Strength and conditioning coaches do not have the education and experience to conduct myofascial release techniques and chiropractic services. Conversely, chiropractors and sports therapists—by trade—are not schooled in creating programs that elicit physiological adaptations through strength training and nutritional protocols.
Imagine strength and conditioning coaches digging into various parts of clients’ bodies with their thumbs, trying to eliminate pain, their “knowledge” based on an article or weekend course they took. Maybe they feel inclined because they have been in the business for almost a decade. This is akin to a chiropractor dishing out training programs and nutritional protocols for their patients to hit a personal best clean and jerk and gain five pounds of lean muscle mass. Without proper background or formal education in the designated field, neither professional is equipped to venture into another professional arena.
For the purpose of this article, I will lump all of these people into the category “healthcare practitioners” for brevity’s sake—orthopedists, chiropractors and physical therapists. By “trainers,” we mean massage therapists, coaches and trainers.
When trainers transition to becoming a one-stop shop for their clients, they lose the ability to provide exceptional value in their respective fields. Simply put, they spread themselves too thin. This extends the time it takes for clients to see specific results and at times creates legal and liability issues. Dr. Kyler Brown from Austin Sports Therapy says, “I worry that most coaches do not understand the risks they may be putting their clients in. An underlying medical issue not properly screened for, before aggressive body work, could cause significant unforeseen serious medical issues, as well as open up the coach, trainer or therapist to malpractice liability.”
The solution is simple. Create a network of subject matter experts that complement your business and provide more value for your clients.
If clients are experiencing pain that cannot be eliminated through proper strength, balance and stability protocols, they should be referred out to someone who has years of experience and background in that particular field. More importantly, why not have a healthcare practitioner on board to ensure that your client has the green light to try to correct issues properly?
For clients, look for practitioners who stay within their scope of practice. Be wary of the professional who claims to do it all. Here’s a model that is a win for clients and a win for the respective businesses:
Lets assume that a client has experienced a non-traumatic injury—the client’s shoulder is painful when he raises his arm above 90 degrees.
Stage 1: – Remove any exercises that trigger pain/dysfunction and implement correctives. Additionally, through an assessment, integrate exercises that will promote structural integrity.
Stage 2: – Refer to a healthcare practitioner. After 4-8 weeks of no improvement, it is time to refer out to a healthcare practitioner, specifically an entity like Austin Sports Therapy—doctors who know how to test, screen, and can order required imaging if needed, but who also understand the coaches’ expertise and what the coach is attempting to do.
Stage 3: – Client resumes training. Once the client is cleared to return to training, we advocate keeping open lines of communication with the healthcare professional. Maybe there are some exercises to avoid? Maybe some correctives that would help prevent this issue from arising again?
What we are promoting is an integration of practices. No one can do it all. Stick to what you know, and do a REALLY thorough job. When something falls outside of a professional’s scope of practice, do not be reluctant to refer out. This improves the clients’ experience and ultimately accomplishes what both the client and the practitioner want: PROGRESS! If you want to supercharge these relationships even more, create a system where both the coach and the sports therapist communicate regarding the client (compliant with HIPAA regulations). This is the secret sauce. By integrating the knowledge of both experts, you will fast-track the client’s deliverables. For example, the healthcare practitioner may suggest avoiding particular exercises and integrating a series of correctives. The coach can add extreme value if they can now take the lead on monitoring the competency and compliance with the client actually adhering to this protocol. That’s where the coach will be instrumental in the client’s success—to monitor consistency and to ensure the exercises are being performed as prescribed.
Here’s where things get complicated. There can be a gray area/overlap between coaches/therapists and health practitioners. For example, Austin Sports Therapy’s clinicians hold one of the most reputable strength and conditioning certifications—the CSCS. This does not mean they should be advising clients on specific exercise and nutrition protocols. While these certifications allow the clinicians to speak a consistent language, their practice is not built around the deliverable of strength and conditioning programs. On the other side, a good trainer who understands anatomy and functional screening can better inform the healthcare practitioner on the underlying issue.
Central Athlete coaches have worked with hundreds of clients whose primary objective is to eliminate pain. We start by conducting a movement assessment to determine any underlying issues. Based on the results, we create a strength plan to improve imbalances and remove any stimuli that perpetuates the issue. When an issue is out of our expertise, we refer out to Austin Sports Therapy (AST), our Sport’s Injury/Rehab partner.
Austin Sports Therapy is a sports chiropractic clinic that focuses on quick results using a wide array of joint, muscle and corrective exercise techniques to get their patients out of pain so they can enjoy their lives and regular activities as quickly as possible. AST believes that once rehabilitation is complete, programs that maintain strength and mobility are integral in overall health and wellness. Like Central Athlete, they have unique and targeted protocols for each individual, based on the root of pain. Both businesses just so happen to share the same vision of what we want for our clients—again, PROGRESS.
When Austin Sports Therapy has patients that will benefit from a personalized strength training protocol post rehab—to expedite the recovery process—they are referred to one of their strategic partners such as Train 4 the Game, MOVE Austin Fitness or Central Athlete, all of which offer a model for positive client outcomes. Conversely, when one of our coaches is having difficulty helping a client eliminate pain, they refer the client to Austin Sports Therapy.
Over the past eight years, we have created a strong network with the sports doctors of AST that allows Central Athlete to have a collaborative approach while programming for our clients. We leave the chiropractic and myofascial release techniques to them and they leave the program design to the coaches of Central Athlete.
According to Dr. Brown, DC, co-founder of Austin Sports Therapy, “My patients’ trust is the most important thing to me. When they ask me for a coach or trainer recommendation, it is vital that I help them find a coach who will do everything in his or her power to PREVENT re-injury. Central Athlete has proven over the years that they have the humility to work side by side with us to develop intelligent programming to help my patients continue to improve, without pushing them too far.”
For the Coaches out there, don’t stop creating networks once you have partnered with a sports therapist; also consider mental health practitioners, functional medicine doctors and any other specialists in fields that may complement your practices. Not only will this improve the clients’ experience, it will help grow your business in an authentic and ethical manner. A network of quality specialists will help everyone do a much better job of delivering a stellar experience to clients. Eventually, fitness businesses that incorporate such intelligent and integrated practices will build a solid reputation—and flourish.