Taking on the World One Shot at a Time

Dave Kiley’s journey as a wheelchair-bound basketball star with a devotion to Chiropractic


After a 1973 snow-tubing accident at Big Bear Mountain in California, Dave Kiley’s dreams of becoming a college basketball player were shattered. At 19 years old, Kiley was paralyzed from the waist down and completely dependent on his wheelchair.

A star basketball player at Santa Ana’s Mater Dei High, Kiley’s future was promising. That is, until his inner tube spun violently out of control and into a tree. Before then, the teenager’s biggest worry was which basketball scholarship to choose.

“I was a basketball junkie from birth,” Kiley says. “I had plans to be a point guard for a college team but, as fate would have it, I received my spinal cord injury.”

A Change of Heart

While Kiley initially struggled with his fate, he soon realized that the injury was his destiny. With his discovery of wheelchair basketball and a lifelong dedication to physical training, one basketball shot was all it took for Kiley’s gloomy demeanor to begin disappearing.

“After my injury, I was slow to warm up to wheelchair basketball,” he says. “My pride was kind of in the way at 19. Once I made my first shot from sitting down, I was hooked again. I was enlightened, and my eyes were wide open to what I could do.”

This new-found passion propelled Kiley to become one of wheelchair basketball’s most celebrated players. Through shooting practices and weight training, he quickly mastered the art of wheelchair basketball. “Soon after I started, I caught the eye of national team coaches and programs,” he says. “I made my first U.S. team at 20 or 21, only one year after my injury.”

Throughout his career as a wheelchair basketball player, Kiley’s success is unparalleled. A 19-time All-American, Kiley is the only Paralympic athlete to play for four decades on Team USA. He is a six-time National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Tournament MVP and has won two gold medals, in 1976 and 1988, as a member of the U.S. Paralympic Basketball team. Along with his basketball honors, Kiley also holds gold medals in track and downhill snow skiing. Off the court, Kiley’s success continued. In 2000, he was selected to be part of the NWBA Hall of Fame for his dedication as a wheelchair basketball athlete and coach, and he is currently the head coach for the world champion USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team.

Finding Chiropractic

At 58, Kiley still enjoys getting out on the court. Unfortunately, it can come at a price. For the wheelchair-bound, whether they are athletes or not, stress on the upper body is a common obstacle. However, even with the occasional aches and pains, Kiley still gets to the gym as often as he can. “I put on my headphones, and I like to get to the gym to shoot,” he says. “I’m still good at it too. I make about 80 to 90 percent of my shots.”

Kiley is quick to credit Chiropractic as his reason for still playing basketball. “When I got hurt at 19, you didn’t hear much about Chiropractic,” he says. “It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I tried it.”

Throughout his career, Kiley visited chiropractors occasionally as injuries came along. But as he got older and his arthritic thumbs worsened, he decided it was time to rely more heavily on Chiropractic.

“As wheelchair athletes get older, they tend to do nothing,” he says. “They think by doing nothing their pain will get better, but I found this to be the opposite.” With the help of continuous chiropractic visits and strict weight training, Kiley says he’s better than ever. “I can’t tell you how much I need it now after carrying around all of my days of going to battle,” he says. “I’ve never been healthier.”

And he has his chiropractor, Stephanie Rodsater, to thank for his nearly pain-free lifestyle. “All of those things that bothered me stopped,” he says. “She helps every ‘ooie’ and ‘owie’ I have. I’m a very big fan and advocate of the process.”

Providing Chiropractic to the Wheelchair-bound

For Rodsater, a wellness chiropractor at Adjusting the World Chiropractic in Huntersville, N.C., working with wheelchair-bound athletes is something she related to as a young girl. “I grew up with a brother who has spina bifida, and he played wheelchair basketball,” she says. “All my life, I realized how important it is to make everything the same for those in chairs, so that’s what I do in my practice.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in human nutrition from the University of Illinois and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic, Rodsater and her husband decided to open their own family chiropractic facility. And while their clinic specializes in mostly family and pediatric care, Rodsater has formed a special bond with Kiley.

During the two years Rodsater has been working with Kiley, she has been able to see firsthand his devotion to the success of Chiropractic. “He has had unbelievably quick recoveries from injuries since he has been in the office,” she says. “He understands the importance of regular adjustments to keep his spine and nervous system operating at an optimal level.”

Kiley, who has developed what Rodsater refers to as “grouch thumbs” from decades in a wheelchair, is not alone when it comes to pains and problems from a wheelchair-bound life. According to Rodsater, spinal degeneration from nearly constantly sitting upright is also common among the wheelchair-bound.
“Cervical spine degeneration is a common problem due to the constant seated posture,” she says. “Due to lack of motion, the lower back may also be in danger of degeneration. It’s important to make sure the entire spine is free of subluxation to help prevent degeneration.”

“Wheelchair athletes utilize their arms much more than our bodies are designed to handle, so I always work to maintain the function of the clavicle, shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers,” she says. “With a wheelchair athlete, I will check these areas each visit to ensure that they are functioning properly and will last throughout the course of their lives.”

Implementing a chiropractic lifestyle, especially for the wheelchair-bound, is something Rodsater believes will be advantageous for her clients. “Chiropractic is necessary for anyone with a spine, much like dentistry is necessary for anyone with teeth,” she says. “Our bodies are not designed to work from a seated position. Therefore, it’s vital that wheelchair-bound individuals see a chiropractor to prevent damage to their spine and nervous system. Chiropractic will allow them to function at a higher level.”

Today, Kiley is making sure the wheelchair athletes he trains and plays with are taking advantage of Chiropractic at a young age. “Dave would have greatly benefited from Chiropractic earlier in his life,” Rodsater says. “That is why he is passionate about telling his young athletes about Chiropractic. He understands the power of prevention and the power of Chiropractic.”

As Kiley shares his basketball talents through coaching young wheelchair athletes, he is also able to be a mentor—on and off the court. “Dave is an amazing man,” Rodsater says. “He loves sports, and he loves to help others love their sports. He always says he feels like a million bucks leaving the office and ready to take on the world.”