Treating Professional Athletes

Dr. Pope has treated and consulted with active and retired professional athletes from eleven National Football League teams and five Canadian Football League teams.  He has also treated and consulted with Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters and performers from Cirque du Soleil.
Based in The Woodlands, Texas, his rehabilitation programs are in high demand with athletes from all over North America, and he is regularly called on for off season training recommendations.  His work has been featured on ESPN 360 and TSN (The Sports Network) in Canada, and has garnered attention in various print publications.
In an interview with The American Chiropractor Magazine, Dr. Pope explains a bit of his practice philosophy, shares his vision for the future, and credits some of those that helped him achieve his success.

TAC: What is your goal for 2010?

Pope: As we move into another year, I look forward with anticipation to the opportunities to introduce new patients to chiropractic care.  The evolution of my practice has been a little out of the ordinary.  In addition to my regular patients, I have had the opportunity to meet with a number of professional athletes who are in need of musculoskeletal care.  A large percentage of them have never been treated by a chiropractor, because their options for care have been team trainers, physical therapists, or orthopedists.  For the most part, chiropractic hasn’t even been a primary option for them. And, since the majority of their injuries are musculoskeletal, it would only make sense that chiropractic should be their first option for treatment and management of pain.  

TAC: How has your athletic background helped you shape your practice philosophy?

Pope:  As a former Super League rugby player, I am aware of the continuous pressure placed on the human body in competitive sports. Because of this, I have the ability to understand and relate with my athletes.  Over the past four years, I have developed connections with professional football players, basketball players, mixed martial artists, Olympic athletes, and even performers from Cirque du Soleil.  I’ve been fortunate to work with both active and retired players from eleven National Football League teams and five Canadian Football League teams.  My treatment protocols have been specifically created to get the athletes I treat back on the field faster than other types of single therapy they have received, because I combine manipulation, physical medicine, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.

TAC: Do your athletes benefit from your musculoskeletal rehabilitation programs?

Pope:  Our training as chiropractors gives us the unique capability of understanding the many types of musculoskeletal injuries and puts our profession at the forefront in their diagnosis and treatment.  I’ve also developed off-season training programs designed to target specific muscle groups to improve speed, strength, and endurance.  When combined with off season training and treatment of injury, you get a better prepared, less injury prone athlete. This type of care and philosophy applies directly to the general population as well.

TAC: You seem pretty confident in your quality of care.  Where does that come from?

Pope:  I pride myself on being one of the top musculoskeletal practitioners with whom my athletes come in contact.  I had the benefit of training at Texas Chiropractic College (TCC) where they emphasized the integration of chiropractic and medicine and defined our scope of practice as musculoskeletal.  I had excellent mentoring under the direction of Dr. Richard Brassard, former ACA President, and current TCC President.  Under Dr. Brassard, I learned the importance of professionalism, integrity, and defining my role as a health care provider. 
I received great clinical instruction from Dr. Victor Benevides, who instilled in me the importance of patient communication and the responsibility of precise patient documentation.  I also saw the benefit of having great educators in our institutions, which enhanced our profession’s ability to compete and thrive with other health care entities.  These include Drs. Jeffrey Thompson, Larry Wyatt in radiology and Dr. Allan Adams, the vice chairman of academic affairs.  These men are strong proponents of creating evidence based curriculum for our future students. This type of ideology will, in turn, help our profession to grow, flourish and gain wider acceptance within the health care industry.    

TAC: What problems do you encounter when counseling new patients?

Pope:  One of the biggest obstacles in the acceptance of chiropractic by the general public and in the mainstream medical community is a lack of understanding of exactly what we do. Under the canopy of chiropractic, they’re presented with a confusing array of therapies and protocols, some of which have little to do with musculoskeletal or neural conditions.  It is incumbent on us as chiropractic practitioners to move the view of our profession from alternative care to mainstream care.  We’ll do this by establishing the guidelines and definition of musculoskeletal practitioners.  Secondly, we need to move our universities into the public arena, similar to optometry, dentistry, podiatry, physical therapy, and medicine.  To do this, we must adopt an evidence based curriculum within all our universities and institutions of higher learning.

