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Chicora chiropractor attends dream sporting event

Justin Miller examines patient Ray Gilmore, of East Brady, at his Chicora chiropractic practice on Jan. 25. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle

Athletes who compete in the Olympics are at the top of their individual sports, and so are the health care professionals who staff the events and tend to the medical needs of those athletes.

Last month, Justin Miller made it to the qualifying round when he traveled to Lake Placid, N.Y., for the biennial Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire World University Games. The international multisport event invites college athletes to compete in winter events similar to the Olympics.

The Chicora-based chiropractor said he wanted to see what the experience would be like.

“The pinnacle of any sports chiropractor is to make it to the Olympics, and I would like to see if I would like the Olympic environment,” Miller said. “They were looking for some volunteers. I vetted it out to see exactly what it was. I submitted my application and was able to get on board.”

The games took place from Jan. 12 to 22, and Miller was stationed at Mount Van Hoevenberg in the Adirondacks, where the cross-country skiing events took place. Miller said the games also presented an opportunity for him to work alongside medical professionals from around the world, which was another perk of the gig.

“I kind of stood by the finish line with another doctor, and if anyone crashed, I would help,” Miller said. “If they would overexert themselves, we would be there. We worked on athletes and staff during our downtime.

“We met some incredible team doctors from Australia, Japan, Finland, so it was nice to meet those doctors from other countries.”

Working the games

Miller said there were about 1,700 volunteers, with 200 of them medical volunteers.

Bjorn Bakken, of St. Paul, Minn., was the lead physician at the venue. Bakken said there were several health care professionals at every event station to cover the needs of athletes. The games this year featured 12 event categories.

Each physician performed duties relating to their specialty and also helped treat injuries when necessary. Miller’s background as a chiropractor came in handy at the games, Bakken said.

“The full care of the athletes starts even before the competition — That's where Justin was really helpful,” Bakken said. “There were some athletes coming to us with chronic problems. Justin was able to lend his knowledge of taping and soft tissue manipulations so they could go on and compete.”

Miller helped athletes prepare for their competitions and watched for emergency needs. He worked alongside three or four medics at a time who would perform duties, including helping an athlete make it to a medical station if they were injured in the field.

Miller said he said the biggest injury he helped treat came from an athlete competing in the biathlon, where participants vied in cross-country skiing and marksmanship in one event.

“Our most significant injury, we had an athlete go down in training,” Miller said. “Crashing, especially if you're holding a rifle on your back it does more damage. We had lacerations, we had a girl cut her nose, and one cut the back of her head.

“I was there helping them out every step of the way for those injuries.”

Most of Miller’s time was spent speaking with athletes and filling requests relating to chiropractic needs, such as taping and stretching.

Bakken said Miller was eager to help in any scenario that arose at the cross-country skiing venue.

“He was a crucial member of our team, and we really appreciate his unique set of skills that he could bring to the team,” Bakken said. “He was such a gracious person to have. He was always willing to help in whatever scenario.”

Medical gold medal

On a typical day at his office, Miller treats clients who make regular chiropractic appointments. He also works daily with clients who need physical therapy for sports or daily life.

The work performed at the World University Games was similar to what he does at his office but at a more brisk pace and on athletes with immediate needs and immediate injuries.

“Considering my uniform was snow pants and warm clothes, and outside most of the day watching athletes compete and helping them with any injuries on-site, it's a completely different experience,” Miller said. “What was cool was regards to the muscle skeletal injuries, it's the same thing I see in the office.”

Bakken also said the allure of working with some of the world’s top college athletes made the games a sought-after opportunity for many medical professionals. He said he worked alongside many people who shared his interest in winter sports — cross-country skiing, in particular — through working at the games, including Miller.

“We all have interest in sports and international aspect of it, and this was a really unique opportunity to do something on a larger scale,” Bakken said. “It was really awesome, it was this really collaborative event.”

The people he worked with, along with the clients, environment and the availability of many medical resources, made the games a chiropractor’s dream, and a gig Miller said he would consider doing again in the coming years, if given the opportunity.

“The head medical director who put all this together overstaffed us and gave us way more supplies than we'd ever need,” Miller said. “It was a very humbling honor, and it was a lot of fun because the athletes and coaches and all the volunteers were amazing to work with.”

Justin Miller sits for a portrait with a model of a foot and spine in an exam room at his chiropractic practice in Chicora on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle
Justin Miller works at a computer in his chiropractic practice in Chicora on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle
Justin Miller, a Chicora-based chiropractor, touches the torch in January at the World University Games in Lake Placid. Miller was a volunteer chiropractor at the college-level sporting event. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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