Dr. Heavilin in the News

G.I. doctor treats two NFL teams

By Paul Freelend The Independent

As the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings prepared to do battle last Saturday, one man in particular had a unique perspective into the matchup.

Dr. J.J. Heavilin, a Grand Island-based chiropractor, flew into Minneapolis to treat both teams at their respective hotels the night before and the day of the contest.

Heavilin has a number of clients within the two teams, but if not for one player and two timely trades, he may have watched the game from his couch instead of from inside the Metrodome.

"When I lived in California, I used to treat the Raiders, back when they were still in Los Angeles," Heavilin said. "One of the players I used to treat was Andrew Glover. He got traded to Minnesota and last year he called me, saying that some of the guys on his team were hurting and he asked me if I would fly out there and help them. Then those guys referred me to other players on their team and those guys referred me to others, until eventually I was treating about half the team."

"The next year, Glover got traded to New Orleans, and since both teams were in Minneapolis, I was able to drive between the teams' hotels and treat both of them."

Heavilin's efforts were appreciated. Donta Jones, a sixth-year linebacker from Nebraska now playing with New Orleans, stated that he was looking forward to working with Heavilin and how important chiropractic work is to professional athletes.

"The kind of things J.J. does for me are very important," Jones said. "Out there on the field in the NFL, this is a business and our bodies are our tools. I was hoping that J.J. would be there before the game -- it really helps to get your body tweaked and make sure that everything is in alignment so you can play your best."

Compliments on Heavilin's work came from both sidelines. Todd Steussie, a seventh-year offensive tackle for Minnesota, said that chiropractors play a large part in keeping football players in the game.

"I'm a big believer in using a chiropractor," Steussie said. "I think it really makes a difference for me because it's a long season when you figure we have six or seven months of pretty constant banging on our bodies. You do whatever you can to increase you longevity in this league."

Other players Heavilin has treated on the Vikings include quarterback Daunte Culpepper and wide receiver Cris Carter.

Extremities are the most usual of areas addressed by Heavilin on the players, though the spine is always a concern.

"When I treat players, we always check everybody's spine," Heavilin said. "Sometimes we will also do some extremity work with hands and ankles, etc. The aim is to keep ahead of the problems and erase small problems before they add up and become large problems, so most of our work has more of a preventative approach."

While lacking headlines, Heavilin said that special teams players are often among those most needing attention due to their constant tackling with full heads of steam.

Winning the trust of players is often a difficult task, according to Heavilin, and often requires the recommendation of teammates.

"[Selling yourself to professional athletes] is extremely difficult," Heavilin said. "That is why I am so appreciative when players like John Parrella spread the word for me. All players, especially the more celebrated players, are very guarded. It is hard to imagine what they go through every day, but you can just see the apprehension and the jaded look on their face, so it takes a while to gain an athlete's trust and get into that inner circle of friends."

Heavilin's client list reads like a who's who of American sports. Jerry Rice, Howie Long, Herschel Walker and Pete Rose are just a few of the superstars that Heavilin has treated over his career. According to Heavilin, though, there is still one name that he would to add to his list.

"I got to meet Michael Jordan once, but I never had the chance to treat him," Heavilin said. "That would be a dream, since he was voted one of the greatest athletes of the century."

While Heavilin's work with professional athletes may win him accolades, he said that the experience will only improve his everyday practice.

"If I can master the most traumatized bodies in the world, then I should be able to easily treat the people on a daily basis," he said.

This news story was published in the Grand Island Independent on January 8, 2001. No endorsement is implied by reuse of this news story.


Bringing relief to professional athletes
Heavilin eases pain for players, celebrities

By Darren Ivy The Independent

Dr. J.J. Heavilin of Grand Island has a Rolodex of phone numbers that any sports enthusiast would die to possess.

Through his work as a chiropractor, Heavilin, 35, has treated between 300 and 500 professional athletes and celebrities. To prove to his buddies he actually did treat them, Heavilin decided to have pictures taken with each person.

Those pictures are displayed at his office at the Conestoga Mall. As a person enters the office, he or she is greeted with magazine covers of football stars Jerry Rice, Howie Long, Ronnie Lott and boxer Ken Norton, to name a few.

Once past those pictures, visitors or patients see four more walls of football players, baseball players, skiers, boxers, body builders, surfers and other people Heavilin has treated.

Hidden amidst the pictures of celebrities and athletes is a framed 1990 issue of Chiropractic Achievers Magazine with Heavilin on the cover. Along with the picture on the cover came a call from David Letterman, who wanted Heavilin to appear on his show and treat him.

But Letterman got into a car accident after the invitation and began regular treatment with a New York chiropractor. Letterman didn't want to be treated by a different chiropractor, so he canceled Heavilin's appearance, but still showed a copy of the Chiropractic Achievers Magazine on the show.

Heavilin is not a celebrity. By his own admission, he's an average athlete. But for 15 to 20 weekends a year, he gets to mingle with celebrities and professional athletes and treat them for various aches and pains.