TAC: Do you collaborate with other medical practitioners?
Pope:  Because of my specialization in musculoskeletal care and the quality of rehabilitation we provide to our patients, I have been able to attend rotations for orthopedics and reconstructive surgery with a number of orthopedists in my area.  While we need to differentiate ourselves from medical doctors, we must also align ourselves with them in areas where our expertise can assist in providing patients with quality care.

TAC: What is a typical day like in your practice?
Pope:  I founded Texas Performance Health Care (TXPHC) on the principle of providing the general public the same high level of health care provided to professional athletes. Our mission is to offer the highest quality physical medicine and non-surgical care to our patients.  We strive to give the best care our patients can receive in a professional, efficient and uncompromising manner.  We provide comprehensive services in the areas of physical medicine, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and manipulation.  TXPHC is committed to enhancing our patients’ quality of life by providing the most up to date treatment protocols available and incorporating the latest in rehabilitative technology.  Treatment through my office is an effective, low-cost, low-risk, and non-invasive alternative to surgery.  Patients suffering from most musculoskeletal conditions respond favorably to our cutting edge rehabilitative protocols and advanced technology.  Should a surgical solution become necessary, we can refer our patients to one of the highly qualified orthopedic surgeons with whom we work.

TAC: What type of injuries do you regularly see?
Pope:  In my practice, many of the athletes present with chronic or unresponsive musculoskeletal injuries that haven’t improved with other types of treatment as well as repetitive stress injuries, sprains, strains and contusions.  During the off-season, I attend to a large number of knee and shoulder injuries both pre- and post-surgical.  I’ve successfully done labrum rehab, treated and rehabbed shoulder dislocations, rotator cuff, high ankle sprains, Achilles tendons and many other musculoskeletal injuries that wouldn’t respond to traditional therapy. 

TAC: What are you doing to better your practice?
Pope:  To improve our standing as musculoskeletal practitioners, we must go above and beyond the basics in our practices. Prior to treatment, you have to perform due diligence.  That includes getting a full history to determine a diagnosis and a treatment protocol for the patient.  Since many of our patients are under the care of other health care providers (such as orthopedic surgeons), health care records must be requested, including a surgical report, radiology, and lab reports.  Once all of the information is gathered and a current patient history is completed, a diagnosis and treatment plan is established.  I employ custom protocols that I have created for specific types of injuries which combine manipulation and physical therapy, along with proven physical medicine technologies.

TAC: Does the care you provide your professional athletes differ from that for your regular patients?
Pope:  Everything we do with regard to caring for the needs of professional athletes applies equally to the general population.  Although the intensity at which we can administer treatment varies because of time constraints, we apply the same quality of care to all of our patients.  The use of evidence based technology is also important in treatment and diagnosis of our patients.  Our office in The Woodlands, Texas, is a state of art facility, where we employ FDA approved devices for the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.  Among some of the technologies we use are Erchonia Laser, Acoustic Wave Therapy, Electronic Muscles Stimulators, Ultrasound, Winposture, and Vital Wear.

TAC: How have changes in technology affected your practice?
Pope:  As the technology improves, so will our ability to enhance our treatment protocols and make a more profound outcome in the daily lives of those with whom we come into contact.  It is time to elevate our professionalism and establish a new level of health care services for our patients.  No longer should we be deemed to be an alternative health care profession.  Our mission should be to establish ourselves and define our practices as the leaders in musculoskeletal care.

TAC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Pope:  I would like to thank the following gentlemen that have devoted their professional lives to furthering chiropractic.  They include Dr. Kurt Juergens, Dr. Darren Paul, Dr. Vince Scheffler, Dr. Louis Sportelli, Dr. Shelby Elliott, Dr. Mark Zeigler and Dr. Tom Hyde.  Their dedication to excellence will hasten the advancement of chiropractic and, for that, they should be commended.

To contact Dr. David Pope visit or email [email protected].

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