The average pro football chiropractor is plenty busy, according to an article in Chiropractic Economics, giving an average of 30 to 50 treatments per week during the season.
The NFL regular season is 16 games, with every team receiving a bye week, as well as training camp, preseason, and playoffs, Super Bowl, and Pro Bowl for those who qualify. With 32 team chiropractors working 120 days or more just in the season, that amounts to an estimated 16,320-27,200 adjustments performed!
There is actually a Professional Football Chiropractic Society (PFCS), whose mission is to promote the best practices for chiropractors who work with NFL teams and athletes, as well as setting a template for those working in other pro sports.
With so much on the line, players are highly motivated to seek chiropractic care as a method to heal and treat injuries. In fact, the average NFL career is anywhere from 3-5.5 years (depending on the metric you use, like players drafted to the NFL compared to players who actually suit up for a regular season game) and contracts are not fully guaranteed. That’s a very small window and a lot of risk for players to earn income that may have to last them a lifetime.
NFL trainers believe in chiropractic as well, with 77% of them referring one of their players to a chiropractor.
While all 32 teams utilize chiropractic care, 31% percent of all NFL teams have a chiropractor officially on staff, and an additional 12% of teams refer players to private chiropractors they are affiliated with.
NFL trainers and medical personnel used to be focused on masking pain and injuries, particularly with multiple shots of anesthetics. But today, athletes, trainers, and doctors realize the consequences of only disabling the pain mechanism, and instead are looking for viable options for treating the causes of pain to restore the body’s natural function. Teams are hiring chiropractors as well as acupuncturists, nutritionists, utilizing stem cell therapy, oxygen injections and seeking other specialists to help keep players healthy.
A survey of head athletic trainers for every team in the NFL revealed some encouraging data for the efficacy of chiropractic:
45% of the NFL trainers had personally seen a chiropractor;
77% of trainers had referred players to a chiropractor; and
31% of NFL teams had an official chiropractor on their staff.
100% of respondents said that some players use chiropractic care without officially being referred by their team’s medical staff.
Which conditions and injuries prompt NFL players to see chiropractic care? Low back pain (61%), "stingers" and "burners" associated with neck injury (31%), headaches (8%) are the leaders.
Other acute injuries among NFL players include muscle strains, whiplash, and neck pain. Over time, players often develop chronic conditions such as carpal tunnel misalignment and temperomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction that are treatable with chiropractic care.
In fact, concussions are a major problem for NFL players – and tarnishing the league’s image. For years, the league denied the existence of long-term health problems from concussions and surpassed research. But lawsuits by former players and independent medical research forced the NFL to recant and admit that as many as one in three retired players will suffer from brain injuries due to concussions.
Chiropractors are now seen as a first line of defense in identifying and treating concussions. NFL players often visit chiropractors to treat migraines and headaches, common secondary complaints after a concussion, as well as attention deficit, dizziness, visual dysfunction, delayed reaction, depression and trouble sleeping.
Every NFL contest, players take dozens of violent hits and tackles. For the most physical positions like running back, the force and speed of these hits, often by multiple defenders at the same time, is about the same as being in a minor car accident several times in a row. Measuring force in tons, a car crash at 30mph if you’re wearing your seatbelt is 2.4, or 12 without the seatbelt. A good helmet hit by a defensive tackle can be 8.5 tons of force or more.
Every decade, NFL players get bigger, faster, and more athletic – which adds up to bigger hits and more injuries. In fact, the average weight of a defensive tackle has risen from less than 250 lbs. in 1967 to almost 350 lbs. now. At the same time, these huge men are stronger and frequently run a 40-yard dash in 5 seconds or less. Measuring the G-Force of collisions and physical events, the force of a roller coaster is 5.0, a tight roll in a F-16 fighter jet is 9.0, a concussion is 100, and a extreme football collision can measure an incredible 150 G’s! So it’s no stretch to see the need for chiropractic care to prevent and treat player injuries.