“Find a sports doctor or chiropractor who is an athlete and a lfiter and works with athletes and lifters. My personal rule is that I would never go to a chiropractor that deadlifts less than I do.”
– Pavel Tsatsoulline. Q&A on the Tim Ferriss Show
Pavel is a world class strength trainer, and has one of the most influential people in strength training. Suffice to say, my deadlift isn’t strong enough for him choose me as his chiropractor, but he does bring up an interesting point of view.
A lot of people get hurt or injured in the course of doing their favorite activities. Whether it’s Crossfit, running, weekend sports, dance, or swimming, every sport has some level of injury risk. Whether you do things with perfect form, and your programming is designed by the best in the world, injuries are a natural risk factor for embracing an active life style.
What do you do when these injuries happen?
Potential Obstacles to Seeing Just Any Doctor
I work with a lot of Crossfit athletes and enthusiasts. One of the biggest problems that these patients run into is that their normal doctor doesn’t understand their sport, or makes blanket statements against their sport of choice.
In fact, many people will actually withold their mechanism of injury because they don’t want their health provider to judge them, or tell them that they have to stop exercising in order to get better.
This leads to a big problem for both the provider and patient. The doctor loses an important piece of the puzzle that can guide patient management, and the patient may receive inappropriate treatment/recommendations for their injury.
The biggest pitfall when it comes to patient-doctor communication relates to running and Crossfit. Patients often go to the doctor so that they can train and compete without pain. In many of these occasions, the doctor only knows that the patient wants to get rid of their knee, hip, shoulder, or back pain regardless of activity.
Does Your Doctor Understand Your Sport/Activity
When you LOVE your sport or exercise routine, there’s a sense that you would rather die then to be forced to give it up. When you see a doctor who only sees pain relief as the only outcome, then the inevitable outcome is to give up the activity that caused the injury.
So how do you know what doctor you should see? Sometimes the best opinion you can get is from a doctor that is still very active themselves, and they understand the rigors and demands of the sport you play.
A doctor that has been lifting weights for years knows what the common injuries are and what can be done to address them. They know what doctors they would see to address their injuries, and can refer people to go down the same path. They can also differentiate between injuries that can be rehabbed, and things that would force them to take time off.
A doctor who lifts is also someone who probably knows what you can do to stay active while injured. I take care of numerous patients with shoulder injuries after overtraining in the gym.
While the injured limb could use some time off from high intensity lifting, I will usually make reccomendations for substitute exercises that can be performed. Sometimes it means just doing a jerk instead of a push press. Other times, it means exercising using just one arm rather than both.
The next time you’re faced with a choice of reducing your activity, make sure you talk to your gym, coach, or other members of the fitness community and find out what doctors are active in the fitness community.
Or the next time you are in the doctor’s office for a consultation, you can take the wise words of my friend Dr. Scott Mills and ask the staff “Does Your Doctor Even Lift?”