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The certifications you cannot ignore as a sports chiropractor

A basketball on the court of someone trying to get sports chiropractic certifications

Chiropractic plays a huge role in keeping some of the nation’s top athletes in their best physical form.

Case in point: the Professional Football Chiropractic Society reports that 34 pro sports chiropractors deliver somewhere between 16,320 and 27,200 collective adjustments during the National Football League’s 16-week season.

Even if the patient isn’t in the pros, chiropractic can still provide benefits for patients who lead physically active lifestyles. Among them are improved range of motion, reduced healing time, and, because it can also ease pain, a lessened reliability on highly addictive pain-relieving drugs according to the National University of Health Sciences.

Which certifications can help doctors of chiropractic (DCs) in this field better treat their athletic patients? Here are a few to consider.


Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (CCSP) is one of “the most recognized sports certificate for chiropractors in the U.S.” says Brett Guimard DC, DACBSP, CSCS, MAOM, Lac.

In addition to serving as a Senior High Performance Healthcare Provider for the United States Olympic Committee for eight years and U.S. Medical Director for the 2016 Paralympic Games, Guimard currently mentors DCs in areas related to integrative sports medicine and sports performance via his online courses provided through Alchemist Quest. The CCSP designation “signifies that a doctor has completed additional training in sports med [and] sports performance,” Guimard says.

Earning the CCSP designation requires that you take an exam. The American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians (ACBSP) indicates that this exam—which is a 250-multiple-choice question test administered over the course of one five-hour period—can be taken as long as at least one of these requirements is met:

  • Completed minimum of 100 postgraduate hours in a CCSP program from an accredited chiropractic college
  • Completed first year in sports medicine residency program
  • A Masters of Science in exercise and sport science, or its equivalent
  • Hold a current Athletic Trainer Certification


The Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians (DACBSP) is another well-recognized certification, according to Guimard, and it is one which he says “signifies that a doctor has completed further extensive training and practical experience” in both sports medicine and sports performance.

The ACBSP shares that the CCSP certification is a pre-requisite to the DACBSP and requires that you pass a written exam and project, practical exam, and complete 100 hours of practical experience. To qualify, licensed DCs must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Active CCSP certification plus 200 hours in a DACBSP program
  • Active CCSP certification plus a Masters of Science degree within the sports medicine domain
  • Full completion of a sports medicine residency program


A third certification Guimard feels is beneficial for DCs treating athletes is that of Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Having a CSCS certification “helps to bridge the gap in communication and collaboration when working with strength and conditioning coaches,” according to Guimard, who adds that it’s also helpful for sports DCs who create their own strength and conditioning programs.

This certification is obtained through the National Strength Conditioning Association (NSCA) and only requires that applicants have a bachelor’s degree or higher (or be currently enrolled and a senior) and have current CPR/AED certification.

The exam itself is 4 hours in length and involves answering a total of 220 multiple choice questions in both scientific foundations (1.5 hours) and practical application (2.5 hours). Additionally, both sections must be passed within a one-year time frame to earn the CSCS certification.

Applied Kinesiology

Eugene Charles, DC, DIBAK, shares that, in 1985, he was in chiropractic college and attended a seminar about Applied Kinesiology (AK) in the hopes of finding an answer for a sports-related shoulder injury he’d been unsuccessful in relieving. The person giving that seminar was George Goodheart, Jr., the founder of AK, and “I became very attentive when I heard Dr. Goodheart say that, ‘Athletes are finely tuned and need to be finely treated,’” he says.

It was after that seminar that Charles says Goodheart tested him and discovered that he had a grade 1 acromioclavicular joint separation. Charles, who is currently the director of The Applied Kinesiology Center of New York, says that he has been “learning, teaching, and treating patients using AK ever since.”

“The ability to use functional muscle testing is paramount to accurately diagnose sprain/strain conditions and allow the doctor to correctly implement the most appropriate therapy to each specific condition,” says Charles. AK also works well when combined with all of the other muscle manipulation therapies DCs use on a day-to-day basis.

The International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK) offers a PAK designation (which stands for Professional Applied Kinesiology) for those interested in this type of certification. To qualify, you must be an ICAK member in good standing and be 100-hour certified. Additionally, recertification is required every five years.


Another area of learning that can be helpful for sports DCs is Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) says Keith Sparks, DC, owner and operator of ICT Muscle & Joint Clinic in Wichita, Kansas. Sparks says he likes using DNS with his athletes because it “is wonderful at analyzing human specific movement patterns and respecting movement through joint centration.”

“To any athlete, the goal is to be better than they were yesterday,” says Sparks. DNS helps them achieve this goal by “fine tuning” the athlete’s movement patterns. Ultimately, this helps decrease their injury risk and/or improve performance.

Courses in DNS are offered by a variety of institutions, each with their own individualized fees and sign-up requirements.


Sparks says he has also found value in being trained in the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT). “MDT is fantastic at categorizing and providing simple, yet effective, exercises for mechanical-based pain patterns,” he says. “This allows an athlete to focus on his/her sport.”

The McKenzie Institute-Chiropractic Branch explains that “the emphasis within MDT is on promoting independence and self-treatment” and involves conducting an exam using designated assessment protocol, classifying the problem via specific maneuvers, and creating an individualized treatment program to provide benefits related to early prognosis, better outcomes, and recurrence prevention.

MDT courses are offered via McKenzie Institute International and available in multiple locations across the U.S. and Canada. Some courses require online participation as well.

Additional Certifications

Cheryl Lee-Pow, DACBSP, DC, CCSP, owner of POW-HER Chiropractic, LLC in Rockville, Maryland adds to this topic by saying that “it is extremely important for a sports DC to have numerous certifications in different rehab techniques, soft tissue and physical therapy modalities.”

Among the ones she has earned herself and recommends include:

  • Active Release Technique (ART). “I use this technique more than any other,” Lee-Pow says, adding that this particular technique continues to evolve, which is important because sports care evolves too.
  • Graston Technique. “Graston can be used on those tough areas that sometimes even the human fingers of ART need a little additional help,” says Lee-Pow.
  • Erchonia Laser Therapy. Lee-Pow is also a certified Erchonia laser therapy practitioner, which she defines as a technique which “can aid in the healing process.”
  • Kineseology Taping. “Kineseology taping certification helps clients recover faster and without the bulkiness of a brace,” Lee-Pow explains.
  • Dry Needling. Lee-Pow says she also finds value in using dry needling for athletic patients who “are in an extreme amount of pain and other techniques may be too aggressive.”

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