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Northwestern Medicine Now Providing NIU Student Athletes with Chiropractic Services

Before every game, Northern Illinois University football players visit Dr. Dave in the training room for an assessment of their spine and joints. Dr. Dave is William David Smith, DC, PT, a chiropractor and physical therapist at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital. He is looking for imbalance or dysfunction of the skeletal system that can hinder performance and cause future injury.

“Even if a player isn’t feeling pain, an area of restriction in the kinetic chain can increase muscle tone and spasm, and decrease range of motion,” said Dr. Smith. “Adjustments help properly align the body, freeing up tension in the body, reducing the risk of injury and improving performance.”

Preventative and performance-based chiropractic conditioning is a new pre-game ritual for the Huskies. Previously, players would seek chiropractic care on their own, and usually only to treat injury. This season, Northwestern Medicine added on-site chiropractic services to its comprehensive sports medicine partnership with NIU Athletics.

“The repetitive drills and number of training hours required to perform at a high level in sport takes a toll on the joints, as does poor posture hunched over a desk in the classroom,” said Dr. Smith. “With hands-on manipulation I can assess skeletal efficiency and positively influence movement of the spine and extremities. The immediate effect is better mobility.”

Dr. Smith works closely with the team physicians, orthopedists and athletic trainers to ensure athletes are healthy and performing in peak condition. NIU Head Football Athletic Trainer Heath Duncan says chiropractic is essential for overall conditioning and endurance.

"Dr. Smith can hone in on trouble areas throughout the body and with his expertise is able to free up joints of concern,” said Duncan. “We believe we are performing at a higher level and feeling better due to our partnership with Northwestern Medicine and the addition of chiropractic as another layer to our sports medicine team."

Chiropractic conditioning is becoming more popular among college teams with many of the larger Division I schools adopting the modality in recent years. Meanwhile, NFL teams have had chiropractors on their medical staffs for decades. Mark Miller, DC, has served as the chiropractic physician for the New England Patriots since 1982.

“Chiropractic has earned its due respect and has enhanced the performance of our players by allowing them to play at maximum efficiency and play through the postseason with reduced injuries,” said Dr. Miller. “Pain causes distraction and I emphasize to our players that when we can eliminate their pain they are more able to concentrate on their job.”

Dr. Smith is currently offering same-day chiropractic conditioning during all home football games at NIU and hosting sessions the day before away games. Dr. Smith says the athletes who want a competitive edge have been receptive to the new services.

“Chiropractic manipulation of the spine is like brushing your teeth – a preventive tool to feel better, move better and perform better,” said Dr. Smith.

Learn more about Northwestern Medicine’s Department of Chiropractic Medicine.