Rick Weisbrot worked with the tennis players at the US Open last summer using his skills as an acupuncturist. I was interested in hearing about his experience and asked him some questions:
Were you part of a medical team?
I was a USTA consultant with player medical services. The only people who had clearance to work with players in the player treatment medical offices were the physical therapists, doctors and me. This meant no coaches or other modalities such as massage. The players would either come or request acupuncture or were evaluated by the doctors and, if it were deemed the right course of treatment, they were given acupuncture.
How did your work differ from the medical doctors?
While the doctors could evaluate a player and send them for an MRI or x-ray or blood test they really could not provide any immediate hands on treatment. This left the door wide open for me to treat on the spot and deliver a quantifiable result, whether that was less pain, more range of motion, or stress relief.
Given the tennis players are in top physical shape, did you find it much different that working on those who regularly come to your office?
Well number one, I could immediately identify anatomical land marks when needling due to low body fat and toned muscle. They were also very much into getting a hands on instant result. There was not the usual trepidation that one might encounter with quote, unquote civilian patients. The players are all about getting ready for the game, whatever it takes.
What type of issues did you work on?
I worked on a lot of rotator cuff problems, strained quads and adductors, tight spinal erectors and players wanting to chill out before an upcoming match.
What was the greatest improvement you saw in your days of work there?
The greatest improvement that I had the privilege of delivering was a player who could not raise their arm to serve and ten minutes later they were good to go.
How long was a typical treatment?
Treatments were anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes long with the longest 30 minutes for general stress relief.
Did you do any constitutional work or was it all for local issues?
Most of my work was local with a small percentage being constitutional.
What type of needling did you use?
I mostly did trigger point needling for tight or painful muscles to release the spasm. I also treated painful areas by needling points distally using the formula treat right side for left pain, up for down, and back for front. All of the players were suitably impressed, as was I.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?
The biggest take away from my experience was what I brought to the table, pun intended. I was treated as an equal by the doctors, as it should be. It gave me a chance to see how skilled I am and what I can do in a pressure situation, where I had to deliver the goods. It was a huge confidence builder to produce positive immediate results by one’s own hand. I left knowing what I am capable of as a practitioner and that will translate to future patients.