NASCAR Chiropractor Dr. Mike Smith
The 2013 edition of the Daytona 500 was history making due to Danica Patrick winning the pole position and contesting at the front of the race all day. History was also made in the pit area, with many drivers sharing a new top performance secret. It’s what NASCAR drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray all have in common. All these drivers have received care from the same chiropractor, Dr. Michael Smith. Dr. Mike Smith has strived to eliminate pain for his patients since 1987. Now he focuses on doing the same for NASCAR racers.
The Florida chiropractor and part-time competitive driver has opened new avenues for chiropractic in the racing world, thanks to advanced technology that has been in his office for some time. In 2010, his efforts to help Jamie McMurray helped to propel the driver to a Daytona 500 championship.
Smith uses an instrument adjusting system (a computer guided device which is available at our office here in Greenville, SC) on McMurray and his NASCAR teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, days before the 500. He also utilized Digital Motion X-ray, which he said is more in-depth and yields better results than typical MRIs or conventional X-ray machines.
Digital Motion X-ray provides a realtime picture of the neck and spine and can be used to more accurately pinpoint soft tissue injuries and signs of whiplash and other trauma. Smith has one Digital Motion X-ray machine in his Panama City Beach office, and also has one in a mobile lab.
He has utilized the mobile lab at races three times since 2009, with each driver he’s adjusted going on to win the race.
“Because I’ve raced professionally through the 1990 and 2000s, it’s always been on my mind to find a way to detect and treat lingering injuries,” Smith said. “Because (at my practice) we’ve worked on drivers and occupants who have been in accidents, I knew there was a direct application to racing.” Smith, 54, believes the technology can ultimately help save lives and make drivers feel better before and after racing. It’s no secret that auto racing, no matter the level or design, can jostle the human body like a ragdoll. And crashes, something all drivers encounter at some point, can be much worse.
McMurray required more adjusting, having also competed in the 24-hour race at Daytona.
“He was very agreeable and delighted that I would help him,” Smith said. “I took care of him and he went on to win.” Chip Ganassi, the team owner for Montoya and McMurray, also was adjusted by Smith. Ganassi was pleased with the results, not only for himself, but of his drivers. He liked it so much he asked Smith to provide for his three racing teams — NASCAR, Grand Am and Indy — for the rest of this season.
The chance meeting might not have taken place if Smith hadn’t been contacted by NASCAR safety officials the week before the Daytona 500. They asked if Smith planned to be on sight, which he hadn’t, but he said he could make the trip with his mobile lab.
He appeared at the mandatory drivers’ meeting, which included presentations on a Digital Motion X-ray video of actor Patrick Dempsey. It also covered the newest enhancement called the Eject system, which enables a safer way to remove a driver’s helmet following a crash.
Smith met with NASCAR officials and within minutes his mobile lab was hooked up and ready to go. Soon after, he met Ganassi on pit row and Montoya and McMurray became two of Smith’s most well-known patients.
Smith’s future includes working with Dempsey to emphasize the importance of celebrities wearing the Hans safety device when they compete in races. Smith also continually keeps up with new safety advances and will aid in publishing his findings and applications of Digital Motion X-ray.
One day he hopes NASCAR will make the technology a fixture in its quest to save drivers’ lives and increase their longevity in and out of the race car.
“We have a long ways to go, and I’m at the beginning of where I intend to take safety research,” Smith said. “We’re definitely on to something big here.”