2002-03-07 / Front Page

OLD BRIDGE — Dr. Ira Shapiro did not receive a gold medal when he attended the Winter Olympics, but he did bring home a small gold pin.

OLD BRIDGE — Dr. Ira Shapiro did not receive a gold medal when he attended the Winter Olympics, but he did bring home a small gold pin.

Dr. Ira Shapiro with Germon Glessner of Argentina’s skeleton team.Dr. Ira Shapiro with Germon Glessner of Argentina’s skeleton team.

The pin, which bears the Winter Olympics 2002 emblem, glitters among the papers and files scattered across the desk in his busy Englishtown Road office. It is his only souvenir from the February games, where he volunteered as a supervisor of the International Sports Chiropractic Clinic. This clinic provided chiropractic care to athletes whose teams did not have their own chiropractors.

"When you go to the Olympics, some countries come with a full medical staff. Other countries come with only some medical staff. Then when they get there, if they don’t have some kind of medical care that is needed, then it is provided by the IOC (International Olympic Committee)," Shapiro said.

Shapiro, who lives in Manalapan, found out that he had been selected to serve at the Olympics just 10 days before the Games were to begin in early February. He explained that, for security reasons, most of those originally chosen to serve at the clinic were doctors from Utah. However, when it was determined that some of these doctors did not have enough experience working with international clients, Shapiro was specially summoned by the Federation Internationale de Chiropratique du Sport and the United States Sports Chiropractic Federation (the international and American governing bodies for sports chiropractic).

Shapiro’s résumé had what they were looking for. He began his career as a chiropractor in Old Bridge 18 years ago and is now the director of the Plaza Chiropractic Center. A member of the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians, he has worked with athletes on the local, national and international levels.

Locally, he is the team physician for the Old Bridge Rebels Pop Warner football team and the Union Rugby Club. He is also a chiropractic consultant for the Old Bridge Board of EducatiHelping Olympic athletes was

worth the trip for doctor

By Lori Elkins Solomon

Correspondenton’s sports programs.

Nationally, he has served as an attending doctor for events hosted by the U.S. Kick Boxing Association, the U.S. Triathlon Association and other organizations.

And internationally, he has worked as an attending doctor at the 1996 Olympics and the International Championship Rodeo, among other events.

Shapiro was selected to supervise the International Sports Chiropractic Clinic at this year’s Olympics, he said, based on his practice experience, his post-graduate education — particularly in sports injuries and rehabilitation — and his past experience working with athletes at various sports venues and levels of competition.

At any given time during the Games, three or four other chiropractors worked under Shapiro’s supervision. These doctors came from 13 states, as well as Canada, Australia and other countries.

"My job was to oversee the clinic when people came in to make sure that the doctors who were there were doing the correct things to individuals, and when the more difficult cases came in, I was the one who was treating those individuals," he said.

One of the most challenging cases included an Argentine skeleton rider who fell off his sled and rammed his head into the side of the track.

"His neck and his back, and his head and shoulders were all in spasm and were all misaligned," Shapiro recalled.

He also worked on another skeleton team member from Argentina, two Argentine luge athletes, the Brazilian bobsled team and the Hungarian ski team. Most of the injuries on these athletes were due to overuse of the joints, rather than traumatic injury, he said.

"In a lot of these timed events, the difference between first place and fourth place is maybe one one-hundredth of a second. So again, that little bit of edge in realignment that’s going to make that person work that much more optimally can be the difference in getting a medal and getting no medal."

He said doctor-client confidentiality restricts him from discussing whether the athletes he worked on actually won medals.

Even though his role as a chiropractor was very much behind the scenes, Shapiro said that he derived a lot of satisfaction from his experience at the Olympics.

"Even though nobody else knows it but the athlete and you, that’s enough of a feeling to say it was all worth it to go," he concluded. "If you can help just one person achieve their lifelong dream of medaling at the Olympics, then it’s all worthwhile — the traveling, the strange hours, the cold weather, all those kinds of things."

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