When I had a chance to learn more about Dr. Kurt last week, he reached out to a doctor friend of his – Dr. Scott Mills – to possibly do an interview as well. As a result, Dr. Scott was nice enough to answer a few questions about his perspectives on CrossFit, medicine, and more! (Thanks Kurt!)
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a sports focused chiropractor currently at Plexus Performance Care in New Jersey, but relocating soon to San Francisco with my bride, Diane Sanfilippo (known from Balanced Bites and Practical Paleo). In addition to my Doctor of Chiropractic degree, I hold a Master’s degree in Exercise Science and worked as a collegiate Certified Athletic Trainer for 6 years prior to my chiropractic career.
Q: What is your main focus or goal as a medical practitioner?
Any sound treatment plan must be applied knowing the root cause of the problem. I find that a lot of practitioners learn and use a whole host of treatment options, but overlook a thorough analysis. Therefore, my goal is to find out what is really causing the current complaint. The misconception is that if the patient’s shoulder hurts, the problem is somewhere in the shoulder. This is often not the case. I use a three-prong approach when assessing conditions and determining an appropriate care plan: Is there a movement fault? Is there a soft tissue adhesion/lesion? Is there underlying neuromotor imbalance? The answers to these questions dictate the treatment. This is what I call Performance Care. It’s quick, effective and for my athletes it means resuming the activity they love.
The other part of my practice is equipping people with knowledge to help themselves. That’s why I started the “2 Minute Fix” video series on my YouTube channel. These short videos act a reference for people who want to participate in their recovery at home. I cover everything from sciatica, to carpal tunnel syndrome and plantar fasciitis with new videos going up every month.
Q: What brought you to CrossFit?
I remember in 2007 I was in my first year of Chiropractic College and I saw a few people in our gym doing some bizarre looking workouts. They said it was CrossFit, but I just kept doing my same old lame lifting routine. (As an aside, one of those people is now in the CrossFit games on team OPEX Red heading to Carson City.)
Fast forward to 2012 when Diane introduced me to her box, Brazen Athletics CrossFit Link in Fairfield, NJ. I remember the first workout I did with a class I finished dead last. I couldn’t even overhead squat a PVC pipe with good form. I guess that pretty much proved to me that even as a lifelong athlete, I had a lot to learn and had hit a stale spot in my fitness life. So I jumped in and have never been stronger, fitter, happier or healthier.
Q: As a medical practitioner, what do you think is the most misunderstood part of the CrossFit experience? And how would you correct that misunderstanding?
Of course the obvious answer is the misunderstanding of injury risk. Truthfully, I don’t care to change the perception. People will always engage in confirmation bias when it comes to this topic. That goes for both sides of the argument. We see what supports our beliefs and are blind to whatever doesn’t fit our narrative. Since I see it from both sides as an athlete and a practitioner caring for these athletes, I will say that when applied correctly, CrossFit can help people be healthier and overall reduce their risk of lifestyle disease. When applied incorrectly, it can lead to injury – just like every other training modality. Take running for example: long distance runners have a very high injury incidence, and yet when proper running mechanics are teamed up with good programming, running can have an overall positive healthful impact. Especially when compared to sitting on a couch.
In CrossFit, appropriate application means a longer, slower introductory phase for many people. You can’t take a desk jockey with a 25% reduction in shoulder abduction and expect them to overhead squat or full snatch on day 1, or day 21 for that matter. It also means smart programming, solid coaching that covers points of performance at the beginning of every WOD, and coaches skilled enough to recognize when an athlete needs a modification.
And finally, you need providers that understand an athlete’s body and mindset. If a practitioner’s best advice is “if it hurts, don’t do it,” they are missing the big picture. People in this realm want to continue to train and progress, and simply removing activity isn’t good enough.
This is the kind of model I’ve been a part of at Brazen. This is the kind of model that can lower injury risk, and improve the reputation of CrossFit.
Q: If you could start over as a crossfitter, what would medical-you tell athlete-you?
Don’t let your ego dictate your weight on a given day. Listen to your body. Ignore what everyone else is doing. Going back to the discussion on safety, many injuries occur when ego dictates intensity and load.
Q: What’s your favorite piece of equipment at the box? And least favorite?
Favorite – barbell. I’ve really fallen for the Olympic lifts.
Least favorite – GHD (Glute Ham Developer). I don’t care which way you lay on that thing, I’d like to see it vanish from all programming… and the earth for that matter.
Q: Where do you train? And where do you practice medicine?
Brazen Athletics CrossFit Link / CrossFit Willow. Fairfield and Hoboken, NJ. My current practice is actually in both of these boxes. The San Francisco answer is TBD.
Q: What do you think is the secret to CrossFit’s crazy success and growth?
I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. One of the ideas behind Greg Glassman’s methodology was getting better results in less time. People these days believe they have less time, so of course they will gravitate toward something like this. The irony of course, is that once you get hooked you spend more time training!
But also, people are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We are in the midst of a total health care calamity. We’re living modern lives that are completely incongruent with what our genetics expect from us. We need to eat, move and think in ways that help our genes express health. CrossFit is a good solution for part of this. This is attracting a tribe of passionate people who inherently know something is drastically wrong and something different needs to be done.
Q: What’s your favorite story (or stories) from your time with CrossFit so far?
I’ll share with your audience a final thought, which was the subject of a recent blog post I wrote, “CrossFit is For Every Body, But Not Everyone.” I’ve traveled a lot and seen a lot of boxes. Diane has seen even more with all of the seminars she used to teach. The reality is that most people doing CrossFit are not games athletes. They are people battling physical and mental demons of all kinds. Diane’s parents are 67 and 70 years old and they train weekly with one of our coaches. Her dad and I golf together and I’ve seen the improvement in strength made at CrossFit translate to his enjoyment on the course. I’ve seen her mom be proud of the things she’s able to do at the gym. I’ve also seen people who’ve lost limbs, or survived a cancer diagnosis continue to come to the gym and crush workouts.
CrossFit is a mentality, maybe more than a fitness modality. It’s a way to approach life in an unapologetically bold and fierce way. So it makes total sense to me that some folks don’t “get it.” Because a lot of people are comfortable with their lives. But for those of us who dread complacency, CrossFit means access to a life of progress, health and camaraderie not commonly found in today’s world.
A huge thank you goes out to Dr. Scott for sharing his point of view with us. If you want to learn more, you can find him at http://drscottamills.com, on Instagram and Twitter and on YouTube with his channel for 2 Minute Fix videos.
Hopefully we can chat with Diane Sanfilippo at some point down the line as well – I’d love her thoughts on the Paleo Diet/CrossFit connection!
Are you interested in being featured as a box owner, trainer/coach, or athlete? I’d love to hear from you! Click “Contact Us” at the top of the WOD Tales page (or in the right-hand column) and I’ll get in touch!