"At the time, it seems like nothing special," Heavilin said. "Then I reflect back on it and it hits me. I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, that was Pete Rose that I was treating.'"

Professional surfers were the first group of athletes that Heavilin treated when he opened his first clinic in Carlsbad, Calif., in 1990. He said started with two treatments on two of the lesser-known surfers.

He successfully helped them out and within a few weeks, the top surfer came into his clinic. Once he came, everyone came.

The work Heavilin did with the surfers was the focus of the Chiropractic Achievers Magazine article entitled "Riding the Wave of Success."

It also taught him the importance of making a good impression and the value of word-of-mouth references.

"Professional athletes and celebrities have a wall around them," Heavilin said. "It is very difficult to get behind that wall."

But Heavilin was able to scale the wall and now can go almost anywhere.

Chuck Muncie, the all-time leading rusher for the San Diego Chargers and runner-up for the 1975 Heisman Trophy, said former and current professional athletes are cautious with who they let treat them because there is danger involved with chiropractic treatment.

"If you get with a bad chiropractor, it can ruin your career," said Muncie, who receives regular treatments from Heavilin. "They look for someone with a reputation of being competent. The successful people all have the same agents. It is the same way with chiropractors.

"J.J.'s reputation is well established as being a good chiropractor and nice guy to to deal with." That reputation started with the surfers, and spread to professional football players with the help of a former Grand Island Senior High classmate, Tom Rathman. Rathman was the starting fullback for the San Francisco 49ers when Heavilin contacted him in 1990.

Heavilin said he was hesitant to contact Rathman because he didn't want to be another one of those people who bugged him once he was famous. Rathman and Heavilin played basketball and ran track together for Senior High.

However, after visiting with Rathman and being received warmly, Heavilin decided to meet Rathman after a game. Rathman told Heavilin to bring his chiropractic stuff to the 49ers hotel and he would introduce him to some friends.

Heavilin almost didn't make it though. Coming out of the stadium parking lot in Los Angeles, the group of friends he was with were chased by a gang. He got away unscathed.

Safely at the hotel, Heavilin went to Rathman's room and set up. Then in walked Rathman's friends - Jerry Rice, Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott. Heavilin made the most of the opportunity impressing these All-Pros. He began doing regular treatment on all of these players and many other 49ers.

When Lott, Craig and Rathman went to the Los Angeles Raiders, Heavilin followed. At one point he said he was treating half of the team. All the time he was treating the Raiders, he said he and his wife, Lori, longed to return home to Grand Island to raise their daughter, Brooke and son, Cole.

"It was hard for me to leave the Raiders," Heavilin said. "When they moved to Oakland that sealed it for me because I didn't want to go there."

Muncie said he was disappointed to see his chiropractor leave, but the two stayed in touch. What was bad news for Muncie was a blessing for Heavilin, who is now centrally located to travel to the numerous golf tournaments and other events around the country.

The most recent event Heavilin volunteered his services at was Roger Craig's Celebrity Golf Tournament for the United Way in Davenport, Iowa, June 7-9.

"He's a real sports fan and loves being able to provide a service for these athletes," said Muncie, who lives in Ventura, Calif.

Heavilin treated Muncie there as well as Pete Rose, Herschel Walker and Jim McMahon to name a few.

"I find it fun to meet someone who is at the top of his or her field," Heavilin said. "It's interesting to hear their stories and hear how they made it."

Of all the athletes Heavilin has treated, he said he had the most respect for Jerry Rice.

"I respected the great lengths he went to keep himself healthy," Heavilin said. "He would do much more than the other guys. I was treating his knee in the early 1990s. By keeping that knee going as long as he possibly could, he made a name for himself and set records."

While working with celebrities may seem like a dream job to many, Heavilin said he prefers working with everyday people in Grand Island.

"I can relate better to them," Heavilin said. "I am not a celebrity.

Heavilin said he plans to continue his work with professional athletes though as long as it doesn't interfere with his family.

And that is good news for Muncie.

"I have a lot more (events) for him to go to," Muncie said.

It doesn't matter who it is, there is one thing that Heavilin is the most proud of. "I'm most proud of the feeling I get everyday, all day long with people getting relief from my chiropractic treatment," Heavilin said.

"When someone gets off a table, exclaiming how much better they feel, you can't match that with anything."

Heavilin has known from the time he was little boy that he would be a chiropractor. He came from a family of chiropractors.

"Some people say a surgeon or dentist was the best doctor," Heavilin said.

"In my family, the best kind of doctor you could be was a chiropractor."

Heavilin's first chiropractic experience came when he was a little tike. With his feet barely touching the ground, Heavilin would straddle his much larger father, Jeff, and push on his back, trying to alleviate the pain.

"I always wished I knew what I was doing so I could help him," Heavilin said. "Now I give him treatments once a month."

This news story was published in the Grand Island Independent on June 20, 1999. No endorsement is implied by reuse of this news story.