Applied kinesiology played a huge role in the evolution of chiropractic into the U.S. Olympic team, starting with the 1980 Winter Olympics

In the past, chiropractors were banned from serving on the U.S. Olympic Sports Medicine Committee, even though most athletes had been treated privately by these practitioners for years and wanted them to be part of the medical team. Dr. George Goodheart, a second generation chiropractor, successfully breached this barrier and was named the first chiropractor to serve on the US Olympic Medical Team at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

He managed to accomplish this feat in a unique way in chiropractic – by getting results.

The history

Irving Dardik, MD, a vascular surgeon, served as chairman of the United States Olympic Medical Committee for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. Over the years, he had spoken out against the inclusion of chiropractic as part of the official Olympic Medical Service (this refusal to admit chiropractic to the Sports Medicine Committee was documented in the July 16, 1979 issue of Sports Illustrated). That all changed when he saw the power of chiropractic firsthand – especially in the form of applied kinesiology (AK) procedures.

Dardik, a world-class runner himself, had a problem with his leg in 1978. He couldn’t walk more than two miles. At that point, he developed a painful hamstring spasm. He tried various medications and exercise programs to no avail. As chairman of the US Olympic Medical Committee, he had access to some of the best sports doctors in the country, but no one could figure out what the problem was. One of his colleagues suggested contacting Dr. To contact Goodheart, a noted chiropractic doctor and founder of applied kinesiology.

Applied kinesiology in action

Dardik was aware of this relatively new alternative discipline, but remained skeptical. However, since he had run out of options for his mysterious leg cramps and the fact that America’s best athletes were demanding an official chiropractor on the team, Dardik reached out to Goodheart. Dardik wanted to learn more about this new discipline and its suitability for the Olympic team and shed some light on his own condition.

Dr. and Mrs. Goodheart flew to New Jersey and met Dr. Dardik in his office. After a preliminary discussion, Dr. Dardik Dr. Goodheart of his mixed feelings about chiropractic in general, and AK in particular. Goodheart was no stranger to this attitude in the traditional medical community, and went out of his way to explain the science behind these two disciplines. Dardik wasn’t convinced, but ready to learn more.

The meeting moved from an interview to a consultation when Dardik shared the additional reason he contacted Goodheart – his leg pain. Goodheart listened carefully, then explained how he would begin the test using the functional muscle testing procedures he had developed. Dardik, excited about the opportunity, asked Goodheart if he could demonstrate and perform the treatment immediately. Goodheart said it was irregular to have treatment without a thorough examination, but he was obligated.

In the office, Goodheart left Dardik on a large desk. Goodheart tested the hamstrings and he tested hard. He let Dardik flex the muscles of the opposite arm – as if he was running – and then immediately retested the Achilles tendon. This time it cramped and became dramatically weak (physiologically inhibited). In other words, the hamstring spasms were caused by the contraction of the muscles on the opposite arm, which would naturally contract at the same time as the Achilles tendon when walking or running. Running and even walking often put so much strain on all these muscles that cramps can occur if there is dysfunction anywhere in the system.

Goodheart diagnosed the symptoms as a result of a gait-mediated reactive muscle disorder and explained the problem to Dardik, who predictably had never heard of the disorder. A gait-mediated reactive muscle condition occurs when the contraction of certain muscles while walking or running causes excessive mutual inhibition in another muscle, resulting in weakness in that muscle – which only occurs while walking or running. In Dardik’s case, the muscles and joint mechanoreceptors in the opposite shoulder caused the Achilles tendon to weaken (physiologically inhibited), which resulted in the Achilles tendon eventually cramping because it now had to work twice as hard without the help of the natural neurologist through stimulation Walking or running.

Corrective treatment

The thorough explanation seemed to make sense to Dardik, and he asked what the treatment would mean and if he would be willing to go through the procedure. Goodheart explained that treatment would involve rigorous manipulation of the mechanoreceptors (sensory receptors that respond to mechanical pressure) on the largest shoulder muscles – the latissimus dorsi. This would restore the synergistic relationship between the opposite arm and the problem leg. Goodheart agreed to correct this muscular imbalance, and immediately after the treatment, Dardik was now able to do the hamstring test after contracting his opposite arm muscles without cramping. He said he would try to run the next day to test the effectiveness of the treatment.

Dardik thanked him for his work and told him he would be sure to let him know when his condition improved. That meeting was on a Saturday, and the following Monday he called Goodheart to report that he had run 10 miles the next day after treatment and another 10 miles without pain or cramps the following day, the day of the phone call. Impressed with these dramatic results, Dardik said that Goodheart “had the job” for him.

After learning for himself what a chiropractor could accomplish with AK, he changed his position on including chiropractic for the Olympics. However, Dardik had to convince the other doctors, who did not share his newfound enthusiasm for chiropractic and AK. After Goodheart discussed it with the rest of the committee, he was invited to Colorado Springs to extensively describe and demonstrate the AK techniques to the other doctors on the Sports Medicine Council of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

Welcome to the 1980 Winter Olympics team

After an initial fit of determined resistance, the medical committee put aside any prejudice they might have and assessed the sheer logic of AK’s chiropractic principles along with Dardik’s testimony of how Goodheart had cured him of his confusing condition. The USOC unanimously voted to offer Goodheart the position as the first official chiropractor in the United States. He accepted the offer for the 1980 Winter Olympics, and the rest is history.

Chiropractors have since had an official place in the Olympics and a greater role on professional sports teams.

The above excerpt is from “Journey To Healing: The Art and Science of Applied Kinesiology” by Eugene Charles, DC. Journey to Healing is available on Amazon and anywhere books are sold.

Eugene Charles, DC, DIBAK, received his PhD in Chiropractic from the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic in 1987 and his Diploma in Applied Kinesiology in 1994. He teaches chiropractic courses for graduate students available for home study at