Not many clinicians can say they work with men and women that push sleds down and navigate through over a mile of icy turns and twists. For Dr. Jonathan Wilhelm, DC, MS, ICSSD, CCSP, CCEP, training and rehabilitating these elite athletes is a part of his everyday routine. As the owner of Pro Chiropractic in Montana, Wilhelm had all of the knowledge and desire to help athletes reach their fullest potential, and has taken his talents to Lake Placid, New York to work as a physician for the U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Team.

We sat down with Dr. Wilhelm in the midst of the IBSF Lake Placid World Cup and picked his brain about what it took to guide athletes to the gold, and he gave us three insider insights.

1. Seamless integration with a dedicated team of professionals

When preparing and rehabilitating elite athletes, trainers and clinicians must work together like a well-oiled machine to reach each person’s desired outcomes. However, territorial attitudes can make that process come to a screeching halt. Fortunately, Dr. Wilhelm and the other clinicians that serve the U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton teams are a group of athlete-focused professionals.

“We’re not driven by the bottom line or the dollar or anything like that,” he said. “We’re all looking at the same athlete saying, ’what tools do I have? What can I bring to this athlete? What can these other providers bring, and who’s best at it?’ It’s really a team event. You have to have great communication between everyone from the start coach to the athletic trainer, physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon and chiropractor, and if we work together we will have better outcomes for the athletes.”

This mentality isn’t only beneficial to the athletes he is training. From his time working in the integrated practice, Dr. Wilhelm is excited to take what he learned home to his own clinics to expand and diversify their expertise.

“There are so many things I’ve learned: manual therapy, instrument-assisted mobilization, rehabilitation techniques, even what strength and conditioning does. There are a number of different things I’ll be taking back.”

Team U.S.A.

Team U.S.A.

2. The right tools

Having the right tools and strong treatment methods is crucial for keeping athletes at their peak of performance. “It’s nice to have a number of different tools to draw on and plug in,” Wilhelm notes. “Whether that’s a great TheraBand, mobility device or type of tape, it’s crucial to stay flexible to your athletes and their needs to find what works.”

So what’s in his arsenal? Wilhelm sited three different techniques and tools that aid him in training his elite athletes:

Pain management techniques

“How you manage and deal with that pain is what makes the difference in athletic performance.To start, we have to figure out where the pain stems from: if it’s from injury and what we need to do to facilitate healing, or pain from soreness and training. From there, we look at ice, heat, topical analgesics and some of the standards for controlling pain. You have a number of great topicals and tapes that can help unload that area. Really, it’s figuring out if the pain is signaling injury that will take them out, or is that something we can work through with them, help control, and get them to feel perform better.”

Elastic resistance

“Elastic resistance is so versatile and you can do a lot of things with it. You can build strength and stability, flexibility and so much more. Elastic resistance is something that’s tried and true, researched and proven, and it’s a good tool to have”

Kinesiology tape

“I know there’s some conflicting research out there, but here’s what I also know: When I put it on my athletes, they move better and they feel better. And if it works for them, I’m sold on that.”

CLX Bands can be found in the Lake Placid Training Center.

CLX Bands can be found in the Lake Placid Training Center.

3. Passion

To mold an elite athlete into the performance powerhouse they need to be, a trainer must also have the same desire and commitment to success.

“I have a passion for helping athletes succeed, which is what got me into chiropractic in the first place. After 6 or 7 years at my clinic, I knew I wanted to travel and help the U.S.A. teams in some way. So I went through the process to work at a training center and do a volunteer rotation, which is a great opportunity for a number of different disciplines like athletic trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors and orthopedic surgeons. Once selected I was placed with the bobsled and skeleton team; four years later, I’m still working with these amazing athletes.”

Team U.S.A. members Steve Holcomb and Carlo Valdes take first place in the two-man bobsleigh.

Team U.S.A. members Steve Holcomb and Carlo Valdes take first place in the two-man bobsleigh.

Watch the video below to hear more of Dr. Wilhelm’s interview and his take on:

  • Training and fine-tuning elite athletes
  • In-season vs. out-of-season training
  • Evaluating and treating dysfunction,
  • The impact of asymmetrical dysfunctions
  • How to keep athletes on track when they’re traveling
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