The 8 Second Adjustment
The crowd is tense. Excitement is in the air. The gate springs open, and out pops a wild bucking bronco with a cowboy clutched atop. As the bronco tries with all of its might to rid itself of this odd, restrictive force it senses on its back, the brave cowboy tries with equal might to hang on like glue — body being bumped, jerked, and whipped in every direction imaginable — all while trying to look “good” during this brawl between man and beast. As the second clock speeds along, the music from the PA system blares, the crowd cheers, and the announcer keeps it all going full throttle. In what seems like a blink of an eye to the fans — but more like days to the brave cowboy — the eight second buzzer sounds, signaling that his ride is over, and his score awaits. Hopefully the rescue cowboys will be along soon for an easy dismount. Of course, the other option is being bucked off, slammed to the ground, and possibly stepped on. Ahh yes, the rodeo is in town! And while it only comes once a year to Kitsap County, to the cowboys (and girls) this is just another day at the office. For while the fans that night will only see these cowboys perform once, chances are, their calendars are booked for two, three, maybe four, different rodeos that week. How do they do it — again, and again, and again? For many, the answer is chiropractic.
I’m pretty sure that most people would agree that rodeo cowboys and chiropractic are a good match. I remember watching my one and only rodeo at age 10 — those cowboys got tossed around pretty good. I just didn’t realize how good until I got the V.I.P. invite last month to join chiropractor, Dr. Ed Corley, president of ProSport Chiropractic, arena-side, along with his team of chiropractors and massage therapists at the Kitsap County Stampede.
ProSport Chiropractic is a national network of 300 highly skilled doctors of chiropractic that donate their time and services to the athletes of professional and amateur sports with on-site care across the country. While the doctors can be currently found treating athletes in such events as motor racing, water skiing, and baseball, their roots go back to the rodeo. Dr. Ed Corley, founder of the organization, started attending rodeos back in 1980 with his brother Randy, a professional rodeo announcer (and yes, he was announcing the night I was there).
When rodeo contestants caught wind that Dr. Corley was a chiropractor, he instantly became very popular. Doing what he could on his own, and slowly growing a tight network of colleagues to help out at rodeos he couldn’t attend, he began to lay the foundation for something that would one day become somewhat of a staple for many cowboys. Even now, Dr. Corley chuckles in disbelief when he remembers saying “Yes” when Wrangler Inc. (the clothing retailer) approached him about the feasibility of providing chiropractic at rodeos nationwide. Impressed by what he was seeing the chiropractors do for the rodeo cowboys, the director of western retail marketing for Wrangler, John Neal, told Dr. Corley, “I would like to help the chiropractors with some western clothing. You all just don’t look like you fit in with them suits and ties.” It was then, in 1992, “Wrangler SportsChiropractic” was born. By 1996, however, Wrangler changed their marketing strategies, dropped from the scene, and “ProSport Chiropractic” evolved — expanding to encompass not only rodeo cowboys, but elite athletes from any, and all, sports. The popularity of ProSport Chiropractic has continued to gain momentum, evident by the increased number of treatments they give each year. Since 1992, the chiropractors have provided service to contestants and staff at approximately 2800 events — donating some 90,000 treatments. And to think that it all started with one chiropractor with a servant’s heart — adjusting cowboys on hay bales behind the bucking chutes.
As I sat and watched the second rodeo of my lifetime — this time from a chiropractic perspective — I was literally stunned by the amount of trauma these gentlemen were subjecting themselves to. It was almost as if they were exposing themselves to multiple car accidents — but somehow, it seemed worse. It became pretty clear that these were not your average patients, nor were these your average injuries. Dr. Brad Button, sports chiropractor from Silverdale, confirmed these thoughts, stating that working at the rodeo allows him to see some pretty “extreme cases” — making the typical patient he sees in his office, relatively easier to manage. The fact that he’s been doing this all on his own dime for nearly 9 years, allows him a chance to “give back.” “Chiropractic gives something to me. This [working at the rodeo] allows me to give something back.”
