A multifaceted and multidisciplinary approach to concussion science and rehabilitation is essential to the progression of brain safety and athletic performance.
Mark Malowney is a Chiropractor and Certified Strength & Conditioning specialist in the BC Lower Mainland. Additionally, Dr. Malowney holds a Sport First Responder licensure and is the Head Trainer for the Langley Rams Football Club. Born and raised in South Surrey, Mark completed his undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at the University of Victoria. Upon graduation, he pursued a 4-year doctorate from the Canadian Chiropractic College in Toronto.
A lover of all sports, Mark showed an athletically-inclined aptitude at a young age. Participating in hockey, baseball, football, golf, tennis, soccer, and basketball throughout his life, he quickly found his calling. Although basketball was his favorite, he suffered his first (and most severe) concussion while playing hockey. As he grew professionally, Mark wanted to “understand more about movement and injuries, and thought Chiropractic would be a good fit.”
HeadCheck caught up with him this week to find out more:
As a Chiropractor, how did you become involved with concussion science?
As a long-time athlete, I have a well-established curiosity when it comes to brain health and wellness. My interest and involvement in concussion science officially and professionally began, however, when I started working with the Langley Rams football team. As someone who had suffered concussions before, and not really understanding their management, I felt I needed to learn more about how to safely return players to competition, and most importantly: life.
My last concussion was in 2011 and after undergoing months of recovery, I could not discern why my school marks were so poor, and why I could not perform in the gym or compete in basketball at the same level as I had before. To simplify what I have learned and to embody the complete mindset of my approach: sports do not have a concussion problem, it/they have a concussion management problem!
What would you like to see in the field of brain injury and athletic performance?
I would like to see the “guess work” taken out of return-to-play. We know so much more now about concussions (thanks to Sidney Crosby and other world-class and world-famous athletes speaking out) and are constantly learning more (i.e: Berlin Concussion Summit). I want people to understand that, like any injury, if a concussion is managed appropriately it significantly minimizes and even negates the chance that the effects become long-lasting.
Initially, I looked at using cheaper and easier assessments to administer for concussion testing, but I soon realized that you could pass those tests and not be fully recovered from a concussion. I would like to see the stigmatization of concussions end completely, and for the sports community as a whole (athletes, parents, coaches, exercise scientists) to feel equally educated, capable, and prepared to recover from a brain injury and an ankle sprain.
How does the role of a chiropractor differ from other sports medicine positions in regards to concussions?
I would say I’m a bit of a “zebra” when it comes to chiropractic. Most chiros prefer to stay in their office. I have a keen interest in sports, sports injuries, and the management of injuries (including rehab). Without sounding arrogant, I believe that I have almost as much concussion insight as most sports medicine doctors. I am constantly questioning, investigating, and looking to deepen my understanding and knowledge base. I love what I do and I think that, as professionals, we are just starting to break into the wide world of brain science. There is so much yet to discover about our own minds.
In terms of concussion, I have learned that it is extremely practitioner-dependent. I do not believe that there is a specific role for athletic therapists vs. chiropractors vs. sports medicine doctors vs. physiotherapists, etc. All of us play a central role in this subject, and it takes an interdisciplinary approach in order to be successful. Knowledge is directly related to what a person knows or has learned/pursued in courses they take outside of school. At least when and where I studied, concussion is still holding a passing commentary in lecture. It could be a course unto itself! I hope that as research continues to proliferate, so too will the formal education process for all healthcare professionals.
How is it similar?
My role as a chiro/sports med doc would be similar in the sense that I am trying to provide minor and junior level programs with “professional” level service. Most junior and minor sports only have someone who is certified in First Aid on the sidelines. Many of those people have not had any formal training in sports injuries or in concussion assessment and management. This is where I am able to offer some mentorship for university students – particularly those that need volunteer hours with sports teams – and train them to be out in the field. In theory, they essentially become my eyes and ears as I cannot be in several places at once. In this way, my job creates a culture of safety and propagates the importance of having a professional at every athletic competition, irrespective of competitor age and skill level. In addition to removing critical injury or intervention decisions from parents or the coaching staff, my role also reduces a sporting association/organizations liability both in an immediate and in a long-term capacity.
What types of teams and athletes do you work with primarily?
Right now, it is mostly football. However, I have also worked with lacrosse and my company is also on the verge of breaking in with some hockey and soccer teams. Now that we have permanently set-up a home base at Rebound, I am very excited about what the future holds!
What is your favorite part about your job?
I enjoy helping people. A big part of my job is education (and sometimes encouragement) in letting people know that they are healthy enough to get back to activity. I have patients who worry about returning to play after injury (psychological) and are given poor or less-informed information by other healthcare practitioners. Some have even been told that they may never get better! I love seeing the look on their faces when I am able to return them safely to their sport (or daily activities). Although it is challenging and constantly evolving, this career is extremely rewarding; I absolutely love my job.
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