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GETTING INSIDE THE HEAD OF SIDNEY CROSBY
DAVID EPSTEIN
October 03, 2011
With his recovery from a concussion seemingly stalled, the NHL superstar sought help in alternative medicine and believes he got immediate results
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October 03, 2011

Getting Inside The Head Of Sidney Crosby

With his recovery from a concussion seemingly stalled, the NHL superstar sought help in alternative medicine and believes he got immediate results

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The world of chiropractic neurology is largely self-contained and exceedingly self-referential. But follow the threads of its literature or the bona fides of its practitioners far enough, and one thing becomes clear: Everything connects to Ted Carrick. He graduated from Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto in 1979. A year later he founded the Carrick Institute for Graduate Studies, which is now headquartered in Cape Canaveral, Fla. There are more than 300 active chiropractic neurologists in the U.S., many of whom have been trained by Carrick.

Through satellite locations, Carrick and the faculty at his institute lecture to more than 4,000 students in the U.S. and in 10 foreign countries. His is one of three institutes in North America with an accredited chiropractic neurology program; all three were designed by Carrick, according to Harman. (She is now executive director of the American Chiropractic Neurology Board, the field's certifying body, which she runs from her duplex in Texas, the only state she knows of where a board of chiropractic examiners has formally approved chiropractic neurology as a specialty group.) The body that accredits educational programs in chiropractic neurology is the Commission for Accreditation of Graduate Education in Neurology, whose chairman, Pennsylvania chiropractor Michael Swank, studied under Carrick and says he was appointed by Carrick.

Carrick, who has had a handful of studies that have appeared in scientific journals, has never published data on vestibular concussions. "We don't have enough time to publish studies," he says, "but we're doing a large one at Life [University] right now." In a 1997 paper that drew significant attention from other chiropractors, Carrick reported that brain function could be altered through spinal manipulation, as evidenced by a change in a person's visual blind spot. But according to several neurologists interviewed by SI, the blind spot that Carrick discussed is not a function of brain activity but rather the result of a hole in the eyeball through which the optic nerve exits and carries information to the brain. "The blind spot is a fixed anatomical feature," wrote Harriet Hall, a retired family physician and Air Force flight surgeon in a published rebuttal to Carrick's findings. Several letters to the journal praised Carrick's apparent breakthrough; others called his methodology wholly unscientific. One, signed by three chiropractors and an optometrist, criticized Carrick for using terminology not found "in any neurological text" and concluded, "Dr. Carrick has confused what he believes to occur with what he can actually demonstrate to occur."

So did Carrick help? Crosby thinks he did, even though at week's end he hadn't engaged in full-contact drills or played in a preseason game. "Patients' testimonials should basically be discounted" as far as matters of medical efficacy, says Ruth Macklin, professor of bioethics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. "The placebo effect can be 30 percent."

Carrick says he often sees patients who are desperate for a cure, "patients who have not been helped by other doctors and who have lost hope." According to Benson, such patients tend to be "very suggestible." After seeing Carrick at Crosby's press conference, Henry Feuer, the consulting neurosurgeon for the Colts and a veteran of 40 years on NCAA and NFL sidelines, read some of his studies. "I just can't get a grasp of what he's doing," Feuer says. "If I had another guy like Crosby, would I send him to Carrick? The answer is no. I just see anecdotes, and that's not what we're looking for. The real evidence-based stuff is where medicine is today."

Crosby, meanwhile, continues to practice, untroubled by headaches and dizziness. Nor is he troubled by his experience with unorthodox neuroscience. "I don't think this is a case of trying to do something wacky," Crosby says. "When someone came along and invented the airplane, people must have thought they were out of their mind. Who thinks he can fly? I'm sure people thought that person might have been stretching it a bit... . At the end of the day, as long as the person getting the care is comfortable, I think that's what's important."

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