The World Games is an Olympics recognised, international event allowing elite athletes from over 100 countries and 40 different sports to compete. The International Federation of Sports Chiropractic (FICS) has more than 3,500 members worldwide, 54 of which including myself and fellow Australian chiropractors Adam Floreani and Chiara Tomassoni, were selected to provide onsite sports chiropractic care. At the core, we exist as every athlete deserves access to sports chiropractic.
It was surreal touching down in Birmingham, Alabama as the fourth of July fireworks lit the nightsky – almost as if to say welcome to the States! The southern charm and hospitality has been phenomenal, and in turn my Aussie accent had seemingly made their day. Everywhere we visited we were greeted with such warmth as their city opened up to post pandemic tourism. We sampled their signature comfort food like classic ribs, wings, and explored the very city where Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks played an integral part of the civil rights movement.
As one of the chiropractors for the powerlifting athletes, I had the privilege of treating the President of the International Powerlifting Federation, Gaston Parage, daily. I saw a range of presenting complaints such as spinal biomechanical dysfunctions, acute strains and tendinopathies.
The second half of the games, I provided care for the athletes of flying disc, more commonly known as Ultimate. A majority of the teams sought care from us for low back pain, shoulder, elbow and ankle dysfunctions. Unfortunately, the two teams who chose not to use our care confided in us that they only did so because their physiotherapists refused to allow it. Sadly this is the reality we sometimes face. In spite of this we continued to offer our services for all athletes, giving equal opportunity and creating easier accessibility to quality care.
It was humbling providing a lot of athletes and staff their first adjustment. Our population was mostly divided into two groups; having seen a chiropractor and was keen to continue care, or had never seen a chiropractor before and was curious to begin care. A misconception some believed was that you had to have pain or an issue to be seen, however we focussed on injury prevention and improving performance regardless of whether you were an athlete or a volunteer.
One of my greater celebratory moments was sharing the joy with the teams who won gold, silver and bronze in Ultimate! They were team USA, Australia, and Colombia respectively. Through our long days we had connected with many of these athletes who often lined up to get adjusted and sought other rehabilitative treatments required, such as myotherapy, hyperice and taping.
Our collective focus for all athletes was injury prevention, assessing functional movement and optimising human performance. Of course this service extends to their team such as the coaches and support staff who play a significant role in the team’s outcome. Other accredited personnel we saw were other members of the medical team, members of local law enforcement, fire and rescue, SWAT and FBI.
Another FICS goal is to earn regular chiropractic representation at the Olympic Games. While chiropractors support athletes at the Olympics, their participation depends on the host country and individual participating countries, teams and athletes. At the World Games, chiropractors are as much a part of the healthcare structure as medical doctors and athletic trainers.
“To work at an international event, on world champions, in a sport that may not be in the Olympics, is as close as you can get to the Olympics,” Dr. Nook explained. “The World Games — which a lot of people don’t really understand — features the top athletes in the world in sports that just don’t happen to be in the Olympics. It is a chance to work with sports that you may never be exposed to. Most people have never worked on fin swimmers or sumo wrestlers.”
Chiropractors also have the chance to collaborate with colleagues from around the world and learn from each other. “The friendships and enjoyment that chiropractors get out of that is just as strong as the feedback and the fulfillment of treating athletes and accredited individuals during the games,” Dr. Nook said.
Because of FICS, I have become great friends with many people all over the world such as America, France, Spain, Germany, and UK to name a few. Speaking with some of these chiropractors about their experiences at the Olympics and first World Games has been nothing but awe inspiring. Although I am entering my seventh year of practice, it never ceases to amaze me how much I am continually learning from others and the knowledge that they find fascinating when I share it.
Outside our shifts we made time for social events such as team dinners, attending the athlete party, Topgolf, a bit of carpool karaoke, and checking out the artists. Nelly, Big Boi (half of Outkast) and Lupe Fiasco would have to be my favourite. Lionel Richie also made an appearance at the closing ceremony and he’s definitely still got it!
To answer the question you must be asking: how do I get started? Get involved with your local sports chiropractic group (AICE Sports & Exercise) and volunteer in a variety of community, state and national level sporting events. Acquire your FICS International Sports Chiropractic diploma and then prepare to work at international-level events! Additionally, something you might like to consider is to become a Titled Member or Fellow within AICE Sports & Exercise clinical practice group for official sports chiropractor titling and privileges.
Before this, I served on the SCA WA Committee for five years from my student to new graduate years. I had volunteered at several events including, but not limited to, music festivals, the National Beach Volleyball Championship, Australian Road Racing and HBF Run. Ultimately my sights were set on working internationally to continue doing what I love whilst being an avid traveller. I was locuming across Australia when I found out I was selected for the games and in that moment my partner and I started planning our two month trip across America and Europe. When my time in Alabama came to an end, I hopped on a train to New Orleans to begin our vacation and we’ve since continued on to Las Vegas, San Francisco and now Mexico. I realise as I write this from my hotel in Cancun that I am very fortunate to have the time, energy, resources and opportunity to do what I do. And for that I am so grateful and hope this can be a reality for many others within our profession.
A special thank you to our Chef de Mission Brian Nook, and FICS admin Trish Donoghue without whom I would not have had the incredible experience that I did. I also can’t forget Bradley Sandler, Simon Lawson, Deb Nook, and Lotte Langhoff who worked tirelessly to make our experience seamless. Years of liaising with international federations and VIPs, organising logistics and streamlining procedures whilst adapting to ever changing schedules takes sheer tenacity. The research student team comprising of Dean Hottum, Kara Godkin, Luke Shackleford and Lizandi Shoeman deserve special mention for supporting the chiropractors and going above and beyond in many ways. I hope to work with them again in the near future.
Fun fact: Brian was my lecturer and motion palpation instructor at Murdoch University in 2012. Since then he’s gone on to teach at other universities and amazingly he recognised me from a decade ago!
To sum up my World Games experience and first FICS event in a few words I would choose: exciting, meaningful, rewarding. If I can do it, so can you. What are you waiting for?
Dr Wynn Chua