The influence of chiropractic care in the Olympics has been felt worldwide for more than 35 years. First was the 1976 Olympic Games in Mexico City when LeRoy Perry, D.C., cared for athletes on the Aruba team. Many U.S. competitors were in need of the care Perry offered and would secretly visit him for adjustments. His patients were so impressed with his work that before the 1980 Winter Olympics in Montreal, the U.S. Olympic team signed a petition asking that chiropractic care be incorporated as part of the sports medicine team. And their wish came true—for the Olympic Games in Montreal, George Goodheart, D.C., was appointed as the first official chiropractor to the U.S. team. Since then, world-class athletes have been regularly incorporating chiropractic care in to their training regimens. But it wasn’t until the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, that chiropractic care was fully integrated in Olympic athletes’ care.
From now on, chiropractic care will be offered at every U.S. Olympic event. Chiropractic has been dubbed a secret weapon for U.S. competitors—not only does it help optimize performance for athletes and allow them to achieve their goals, but it is also used for rehabilitation purposes. In addition, the athletes feel the adjusting gives them an edge against their competitors without the use of drugs or medications.
Denielle Ciletti is one athlete who understands this concept. Ciletti, who is a student at Life University and has been leading an active, healthy lifestyle for more than 25 years, knows firsthand the benefits Chiropractic has for athletes. She was a college volleyball player and now plays recreational kayak polo. Because she has been participating in sports for more than two decades, Ciletti found it necessary to receive chiropractic care and has been visiting a handful of DCs since 1990.
“I honestly wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing right now if it wasn’t for chiropractic care,” says Ciletti. “I’m 38 years old and, to say that I’m going to train at an Olympic level, I wouldn’t be able to do it.” While kayak polo is not an Olympic sport, Ciletti hopes that her diligent training and regular trips to the chiropractor will help her make the U.S. National Canoe and Kayak team and later qualify for the Olympics. She hopes to compete as a member of the Kayak Sprint Team in the 2016 Olympics.
Ciletti says she wants to compete in the Olympics to honor her word to herself. “Since I came here to LIFE, it’s been a transformation at process and I’ve been restoring integrity in all parts of my life,” says Ciletti. “I have told my mom for years that I’m going to be an Olympic athlete one day—if I was honoring my word to myself, I would have been training for this a long time ago. There’s nothing standing in my way now, and I’m just going to do it.”
To help prepare for the competition, Ciletti follows a strict training schedule which includes a combination of paddling—both distance and sprint—, polo ball passing and catching as well as stretching. Stephen Gale, the newly-hired coach for the U.S. National Canoe and Kayak team, sends his trainees this rigorous polo training schedule each week. Aside from polo training, Ciletti also hits the gym for an extra workout. “Dr. Catherine Faust, the department head for Sports Health Science at LIFE, will do my aerobics threshold testing so we can determine a sports-specific training in the gym,” says Ciletti. Kayak, Polo training, gym workouts and regular visits to Keith Rau, D.C., complete Ciletti’s Olympic preparation.
Even though Ciletti leads an active life—in addition to her training and course loads, she is a single mother of two young sons—she finds the time to visit a chiropractor on a regular basis. She explains that one of her chiropractors noticed a simple irregularity with her posture and, once he adjusted her, it made a huge difference with her chest and shoulders. On another occasion, Ciletti visited her chiropractor complaining of knee pain. He adjusted her tailbone, and almost immediately all of her knee pain was relieved. Both adjustments greatly helped her performance in kayak polo. Ultimately, Chiropractic allows her to fully take advantage of her body.
“I’ve been an athlete all my life—I was a lifeguard for 12 years, swimming in the ocean and running on the beach. The toll it takes on your body…If it wasn’t for chiropractic care, I wouldn’t be able to do it all. It keeps me more healthy all-around—in body, mind and soul,” says Ciletti. She said that aside from the physical benefits, one of the most unique, and perhaps the greatest, aspect of chiropractic care is the infrequency with which she contracts the common cold or flu. For both reasons combined, Ciletti says, “I will always incorporate Chiropractic in my life.”
Perhaps Rau is to credit for Ciletti’s appreciation of Chiropractic. Rau, who also studied at Life University, is one of Ciletti’s chiropractors and works with her on a regular basis. But when he is not adjusting clients at his part-time chiropractic practice in Marietta, Ga., the other half of his time is spent teaching courses in chiropractic sports health science at LIFE, which he has been doing for over 17 years. Aside from his teaching responsibilities, he also works as a team chiropractor for the NCAA Division I teams at Kennesaw State University.
A large part of Rau’s professional career has been spent helping take care of athletes at all levels—Olympic, professional, collegiate and recreational. “We took care of the Georgia Force [Atlanta’s arena football team], and their athletic trainer said to me, ‘If it isn’t ripped, torn or broken, you’re our guys.’ I’m not a big one on trying to do other people’s jobs—doing a lot of rehab, taping, etc.—and we seem to really help with function and mobility, and athletes often say, ‘I feel so loose, I feel so relaxed, I’m just ready to go!’”
In the past, Rau worked with several athletes who have trained for the Olympic Games, and now he is assisting with Ciletti’s chiropractic care as she trains for the 2016 Olympic Games. Specifically, he sees her nearly every week for routine adjustments.
In working with athletes, Rau believes it is beneficial to be educated in the sport in which the athlete will be competing. “Track and cross country—these are areas I have the most experience and familiarity with,” says Rau. “Someone jumping versus someone running distance or sprinting will have different issues. It’s really helpful to know what they’re doing because the care varies, and the more you know about the sport, the more you see patterns and trends in injuries.” In Rau’s care for of patients, he focuses on adjusting rather than laser treatment, which many other DCs offer. “If the nervous system is the master control system of the body—controlling your joints and muscles—we get to impact the body’s ability to function properly,” says Rau. “If there’s a breakdown in that communication [within the body], there’s a real problem. Whether that [breakdown] is the result or cause—or both—of the injury, then [restoring that communication is] where we have so much to offer for the athlete.”
In getting feedback from his patients who have had success incorporating chiropractic care into their health regimens, Rau strongly values what Chiropractic offers athletes. “I’ve taken care of a few runners in Olympic training and, when they train more consistently, they are more likely to avoid injuries. The thing that I think is so exciting is that the athletes see the benefit—higher level athletes more than anyone—that their bodies are able to perform better and stay injury free and recover faster. I can’t imagine an athlete competing without chiropractic care,” says Rau. “Why wouldn’t you use it if it is part of the package?”
What we have seen—and will continue to see in the future—are the continuing benefits of Chiropractic in high level athletics. More and more athletes are crediting Chiropractic for their accomplishments, and it is becoming commonly used by competitors around the world. It gives them the comfort of feeling better and the confidence they need to achieve their best.