learn to adapt to their altered abilities.”
Brad works primarily in the pool, helping all types of athletes learn how to move their bodies in the water again. “What I like about swimming is that in the water we are all equal. You can’t tell if someone has a disability. When you’re swimming, you’re swimming even if the strokes look different,” Brad explains.
The department’s quest to ensure all athletes perform at their maximum potential has also led Dr. Nelson and his students to serve world-class competitors. This past October, Logan doctors and students were on-site in Mexico to care for athletes at the 2011 Pan American Games, an international multi-sport competition among athletes from North, Central and South America. Logan clinicians and students had the opportunity to oversee treatment and data collection.
The 2011 games represented the first time chiropractic was recognized as a primary specialty at this level of competition. “The stage was huge for chiropractic,” explains Dr. Melissa Engelson, who was one of three Logan doctors at the games. “The primary specialty designation allowed athletes to come directly to us without a medical doctor’s referral.”
Another first at the games was the access granted to chiropractic students, who were allowed to work in the clinic and at the various sports venues. Twenty Logan students participated. The first group went down in advance to help with clinic set up; the second group provided patient care support during the initial days of the games; and the last group provided assistance with care, as well as with the take down of the clinic.
Logan students and doctors worked at both of the games’ sites in Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. According to those attending, the hours were long but no one seemed to mind. “Our philosophy was we are here for the athlete,” said Dr. Engelson. “We can rest when we get home.”
For the Logan students who participated in the games, they certainly felt like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I was able to see how chiropractic techniques can produce positive results in high-caliber athletes,” says Katie Smith, Trimester-3. “This was the first time that many of these athletes had received chiropractic care, so it was a great way to promote our field in the sports realm,” she continues.
Michael Miller, Trimester-4 adds, “My time at the games allowed me to come back with a better understanding of the importance of chiropractic in sports.”
Overall, the Logan staff provided care to more than 1,000 athletes. The common injuries they saw were shoulder and knee issues with the swimmers, as well as hamstring and low-back tightness with the track and field athletes.
Back home on the Logan campus, Dr. Nelson and his students look forward to more opportunities where they can expand chiropractic’s reach, treating athletes of all abilities and levels … both near and far.