It’s been a big year for the world of chiropractic here in Australia and we’re only in March! We absolutely love to hear when our members are doing well and we are over the moon to announce that one of very own ACA members, Dr Stephen Sassinis Shashyan, recently had the opportunity to work alongside tennis World Number One, Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open Grand Slam.
Stephen is no stranger when it comes to working with champion Australian athletes. In fact, he’s worked with quite a few over his 23-year career, including our very own tennis champion, Ash Barty. Dr Sassinis Shashyan says that people might be surprised to know that many chiropractors often can’t tell people some of the famous athletes they work with – as they belong to certain sports teams or outfits with their own medical teams. Nonetheless, Dr Sassinis Shashyan’s message for the younger chiropractors in Australia is that it certainly does happen and more frequently than you think!
“While we can’t often tell people the athletes we work with (as they belong to sports teams or outfits with their own medical teams), it’s important that our members understand that these individuals and their teams seek us out for our unique skillsets. I work with professional elite individuals including males and females from AFL, rugby, soccer, basketball and netball teams, to boxing, MMA, martial arts, athletics and swimming athletes. They seek us out through referrals from coaches, teammates other practitioners, and patients.”
Dr Sassinis Shaashyan has a background in both chiropractic and Applied Kinesiology and has an integrative approach to health care and sports performance. In fact, Stephen is actually a Diplomate in Applied Kinesiology and a key representative here in Australia.
Dr Sassinis Shashyan first started working with tennis in 2016 but couldn’t believe his ears when he got a phone call from Novak Djokovic’s chiropractor requesting his expertise on an injury Djokovic had acquired prior to the Australian Open. As a Diplomate in Applied Kinesiology, Dr Sassinis Shashyan has professional connections in many parts of the world. One of these connections is specialist, Jean-Pierre Meersseman who is an internationally recognised leader in both Applied Kinesiology and Sports Chiropractic right throughout Europe. Jean-Pierre Meersseman has worked with AC Milan and set up the Milan Lab – a high-tech interdisciplinary scientific research centre. Jean-Pierre has also worked with Novak Djokovic for the last four years and suggested to Djokovic’s manager to reach out to him to assist with his injury:
“This opportunity with Novak Djokovic came from my international standing as a Diplomate in Applied Kinesiology and the networks I’d formed within our profession. Jean-Pierre Meersseman is one of these contacts and he is a giant in Applied Kinesiology and chiropractic sports in Europe. He works with Novak and has done so over the last four years. When his injury occurred in Adelaide, prior to the Australian Open starting, I was asked to step in with my Applied Kinesiology skills and knowledge to help. This led to a wonderful opportunity to showcase our chiropractic skills and techniques to help stabilise everything for Novak and to enhance his overall performance. While it was important to understand how to work within a team framework, our skillset was definitely an important adjunct to his success with the other combination of therapies applied.”
After several conversations, Dr Sassinis Shashyan was then officially part of Novak Djokovic’s team, alongside his physiotherapist and head coach to assist with his injury.
The goal was simple. To get Novak’s injury stablised and physically prepared to get through the tournament – one match at a time.
“It was about understanding the injury, and what sort of time frames I would have to assist. For example, I would have 48 hours between matches to re-assess, evaluate and work out the next strategy for the next 48 hours – constant pressure the whole way! There were some big matches, the second match, the quarter-final, the semi – there were some notable ones where you had to dig deep and work as a team to figure out how to get him to the next stage. Mentally and physically what he had to endure was none other than superhuman. There was no one else that could step up like him and get through his injuries – it was phenomenal. It wasn’t just crunching bones that’s for sure. It was a pinnacle moment putting all my skills to work – every single part of my skillset was used through these two weeks – absolutely.”
Dr Sassinis Shashyan says meeting Novak was an incredibly exciting time and a wonderful moment for his career. However, the pleasantries are quick to pass. Once you get over the niceties and formalities it’s about getting straight to work. “Meeting someone for the first time of that calibre is obviously very exciting. But once you get over the niceties, it’s about getting to work and showing the skillset you have. At the end of the day, they don’t care who you are, they want to know what you bring as a skilled professional that’s different and what you’re going to do to help them. You need to fill them with confidence and knowledge about your skillset.”
Leaving no stone unturned, Dr Sassinis Shashyan got straight to work – performing chiropractic adjustments, Gonstead manual adjusting, as well Applied Kinesiology. Through these chiropractic techniques, Dr Sassinis Shashyan was not only able to help support Djokovic’s injury but also support the other modalities being used to assess and assist his overall function. This included not only seeing Djokovic every day of the tournament – but sometimes multiple times in a day. “Usually after 2:00pm or 3:00pm, I would get a phone call to say they needed me at the court later in the afternoon. We didn’t know how long he was going to be in the tournament – it was two weeks overall. I usually had to cancel clinic shifts. Thankfully my patients were very forgiving. I really appreciated their support and understanding.”
As Dr Sassinis Shashyan pointed out, to treat such high-calibre patients you have to bring your “A” game and confidence from the get-go. You can’t leave any room for guesswork. You have to provide thorough treatment and assessments, especially when each match brings with it new challenges that need to be treated together as one team, alongside other practitioners.
“You have to get them over the line and each match brought new challenges that needed to be treated. But as the tournament went on, and all the modalities worked together as a team, it was extremely important this fluidity existed. It was important the chiropractic adjustments worked well with his physiotherapist and other modalities. I didn’t overstep my mark and the taping was up to the physiotherapist. We worked together as a team.”
Dr Sassinis Shashyan deems chiropractic treatment as incredibly useful for athletes to embrace as a normal part of their routine as chiropractic treatment not only reduces their recovery time but also allows them to see a huge improvement in their overall quality and reflexes. “When you have the body working better, you get athletes minimising their risk of injury. After treatment, athletes are more relaxed and more focussed, with a better form altogether.”
Stephen says the younger generation of chiropractors coming through need to learn and understand how diverse and specialised chiropractic techniques are and how a detailed understanding of things like ‘biomechanics’ and ‘functional neurology’ form a chiropractic perspective, which is very much needed in the sports community. “Some of our younger chiropractors may not realise how great our diverse chiropractic techniques are and how amazing they really are at understanding biomechanics, muscle adaptive and integrative patterns, fascia, dura and the overall impact of altered functional neurology.”
Stephen’s advice for future generations of chiropractors is to become an expert in the techniques you aspire to use and to never give up. He also advises bringing your best effort and energy every day to your patients. He said it has taken him 23 years to get to this point in his career and emphasises the importance of networking and building relationships which can ultimately lead to referrals.