“This isn’t long term chiropractic care,” Dr. Corley reminded me. “We’re just trying to buy the cowboy 8 seconds of time — 8 seconds of time to stay on a bull — 8 seconds of time to earn him a paycheck.” That has been Dr. Corely’s underlying drive since the beginning, and he has carried it through to where ProSport Chiropractic stands today. And the cowboys appreciate it too.
“I’m real glad these guys are here,” Blake West, a young cowboy to the Pro Rodeo scene, shared with me. “I couldn’t do it without them.”
Joe Baungartner, rodeo bullfighter (A.K.A. rodeo clown) explained to me that for a cowboy there is a big difference between being in pain and being hurt. “Chiropractors enable us to do our job so we can get through the pain. If I’m not in the ring protecting the bull riders, I’m not getting paid — and that means someone else is getting my money. I don’t like other people making my money.”
And making money is a very big issue for these cowboys. Being a rodeo cowboy is not an inexpensive proposition by any means. Entry fees alone, just to have the opportunity at the “magic 8 seconds,” can easily run a couple of hundred dollars. Add to this travel costs, food, and lodging, and one can see that the overhead costs can get steep pretty quick. Oh, and of course, if the cowboy (or girl) happens to be in an event like calf roping or barrel racing, they’ll have to haul around their own livestock. The cost alone of feed and care of their animals, along with the investment of their rig and trailer, cause these overhead costs to logarithmically skyrocket. And to think that most of these cowboys and girls will leave the rodeo with, as rodeo announcer Randy Corley is quick to remind fans, with “nothing but their applause” — leaves one to wonder why they do it.
The answer I’d imagine has human nature at its root: the fame, the glory, the chance at being the one to take home the purse — a purse that is quite often thousands of dollars. Judy Ackley, rodeo secretary, informed me that the Northwest is a lucrative run for the pro cowboy — calling it the “Golden Egg.”
Blake West admitted that in determining which rodeo to go to, he’s attracted by the money — and for him, when chiropractic is there, “it’s icing on the cake.” Maybe that’s why, in my research for this article, I saw one rodeo advertising “chiropractic services” to their potential cowboy contestants.
But what many cowboys are realizing is that chiropractic is that special component that allows them to stay in their game. Terry Don West, a “Tiger Woods equivalent” in bull riding has come to realize this in his 18 years of Pro Rodeo work. Simply put by this bull riding superstar, “If I can get worked on — I’m able to do my job. If I can’t do my job — I go home.” Perhaps this is why this cowboy is able to pull in a very healthy quarter of a million dollars every year for riding a bull almost every night. By the way, he won the night I was there.
Dave Corley, D.C., another brother of Dr. Ed Corley, admitted that it makes him feel good when his cowboy-patient wins, “because you know you’ve played a small part in it.”
ProSport Chiropractic prides itself in being a “team player” and seamlessly interfacing with the other medical personnel at the events. “You learn to check your egos at the door,” remarked Dr. Dave Corley, “and to do what’s best for the cowboy.” Even so, most cowboys avoid the medical tents — they don’t want to medicate themselves and take time off to heal. “I can’t afford to do that,” remarked Blake West. Perhaps this is why the chiropractic tent sees nearly 10 times the volume that the medical tents see at any particular event. “Besides,” as one unnamed cowboy spoke up, “that’s what you guys [chiropractors] are here for — to keep us Bone Heads going down the road.”
And what about the animals? All this focus and attention on the poor cowboys, may make some wonder about the animals that share the same 8 seconds with them. According to a comprehensive survey addressing this topic, during the 2000 rodeo season, out of the some 71,743 “animal exposures,” only 38 were injured (that’s 0.052%). If the cowboys could boast a rate like this, we chiropractors could stay home.
No doubt about it, cowboys are definitely patients that tax their bodies to the extremes. Which makes you wonder, that if chiropractic is able to keep the cowboy in his game, how much more could chiropractic keep you in yours?
As for me and my rodeo experience, my services as a D.C. were unexpectedly called into action by a young cowboy in need. And of course, I’m sure I’ll keep an eye on this potential rising star — knowing that if he reaches the top one day, I, along with the other chiropractors that he’s sure to encounter, will have played a small part in his ability to get there — especially me, I adjusted his toe.