Ten years ago, Dr. Daniel Black was invited by Chad Starkey, athletic training division coordinator at Ohio University, to become the head physician for the Ohio hockey team.
Soon after accepting, Black took it upon himself to create a weekly clinic that was beneficial for not only players, but also medical students.
Black, 66, spends his Sunday afternoons after a home series at the end of the athletic training wing of Grover Center. In a small therapy lab, the weekly clinic serves to treat any injury the Bobcats may have suffered over the weekend. Black is aided on Sundays by the Ohio University chapter of the Student American Academy of Osteopathy.
The doctor has a vested interest in taking special care of the players, many of whom are not used to the level of medical care being provided for them at the university.
“When the team comes in during the fall, some of them are only 18-19 years old,” Black said. “They only had hockey moms who took care of them until this point, and now they’re turned loose in the collegiate atmosphere.”
Black modeled the clinics after programs utilized in pro hockey. Shortly after he joined Ohio, Black attended a conference hosted by physicians employed by NHL teams. He soon met the athletic trainers for the Buffalo Sabres and learned how their program was structured.
Black modeled his clinic after the Sabres’ with one exception: he ran his program for free.
The clinics aren’t mandatory, but the coaching staff strongly recommends players attend whenever they can. Head athletic trainer for the Bobcats Chayse Casto sends out a weekly message in the team’s group chat encouraging players to attend.
“It helps with the maintenance of all the little stuff,” Casto said. “The bumps, bruises and muscle strains that everyone gets. It helps them get through the season since they hardly get a break, especially in the second half when we have games every weekend.”
On average, five or six players per week attend to keep themselves in working order for the week ahead. The height of the season can see up to 15 players cramped into the clinic at once.
Most of the players who arrive for the clinics aren’t hurt at all. They attend for the other health benefits that Black and his students can provide.
“It doesn’t necessarily need to be an injury,” Casto said. “The guys get to come in and get tuned up to help them perform better throughout the week.”
Black and his students employ procedures, including acupuncture, electrical muscle stimulation and manual muscle manipulation. Through these procedures, players can remain loose to perform better for an upcoming series.
If a player is recovering from an injury, the clinical team will treat them with ice and hot baths combined with various stretching routines as rehab. Black often lets his students take the reins for many of the procedures in order to give them experience in practicing physical therapy.
Kaitlin VanHooser is an SAAO member who has worked in the Sunday clinic for three seasons. After accompanying Black to a hockey game during her first season helping with the clinics, she fell in love with hockey and was determined to stay with the program.
“These guys were the first people that I had worked on that actually had things wrong with them,” VanHooser said. “These guys have issues everywhere. I initially kept getting frustrated because I’d come back every week, and I’d have to treat the same thing again.”
Hockey is so far the only club sport at Ohio that provides therapy clinics on the scale that Black and his students provide. Only the football and wrestling programs have something akin to the clinics.
Black believes clinics like his haven’t been offered to other sports because of the medical community’s “Voodoo perspective” on osteopathic treatment. To Black, manipulation therapy is just as viable for enhancing athletic performance as any diets, exercise routines or even steroids.
“The Western medical community hasn’t bought into it wholeheartedly, but I guarantee the players have,” Black said. “Players are looking for every opportunity to stimulate their performance with whatever the next ‘big thing’ is. Manual medicine is there.”
Black likened his position to a chiropractor at a wrestling tournament. He’s determined to get players back to playing condition as quickly as possible.
Despite being such an integral part of the team’s medical staff, Black doesn’t work for recognition. To him, it’s a matter of gratification.
“I fell in love with the hockey team,” Black said. “It has become such a love affair now. I don’t need to work any harder, but I find it incredibly gratifying to see these young students who put their (bodies) at risk every weekend getting the care they need.”
Black keeps himself so inconspicuous that he doesn’t sit with the team during home games. He can be found on the third row in the Blueline Booster section at Bird Arena for every home game.
And after those home games, he can be found in a small clinic at the end of the athletic department in Grover.