How to Build a Sports Health Care Practice


In business, “toke wa karinary” is the Japanese term for “time is money.” The Japanese feel that maximizing these two factors is the key to the success of any endeavor,1 especially the sports health care practice. Many doctors, when they get out of school, are idealistic and can’t see practice as a business in the marketplace. One thing a doctor must soon learn is the fact that services are a product.


As a chiropractor wanting to specialize in Sports Injury, I had the proper academic background, as a former high school biology teacher and coach, coupled with the chiropractic techniques to build a solid practice when I graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1976. After professional certification in Sports Injury and working for the International Chiropractors Association with the Sports Council, I became heavily involved in the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Seoul Olympics held in South Korea, when I was elected the president of the International Sports Council.2

During this Olympic period, my sports practice blossomed. I then decided to attend the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, Alabama, to pursue a post-doctorate degree in Sports Medicine and have a part-time Sports Medicine practice while I was attending classes for my doctor of education degree.

The practice I established was the first “natural alternative” to the traditional “RestgPrescrip-tiongSurgery” practice used by the orthopedists in the area. The U.S. Sports Academy was in favor of the alternative slant, because they knew how important drug free treatment is with Olympic and college athletes. At that time (1988) I had just returned from working the Seoul Olympics as a Sports Chiropractor and was aware of the importance that “speed of recovery time of an injury” was for an athlete. Acupuncture and herbs had played a big part in the health care of the athletes of the Far East (China, Japan, India, Korea, etc.) during the Seoul Olympics. As chiropractic care was introduced to the athletes in the 1984 Olympics, you could now see the complimentary benefits that it had provided, different from the acupuncture-centered care of the past.

Acupuncture had provided relief in a “yin” format (slow, steady, low force) to the athletes. When chiropractic was introduced to compliment the sports care, it provided the “yang” format they had been lacking (fast, high force, specific adjusting). Manipulation (called tuni in the Orient) is a slow, more general movement, and was the only manipulation provided before chiropractic.3 The athletes accepted the Western “chiropractic” instantly. It was quick, easy to understand and was not complicated by extensive, detailed herbal formulas; and best of all no drugs were used!

Establishing a Sports Practice

The sports medicine practice I was then establishing in Alabama was unique and provided both Western and Eastern approaches to the athlete’s care. Without having to resort to drugs or surgery in most cases and, if that became the case, I had become good friends with some of the best orthopedists in Alabama. These orthopedists had cared for some of the best athletes in the nation and were interested in the new concepts that I was bringing to the sports health arena.

Athletes are more in tune with muscle injury because that is the most common problem in an athletic oriented practice. However, chiropractic is traditionally a neurologically based practice, as is acupuncture. Here, again, I had studied Applied Kinesiology under Dr. George Goodheart while I was at Palmer College and with post-doctoral certification after graduation, I felt comfortable in the athletic injury field. This system combines chiropractic (Western), acupuncture therapy (Eastern), and muscle testing (which athletes understand completely). Utilizing Applied Kinesiology techniques allowed me to implement the type of sports care necessary to help 90% of the athletes.

There was an area that I was not completely satisfied with. This was the area of nutrition. In the beginning, I was utilizing a great deal of the herbal formulas I had learned in Korea from the Sports Nutritionist taking care of the athletes. The herbal prescriptions were excellent but took a great deal of time to put together; and getting the ingredients was even harder. Some even had to be ordered from China, Japan or Korea with a two-to-four week wait. Then, if they were out or they did not understand your order, there was another four-week wait to change it.

About this time, I remembered using the Standard Process Company for a nutritional company when I had started practice in Delmar, Delaware, and worked with the Washington Redskins. I knew they had a sterling reputation as one of the leading whole food nutritional companies in the United States. They had been established in 1929 by Dr. Royal Lee, a dentist and leading pioneer in nutrition in the country during the early 1900’s.

I contacted the company and talked with the representative from Atlanta in charge of distribution in Alabama. We setup a meeting to refresh my memory on the product line and what they had to offer a doctor just setting up a natural sports oriented practice.

At our meeting, we discussed all of the updates the company had instituted in the five years I had been in the Republic of South Korea working with the Olympic Team. Not only had some of the product names changed but, also, they had introduced a whole new product line called Medi-herb. This product line had an extensive array of herbs, many of which were the same herbs I had been using, but with Western and Latin names instead of the many different languages I was trying to master—Chinese, Japanese, Korean or another Asian language.

I was extremely pleased. The rep also explained to me the new computerized evaluation system, called a “Symptom Survey” that had been introduced. This increased the speed of the nutritional evaluation system a great deal. Now, each nutritional evaluation would not have to be done before hand, sometimes taking hours. They had even introduced a new educational system for the doctors. Instead of the sales representative coming to the office, taking the doctor to lunch or his valuable patient time, the Standard Process Company now had seminars for continuing education credit and nationally recognized nutritional experts teaching, instead of the “salesman” approach as used by so many companies. The support system was fluid and easy to implement into a sports practice.

Now, I was ready. We had our building lease agreement, staff and the service line of chiropractic, acupuncture, nutrition, physical therapy and related therapies in place. We had located near the office of a very good rehabilitation specialist that could take care of any problems we couldn’t handle. The rehabilitation specialist was a personal trainer and we had several meetings and discussed alternative methods as opposed to the medical model. We agreed on the majority of treatment approaches and plans to see patients when we opened.

Education as Advertising

Over the next several years, as I was completing my doctorate in sports medicine and education at the United States Sports Academy, I established a lecture and speaking schedule in the immediate area, concentrating on the city where my practice is located the first year. The second and third years, I extended the territory another ten miles until I had a bull’s-eye around my practice of civic organizations—Rotary, Kiwanas, Lions, Optimist, etc.—with which I had been a lunchtime speaker. After the first year, it had a snowball effect with more requests than I could fulfill in a once-a-month speaking schedule. I then was getting, on the average, about five-to-ten patients after each lecture.

The subjects of the lectures were always varied and different. Rarely were they just on chiropractic, unless requested, but chiropractic was always the subliminal message in the talk. The talk always started with a Sports Medicine topic and about the United States Sports Academy, but ended with an alternative healing correction method being heralded. This lecture/talk method became the only method of advertising that was needed. After several talks, the local TV station interviewed me, and that gave my practice another boost.

My post-doctoral education in Sports Medicine was very beneficial for the atmosphere of the talks for both the audience and myself. Several people told me, after the lectures, they felt they were getting a whole hour (which you rarely get) with a professor and a doctor that not only knows about the problem but someone who can correct the problem as well.


I have completed my doctorate at the United States Sports Academy and have a very thriving practice. I continue to do the local talks, but now lecture nationwide and write a weekly column for the newspaper. I feel that a sports health care practice can be very rewarding in many ways, not only for chiropractors, but other health care providers that wish to specialize in the sports area. It is demanding, in that you often have to see patients all day at the office, then go somewhere to cover for a team or an athlete as a team physician or therapist at night or on the weekend; but the rewards are great. In addition, individuals get involved with the strength training aspect or the other areas of a sports health care practice that often lead to a specialty, all in itself.

Dr. Stump did his undergraduate work in Biology at the University of Maryland and received his Masters and Doctorate in Sports Medicine at the United States Sports Academy. A 1976 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, he went on to do the majority of his postdoctoral work in Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture in Japan, but receive his OMD degree from China Medical University, Beijing in 1981. Dr. Stump may be reached by email at [email protected].

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