Edward Owens, MS, DC., Joe D onofrio, DC., Tim Guest, DC.,

Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic,

Spartanburg, SC, USA



Introduction. A randomized controlled double blind study of the effects of chiropractic care on sports performance in a healthy group of young men is underway at Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic. We are specifically looking at whether subjects will progress more quickly in training if they are free from vertebral subluxation. While analyzing the vertebral subluxation findings, it was reasoned that there was no guarantee that a patient in the adjustment group would be clear from vertebral subluxation on a particular visit, or that patients in the control group were necessarily subluxated on any particular visit. Of interest in this particular presentation is the operational definition for vertebral subluxation to be used in this study, and how it was applied to assess the amount of time each patient was found to be "clear" of vertebral subluxation.

Methods. The specific tests for the presence of vertebral subluxation were the leg check, palpation and thermography exams performed at each visit.

Leg Checks: The leg check was performed according to the methods taught in the core curriculum at Sherman College, including the supine and prone leg check with legs extended, the cervical syndrome check, and the Derifield checks for pelvic misalignment. Any observed leg length difference greater than 1/8th inch was considered a positive indicator of the presence of vertebral subluxation.

Palpation: The palpatory exam was performed with the patient seated, and consisted of digital palpation of the cervical spine for the presence of movement restriction and misalignment. A combination of x-ray listings and palpatory information was used to determine where to adjust.

Paraspinal Thermometry: The Tytron 3000 digital infra-red scanner was used to record paraspinal thermograms.

Results. Both control subject and patient clinical records were scanned for the presence of subluxation indicators at each visit. The presence of more than one leg check indicator was considered a positive finding for vertebral subluxation on that day. A total of 24 patients completed the study by attending 4 or more visits and participating in all data collection. In the adjusted group (N= 14), there were a total of 85 visits over a 10 week period (avg 11.5 days between adjustments). Patients were found clear of vertebral subluxation on 12 of those visits (14%). At an additional 8 visits the leg checks were clear, but the patient was adjusted based on palpatory findings. Clinical notes do show that patients were clear of vertebral subluxation findings immediately after the adjustment. Eight out of 14 adjusted patients were found clear on at least one follow-up visit.

In the control group (N=10), patients were found clear of vertebral subluxation on 10 of 58 visits (17%). Seven out of the 10 control patients were found clear of vertebral subluxation on at least one visit. Control subjects received sham adjustments which did not clear indicators.

Conclusion.Since the control group experienced as much or an even greater number of visits in the subluxation free state, it would be hard to make the claim that the adjusted patients experienced greater freedom from vertebral subluxation than the control group. A number of factors could have contributed to this result. First, chiropractic care may have been too infrequent and the effects of the adjustments may have been short-lived due to the heavy training that the subjects were under for the baseball season. Also, since the subjects were young and healthy, they would not all be expected to show signs of vertebral subluxation. Future analysis of changes in other experimental data needs to take into account the proportion of time the subjects were subluxation free, not just the group to which they were assigned.

Acknowledgments The data collected for this study was part of a larger project initiated by Dr. Michael Verne, a recent graduate of Sherman College, and Dr. John Zhang.


  1. Verne M, Zhang J, Owens EF, Donofrio JD, Guest T. The effects of chiropracic care on collegiate baseball players - A specific test on the enhancement of athletic performance in baseball. Proposal to Sherman College Research Advisory Committee, 1998.