How chiropractors can make money in sports
By Anthony Lombardi
This past June I wrote an eye-opening article that revealed the truth about how chiropractors and team medical doctors get paid in professional football. My research verified that while many non-health-care professions who work with pro teams get paid – chiropractors are merely volunteers. For this follow-up piece, I look to answer the question: How are chiropractic practitioners treated in other sports, namely the Olympics and Major League Baseball.
Higher, faster, affordable
In the June article on this topic, I cited a publication called Back Matters, published by the Canadian Chiropractic Association. In that issue, an article featured some chiropractors working with the Canadian Olympic Team. I connected with an Olympic team chiropractor from that article and asked:
- 1. Is it a paid position?
- 2. How many hours do they work at it?
- 3. Does it help their private practice?
Unfortunately, after a couple of friendly reminders the chiropractor did not answer my questions. Luckily, I was able to get some full and transparent answers from the other side of the border. It was explained to me that in the U.S., they have three Olympic Training Centers. There is a full-time DC at each location and these are paid positions.
The training centres also have volunteer programs where DCs rotate through in two-week cycles. There are also chiropractors that travel with different national teams. These DCs are generally chosen by that sport’s national governing body (NGB) and these are also volunteer positions. Most of the time, the NGB will pay for the chiropractors’ travel/airfare and hotel.
I spoke with Dr. Sherri LaShomb, a chiropractor with the Taekwondo U.S. Olympic Team. She said that although it sounds crazy, her time is volunteered. When she is out of her office, she pays another DC to cover for her. “It is definitely a labour of love,” LaShomb said.
LaShomb also pointed out it is important to note that this situation is not unique to chiropractors. Other health-care providers, like MDs, RMTs and athletic therapists, volunteer their time with the Olympic teams, too.
LaShomb feels it is difficult to gauge whether her sports affiliation is a benefit to her practice. “I’m not sure if my position helps or hurts my practice,” LaShomb commented. “I’m sure it’s not a great business advantage to be gone as often as I have been, but I love it and I try my best to accommodate my patients before and after I travel.”
Sacrifice grows practices
In baseball, a batter can sacrifice himself (get out) on purpose in order to advance the base runner across home plate. I interviewed a group of MLB team DCs and it seems the sacrifice of their time also pays big dividends in private practice.
I interviewed Baltimore Orioles team chiropractor Dr. Ken Kaufman; Dr. Rick Bishop, DC of the Arizona Diamondbacks; and three other Major League Baseball DCs who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity.
The DC position with a MLB team ranges across the board. Some doctors provide care on a voluntary basis with some perks, such as game tickets and clothing. While other chiropractors are paid as independent contractors for as much as $100 per hour during spring training.
Most MLB DCs feel their affiliation with the team allows them to stand out among their colleagues. When patients refer their friends and family to these doctors, they often proudly report that Dr. ABC is the team chiropractor of XYZ team in the MLB. In addition, the prospective patients also feel that since a major sports team trusts the chiropractor, they can, too.
Rebranding and retraining
The consensus among MLB DCs is that being a team chiropractor in the MLB is not a big money maker. However, Kaufman pointed out it can be a part of an overall branding strategy for your private practice. “Since becoming the team chiropractor, my practice has evolved into 95 per cent sports injury treatment and rehabilitation,” Kaufman asserted.
Most chiropractors that work for pro teams go to the facility to treat the players. In my experience, I built the sports portion of my practice by having the players come to me. This can be achieved by “retraining” the pros to come to your office during their off season. Alternatively, you can make players aware of the other services you offer at your office and explain why you are not able to provide these services at the ballpark.
For instance, the time the sports DC can spend with each player at the ballpark is limited – as are the modalities they can offer. Players who value what you do will put a priority on their performance care. These athletes will make the trip to your office and pay out-of-pocket.
Testimonials, social media
Once the pro athlete visits your office, you must ensure to provide a quality treatment that produces measurable, objective results. When the athlete sees the changes in benchmarks, like range of motion and strength, they will be genuinely happy to tell others about it.
When I notice that athletes are impressed and appreciative of my work, I ask them to write a testimonial with a picture of themselves so I can showcase it in my office. I do this with varsity university players as well. In the evolving age of social media, these athletes will often tell the world how happy they are with your treatment by sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In addition, I even have pro athletes provide video testimonials for my YouTube channel.
The question asked by many chiropractors interested in treating pro athletes is: Do I need my sports specialty in order to treat pro athletes?
The answer is no.
All of the pro sports DCs I interviewed said that certification and fellowship programs like the CCSP and the FRCCSS are not a requirement to work for professional athletes or pro sports teams. In fact, the majority of sports DCs I interviewed did not have them. In my 15 years of practice I have treated and continue to see players from the NHL, NFL and CFL. In that time, never has a player asked me if I have my sports specialty – they were simply interested in the ways my treatments could benefit their performance.
Dr. Anthony Lombardi is consultant to athletes in the NFL, CFL and NHL, and founder of the Hamilton Back Clinic in Hamilton, Ont. He teaches his fundamental EXSTORE Assessment System and conducts practice-building workshops to health professionals. Visit exstore.ca for information.