Robb Quinlan and Chiropractic: An Angel in the Back Field
By Martha Michael
It would take more than a seventh-inning stretch to repair Robb Quinlan’s torn abdominal muscles. It was the winter of 2004 and Quinlan had just completed his first season as a member of the Anaheim Angels. The Major League Baseball utility player was determined to get his injury healed in time for the first pitch of the following season.
“When I was swinging a baseball bat before a game, I pulled the left side of my abdominal muscles,” Quinlan explained. “It really just threw my whole body out of whack as I tried to rehabilitate it. When I was doing a lot of physical therapy, I was using more of my right side than my left, so then it affected my leg and my back.”
The pain Quinlan developed from overcompensating for his pulled muscle meant he needed time to heal and rest.
“I was talking to one of my team doctors and I said, ‘My abdominals feel better, but I have these other problems.’”
It was suggested the major leaguer seek out a chiropractor when he was home in Minnesota during the off-season. It was Quinlan’s first experience with chiropractic care and would set him on a course that would include franchise ownership of three clinics known as The Joint Chiropractic.
“The results were awesome,” Quinlan said. “The chiropractor helped me with my rehabilitation. I was really surprised.”
The following season, in 2005, the Angels hired a chiropractor for the team, now standard practice in the MLB. Only two teams, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, don’t have a “chiropractic consultant.” Brian Prieto, DC (the medical abbreviation for Doctor of Chiropractic), has been with the Angels for 13 years and says the medical personnel takes a “team approach” offering preventive care as well as treatment to those who are injured.
“An athlete needs his body working at an optimal level and chiropractic is one way … another tool so they can function best,” Dr. Prieto said. “When you have a 95 mile-per-hour ball coming at you and your body isn’t mechanically working properly, it’ll be harder to hit that ball.”
Harder to hit the ball, harder to chase it down. Quinlan primarily played first base and third base, but also left field, right field and designated hitter in his career -- all with the Angels. Any night, any time, he could have had a completely different look from his fielding position necessitating a different set of instincts and summoning different physical movements in which fractions of a second make the difference between success and failure. His body had to be right all the time.
Good for the Pro, Good for the People
Is the process of treating a major league athlete different than chiropractic care for patients in a typical practice?
“The way the spine works is similar, from the average Joe to the athlete,” Dr. Prieto explained. “What’s different is muscle structure, the physique. Let’s say I’m treating an older, small, petite woman. I’m going to adjust her differently than the 6-foot-2, 220-pound guy. For bigger players you’ve got to ramp it up.”
Dr. Prieto considers Quinlan one of his favorite patients from the team, describing the Angels infielder as “a really genuine, warm guy.” The chiropractic treatment he gave him for the next five seasons was mostly preventive care.
“It’s amazing how the little tweaks helped, keeping me in alignment, keeping me healthy,” Quinlan said. “Overall, just getting my body back to where it was – (that) was my focus.”
In 2005, Quinlan said he was just attempting to return to good health. The 2006 season, he recalled, was “probably the best year I ever had.”
It was weekly chiropractic maintenance that benefited Quinlan most, according to the eight-year veteran with a .276 career average.
“I would’ve been a perfect patient of The Joint,” he said, referring to the chiropractic management group he co-owns in three Minnesota locations.
The success of chiropractic treatment for both Quinlan and his father influenced his business decision.
“It works for everybody – he was 60 years old,” Quinlan said of his dad. “It’s one of the reasons I was intrigued (with) getting into the chiropractic world. It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or at a desk all day, there are certain things you can do to get your body out of alignment.”
From that first experience, both overcoming a sports injury and finding his overall health improved, including fewer bouts with ordinary sickness, Quinlan decided he wanted to promote the chiropractic healing process by opening The Joint in his home state.
Quinlan played college baseball for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. In 2013 he opened The Joint franchises in Maple Grove, Eagan and Apple Valley.
“What our patients like is the convenience factor,” Quinlan said. “They can come on their lunch hour, or if they’re running between meetings between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. They know they’ll only wait 5 to 10 minutes.”
Quinlan's business partner, Angie Selander, handles day-to-day operations for the business. The majority of patients at the practice seek treatment for back or neck pain. And when talking about his businesses, Quinlan sounds less like a ballplayer and more like a business owner: “We’ve got great doctors and great wellness coordinators.”
Quinlan said he feels the most job satisfaction by helping relieve patients of their physical suffering.
“I see people come in complaining they’ve had back pain for years,” Quinlan explained. “They see what we have to offer and within a few visits, they are drastically feeling better.”
An interesting pattern Quinlan has noticed is a number of residents who come to the clinic at about 55 years old who have never been to a chiropractor before.
“It’s always fun to get people to understand you need the care now,” he said. “Everyone feels healthy when they’re 25.”
Most patients are approximately 25-54 years old and about 60-65 percent are women, according to The Joint’s statistics.
Clearly, what Robb Quinlan brings to The Joint clinics is his interpersonal skill set, perhaps stemming from his education in marketing and communications. But on top of that, he likes helping patients access the resources necessary to be at the top of their game. With eight years in the big leagues and five West Division titles, Quinlan knows something about that, too.
Photo: Courtesy of Angels Baseball