Interview: Seattle Chiropractor Working with Elite Athletes

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In the warm final weeks of August while we were all enjoying some rare Seattle sunshine Dr. Kevin was working with the USA Swimming team at the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia. When Kevin returned, boxes of Australian sandwich cookies and bags of licorice appeared in the back office. Along with the goodies Kevin had a few stories to share from the land down under. I got the chance catch up with him for a brief interview about his experiences working with elite swimmers and how he relates it back to patients he sees every day at InHealth.

InHealth: Welcome back! So, I’m curious how you first got involved with USA Swimming?

Dr. Kevin Rindal: Thanks! It’s great to be back. I originally started working with USA Swimming in 2010 when I was at the American College of Sports Medicine. I went to a conference and they were looking for people to volunteer with their sports medicine program. I signed up and was given the chance to travel with and treat the team at the short course national championships. That opportunity lead to another and fortunately they keep asking me back!

IH: What is the biggest similarity you see between working with an elite athlete and a regular patient that you see here at InHealth?

KR: There are many similarities actually but I think one of the big ones is that whether elite swimmer or working class professional, both patients are actually juggling a lot and need support to perform their best. Swimmers for example spend hours training and when they compete they often have multiple races in a small window of time. The days can be long and exhausting. It is essential that they have support through high quality nutrition, rest, and healthcare. So many of the patients I work with are similar, in that they might have a race coming up, but they are juggling that with a full time job or family. The same components that are so critical to an elite athlete also directly apply to the rest of us in our performance and life.

IH: Okay, so then what are the main differences that you see between injuries that the pros suffer from and the average patient at InHealth?

KR: That’s the remarkable thing. At that event it’s all quite similar stuff to what we see at the office. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional swimmer, an age group swimmer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom who has two small kids. A lot of the biomechanics are the same.

I know we’ve done a blog post on upper crossed syndrome and how that causes the shoulders and head to come forward. Swimmers are notorious for having really poor posture, and I think that bad posture translates to a lot of injuries that they experience. I would say that swimmers are actually quite similar to what we see on a daily basis in terms of people who sit at a desk all day. Working with them just makes me that much better at treating the types of patients we see at our office here.

IH: Can you tell us a few things you have learned from spending time with the athletes and other healthcare providers?

KR: Definitely, I learn a lot from both groups! The medical group is a very integrated team. There are usually five to six practitioners: at least one athletic trainer, 2 massage therapists, a physical therapist and a medical doctor. We each approach injuries from a totally different standpoint, yet we’re all working in very tight quarters with each other so it tends to become integrative as we look to see what other people are doing. When there are slow times we teach each other and learn new ideas.

Also, with athletes it’s just such a special population. Not only are they extremely talented but they have all worked hard to get to this level. By the time the medical staff is working with them at a large swim meet, we are really focused on fine tuning. At that level the difference between making prelims and finals or even making first to fourth place is a matter of hundredths of a second. It’s all about adjusting the small things so that they can perform to their full potential.

IH: Okay, one final question: what was the best thing you ate and the worst thing you ate while in Australia?

KR: On the last night we were there they had a really good buffet with fresh seafood, exotic meat, all delicious and local food. I enjoyed that the most by far.The worst thing I tried was Vegemite! Let’s just say it is nothing like Nutella. However, the Australians love it and I think it is definitely an acquired taste.

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