How Acupuncturists Can Connect with Sports Teams

How Acupuncturists Can Connect with Sports Teams | SPORTSMEDICINEACUPUNCTURE.COM

As sports research increases, the role of an individual is becoming more and more centralized. With that increase in individual need, from amateur to professional sports, the need for acupuncture is also becoming more and more prevalent.

In this article, we‘ll show how acupuncturists can connect with sports teams, including how to introduce yourself as a vital member of the coaching staff, insert yourself into this open playing field, and help you land the position of your dream.

Overcoming Acu-Obstacles

You, as an acupuncturist, know that what you do is powerful. You are taught a complete system of medicine and can even consider yourself over-qualified for the sole practice of acupuncture. However, this means that your entire scope of practice can overlap with others. This is what makes it tricky.

When you’re ready to connect with sports teams:

  • Make sure you are ready to work as a team player. If you‘ve been practicing solo for quite a while (or your entire career), being part of a medical team might be a brand new situation for you. However, if you see your skillset as one functioning part (a very important one) of a fully-encompassing and well-equipped machine, this can help you get that team mindset and work with it.
  • You need to be able to work with clear boundaries. Especially coming from your own business or working in an acupuncture-only clinic, you might not be used to someone telling you what you should or should not do. However, as a sports acupuncturist, you need to be able to work within a team‘s framework.
  • Be ready to travel—and to not travel. In most cases with teams, there will be an away game, tournament or need to train off-campus or far away from home.As an acupuncturist treating sports injuries and athletes, you might find yourself in one of two roles—either a part of on-site emergency care in competitive settings or staying in the back and dealing with management of long-term or short-term injury in rehabilitation settings.Most likely, depending on the staff-size and availability, your medical spectrum will be assigned to out-of-competition injury rehabilitation and prevention. However, it is part of your role as a sports acupuncturist to be ready to fill the shoes of whichever pair you‘re given.


Presentation Time

There are a few things you need to be aware of and make your mind up about before making a presentation:

First and foremost, being aware of your predicament and placement in a team is important. You will need to know how you want to perform or offer your services for treating sports injuries and assisting athletes with acupuncture before you pitch your presentation. To help you out, here are a few things you ought to know:

1. The benefits of acupuncture can be taught in a couple of different ways. You can either present your services through:

  • A private practice in your own office(s). The team will work with you through referral from the AT, PT or MD on-staff.This type can benefit you through its flexibility and working from your “home” or main offices. In general, it is also pretty adapting to your particular style, location, and care.
  • At their on-site facility. This is the most recommended way to truly be a part of the team. If you‘re going to go ahead and make the commitment to be on a sports team medical staff, you will want to be thought of as a primary form of care instead of an afterthought referral. This type makes you accessible and hands-on. The athletes will see you much more often, thus creating a link in their mind about you being an everyday member of their team.To be seen as a part of a group and being accepted fully into an already-formed medical gang, it truly is about presence. You will need to know if you are willing to make the sacrifices to be physically supportive and there on-site when needed.

2. The structure of sports medical staff and systems are different from school to school, team to team, and also can differ based on athletic level or competition.

The structure of the sports systems can be defined as followed:

High School and Smaller Colleges:

  • They won‘t have such a huge budget for the sports medicine staff and might not be accepting an expansion of more roles on the team. However, if an opening is presented, an all-encompassing professional like an acupuncturist (YOU), can jump right into that role and even present a benefit of knowing more than just the standard forms of treatment.
  • Who to Contact: With high schools and smaller colleges, your initial contact should be with the Athletic Trainer or the Physical Therapist on staff. They are often responsible for multiple sports, (possibly) hundreds of athletes, and are generally overwhelmed with the need for more helping hands.They will normally have an Athletic Director in charge of the many sports program. This Director won‘t be familiar with medical knowledge him- or herself, but is in charge of contracting and assigning personnel for medical care. This will be the ultimate decision maker.

Amateur, Division One Collegiate, and Professional Level:

  • They will generally have much more money to support a bigger or more advanced Medical Team, thus making them more open to taking you on as an acupuncturist and as a full-fledged member of their staff.
  • You‘ll most likely be working under the team‘s MD or PT, which will decrease your scope of practice. You‘ll also have to be able to communicate in “western terms” and work as a team.
  • Who to Contact: Your point-of-reference will be getting in contact with the Medical Director. This director is in charge of not only the team of Athletic Trainers, but also of Physical Therapists, Psychologists, Massage Therapists, and the coaches.

In general, getting your foot in the door is important. However, how you lodge your therapist, not-so-stylish clogs in there is also key to the beginning of a successful partnership.

How Acupuncturists Can Connect with Sports Teams | SPORTSMEDICINEACUPUNCTURE.COM

Other Ways You Can Make Contact

Avoid cold calls if at all possible. The best place to start is by asking your community and current patients. Who do you know who dances in the Oregon Ballet? Who do you know that plays for your local sports team? The first step is to just start the conversation with people. Let the world know what you want.

Once you have a warm lead, you can use that person’s name to open the door. It is incredibly valuable, because people will listen to you when they have a little trust in you. “I have been working with X and have found that acupuncture is the most effective tool for recovery and rehabilitation.” That will lead you into other opportunity for presentation or face to face contact.

If you do have to do a cold call, call and ask if they take presentation. “Acupuncture is such good medicine for your athletes. Can I come and talk to you team about the benefit of Acupuncture.”  You could even ask to take the Athletic Trainer out to lunch to learn more about what they do if asking for a presentation seem like too much.

