One vote for the Washington Wizards to integrate Medical Qigong

Jason Miller

Another franchise Wizard is suffering an injury defying proper diagnosis. Send in the witch doctors! No? How about the specialists in a medical field at least 4000 years old? Hey, at least think about it.

The news that John Wall is seeing the doctor today to get an update on his injured knee gave me a half-baked idea that has been spinning around in my head. And while I know it's admittedly a unique idea, I wanted to at least put it down on paper.

The idea? Exploitation of Medical Qigong is a road the Washington Wizards may want to at least consider in the future.

Why? The image of the bumbling Wizards looking to hocus-pocus cures from witch doctors, while far from the truth, is a PR nightmare in the 48 hour news cycle. Of course, if the Dallas Mavericks Cuban-fueled player-care machine announces the retention of a Medical Qigong specialist citing incontrovertible evidence of their efficacy, it would set off a different sort of feeding frenzy. I'm not suggesting this to criticize the current medical staff caring of my favorite basketball team. I'm looking to the future model of healthcare, where current 'complementary' methods are as fully integrated into the practice of 'modern' sports medicine as therapuetic massage. Where there's a dedicated floor at Johns Hopkins for Medical Qigong practitioners. That's where the medical field is going.

Qigong (pronounced chi kung) is parent to "that slow-motion breathing thing" you may know as Tai Chi. What you probably don't know, is that the Medical Qigong branch got hit with the counterrevolutionary stamp during the Cultural Revolution in China and was heavily suppressed. (Note: counterrevolutionary is the kiss of death in Chinese historical terms; the Middle Kingdom turns over their government pretty much every three hundred years or less, so they're always looking over their shoulder.) However, heal just one person who knows the right strings to pull with the will to do so ... suffice it to say Medical Qigong is currently meeting no less than 15 percent of China's health care needs. 15 percent of China's.

Americans spent around $33.9 billion in 2007 -- the number was at $14 billion as far back as 1991 -- on what Western schools have dubbed complementary medicine. That's everything from fish oil to acupuncture. The internet age has led to information disseminating far faster than fields academic at heart (read: slow to adapt) move to acknowledge and integrate their value. That's before addressing any religious, racial or sociocultural prejudices.

Of course, some will responsibly note that information now spreads far faster than it can be reliably verified. That is surely true. Medical Qigong does not have the exposure that acupuncture has (acupuncturists are licensed practically everywhere in the US). Yet at the rate Americans are spending money on "complementary' medicine," the free market, if nothing else, will ensure its exploitation.

Because if there's anything to this discipline of Eastern medicine that has its roots well prior to 2000 B.C.E., it will continue to sell, the free market will see it sold because consumers want to buy it. So maybe we should talk about what it is, eh?

According to medicalqigong.org:

Medical Qigong therapy is the eldest therapeutic modality of Chinese medicine. It is a comprehensive system of health care addressing the root cause of symptoms or disease, and treats the client as a whole.

The practitioner, drawing upon their ability to sense and manipulate energy developed through dedicated study and self-cultivation, uses qi emission and/or teaches medical qigong exercises and meditations based upon a differential diagnosis rooted in Chinese medical theory to restore health and wellness.

Practiced as an excellent adjunct to Western medicine, Chinese medicine may successfully treat conditions which Western medicine finds resistant or ambiguous.

Emphasis mine; "treat conditions which Western medicine finds resistant or ambiguous" sounds like a panacea for the curse of les boulez, eh? However, the most likely and immediate application for Medical Qigong in the world of sports medicine is the preventative one. That is a difficult route to take. The stereotype of a Western patient is wanting the doctor to do whatever they do and let the patient get on with their life, but a Medical Qigong treatment requires an active commitment from the patient. How accomodating are players willing to be for an owner courageous enough to sponsor such a risky gambit? Check out Ian Thomsen's piece on team input into offseason programs as an asides, if you haven't already.

As fans of the NBA, we'll probably have to wait as anecdotal evidence piles up and other teams try this field on for size first, take the risks and reap whatever rewards there are to be had. But with so many of the Wizards stratagems seeming derivative, just once I would like to see them try something outside of the box and ahead of the curve.

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