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He’s the Chiropractor to Olympic Track and Field Stars

He’s the Chiropractor to Olympic Track and Field Stars
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He’s the Chiropractor to Olympic Track and Field Stars

He’s the Chiropractor to Olympic Track and Field Stars

For his part, Ball doesn’t seem to have much trouble keeping a step back.

“It’s always funny to me because they tell me ‘Ugh, my Achilles hurts’,” Ball said. “OK, well, they cut off part of my eye last week. Everyone has their problems.

Ball grew up in Davenport, Iowa, where his father was a football coach and his mother, Jan, was a chiropractor. Tim O’Neill, one of his closest friends, recalled that Ball was smart and athletic – the fastest kid in the neighborhood. Ball thought he would play college basketball, until his 3-point shot evaporated when he was in high school.

“I couldn’t see the hoop,” he said.

Diagnosed with keratoconus, progressive thinning and bulging of the cornea, Ball gave up his wayward jump shot to run to Arizona State, where he learned the hard way what it’s like to run with nagging injuries. Before his final year, he left school due to a family emergency and ended up studying for his chiropractic degree in his hometown.

“I wanted to be really good at something,” Ball said, “and when I found out about that I probably got a little bit obsessive.”

He returned to Arizona and opened his own practice, seeing ordinary people with regular problems. His favorite patient, he said, was an elderly woman with carpal tunnel syndrome who knitted a blanket for her.

His career changed as the 2004 Olympics approached, when he met Patrick Nduwimana, NCAA 800-meter champion at the University of Arizona. Nduwimana, who was recovering from ankle surgery, said a friend recommended Ball as a practitioner of “active release therapy,” a form of manual chiropractic treatment. For about an hour, Ball applied pressure using his hands on Nduwimana’s ankle to release the tension.

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