The biggest hurdle for you to overcome before you reach out to sports teams is get through the tenderness and vulnerability of being scared that you will upset them or be judged about being an acupuncturist and the medicine.

—Jason Stein, Coach of successful entrepreneurs and small business owners

How Acupuncturists Can Connect with Sports Teams | SPORTSMEDICINEACUPUNCTURE.COM

Nailing Your First Practice: Pierce Them With Your Presentation

Whether you‘ve just been hired as a team member and need to make your first impression a great one, or you have this one last opportunity to make your case to the hiring staff, there are two types of presentations that should and need to happen if you’re trying to connect with sports teams.

These presentations are vital to the integration of your role into the team and as the newbie on-staff. They are:

  • Presentation to Other Healthcare Professionals: Whether they are on staff as your equals or evaluating you as your superiors, this presentation can make or break how they view you in the workplace.Make sure you are founding this proposal on professionalism, medical experience, and background knowledge.You should use this as a full-on opportunity to dive into acupuncture: how it works, relevant research, and all kinds of statistics supporting acupuncture and its benefits with athletes.

    You need to emphasize your ability, willingness, and how the team can profit from the compatibility of your services, which are complementary of theirs (that you are not coming in trying to take their place).

    You need to define your expectations, motivations, and goals as a new member of this staff and what you can get out of it (like advertising or experience), as well as what they can get out of you.

First-Hand Accounts & FAQs

We know that this might have been quite a lot to take in. We also know you most likely have some questions.

This is why we‘ve put together real-world answers to your most frequently asked questions—answers by acupuncturists and other professionals like you who have already gotten their feet wet in sports medicine.

1) What would be the best way for an acupuncturist to approach you if they are interested in working with you? 

If you‘re coming directly on campus or sending a direct e-mail, clearly state the focus of your visit and of the work that needs to be done with their team. Make sure you are clear with your purpose, whether it is for business expansion, development of a clientele base or even research.

—Jayme Frazier, LBCC Roadrunner Women’s Head Volleyball Coach and full-time faculty for the Health & Human Performance Department.

Make sure your full presentation is convincing in helping me believe you can help our athletes. I want to be able to clearly see your professionalism, medical background knowledge, and your character.

—Debbi Herrold, LBCC women’s Head Basketball Coach

2) What concerns do you have about treating sports injuries and supporting your team and players with acupuncture?

As an ATC, a certified athletic trainer, I should know what every athlete needs and what every member of the staff is doing in regards to care. The ATC is hired to be the coordinator of the athletes care and have a direct line of communication with the coaches. You need to be reporting to and in constant communication with the ATC on staff regarding all treatment.

—Erin Scharer, MS, ATC, Athletic trainer at LBCC and former Coordinator of Sports Medicine, Athletic Trainer at Willamette University

From an administrative viewpoint, the biggest concern would be liability. You will need to show proof of insurance coverage along with certain qualifications. For the typical student-athlete, acupuncture might not always be covered by personal medical insurance or a college’s medical insurance plan so the student-athlete may be liable for any charges resulting from acupuncture care. The college might also have to be concerned with potentially adding an acupuncturist to their payroll. Make sure you‘re aware of any problems this may cause going into the job.

—Gayle Rushing, LBCC Administrative Assistant

How Acupuncturists Can Connect with Sports Teams | SPORTSMEDICINEACUPUNCTURE.COM
3) What are the two biggest hurdles with adding acupuncture as part of your program for treating sports injuries and your athletes?

The biggest hurdle, without a doubt, is scheduling. The players, especially when playing at a high level, are busy. You have to fit treatment into their schedule. This may mean coming into the office on days off or staying late into the evenings to accommodate the players‘ availability. The second hurdle can be from the medical staff of the team. You have to be willing to follow and abide by instructions. Although you can voice your opinion, the athlete is not your full-on patient, so you have to take direction.

—Jason M. Landry EAMP, Licensed practitioner and the owner of Lake Washington Integrative Medicine

Time and cost are the two biggest concerns from the team‘s standpoint. Time as a larger group to meet the specific needs of the individual athlete. Cost as a large cost commitment in a possibly already-strained budget.

—Jayme Frazier, LBCC Roadrunner Women’s Head Volleyball Coach and full-time faculty for the Health & Human Performance Department.”

4) Do you have any other thoughts or suggestions for acupuncturists considering treating sports injuries and athletes?

Talk the athletes through the acupuncture procedure step by step, especially if they aren‘t familiar with it. Tell them why you are doing what you are doing. A committed athlete will want to know everything they can about moving beyond injuries or regaining 100% function. In turn, the athletes themselves will be the best voices and ambassadors for acupuncture and its benefits.

—Debbi Herrold, LBCC women’s Head Basketball Coach

My take-home for all acupuncturists is simple—BE GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO.

Always push to learn more, improve your technique, sharpen your diagnostic skills, and never believe that you have it all figured out. There will always be opportunities, some you may not be ready for and that’s okay. With hard work and a lot of effort, you will eventually be more than good enough to take advantage of the opportunities when they come.

—Jason M. Landry EAMP, Licensed practitioner and the owner of Lake Washington Integrative Medicine

In conclusion, from today‘s experts in the field to the team who will be working around you, treating athletes can be the chance you‘re looking for to pin your acupuncture practice on something new. The opportunity to join a successful team can be the chance to not only expand your practice, but also to be a part of something much bigger than yourself.

Take a look at AcuSport Education’s C.SMAs of the Month to learn more about how acupuncturists can connect with sports teams:


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