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If that is so, and if it is true that Perry has helped all those athletes, and that they want him, why is there such vehement opposition to him? The key, of course, is chiropractic, a word derived from the Greek for "effective hand." The American Chiropractic Association defines chiropractic as "that science and art which utilizes the inherent recuperative powers of the body, particularly the spinal column and the nervous system, in the restoration and maintenance of health." The theory is that if the spine and nerves are functioning properly, and if the vertebrae and bones of the body are kept aligned, then the body should be able to maintain its own health.
Chiropractors—there are 18,000 in the U.S., compared with 420,000 M.D.s—say they perform a "drugless, nonsurgical healing art." The American Medical Association has quite a different opinion. In 1963 the AMA established a Committee on Quackery, which drafted a resolution in that same year, stating, "It is the position of the medical profession that chiropractic is an unscientific cult whose practitioners lack the necessary training and background to diagnose and treat human disease."
Eight years later, the Committee on Quackery reported that since formulating its resolution it "has considered its prime mission to be, first, the containment of chiropractic, and, ultimately, the elimination of chiropractic." And while the AMA hasn't attained that goal, the two medical disciplines continue to eye each other warily. The feud has now reached the lawsuit stage in three states. That accounts in part for the mixed reception accorded Perry.
Perry's foray into sport began in 1973, after he had graduated from the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic and began practicing in Pasadena. Tracy Sundlun, former assistant track and field coach at USC, recalls the introduction. "I was coaching the La Jolla track club," he says. "One of our girls, Kathy Lawson, whose father is a chiropractor, was hurting and wanted to see a chiropractor. I had come to the conclusion that what an athlete wanted in health care, the athlete should be able to get. When we went to Perry, I told him, I don't trust chiropractors. I'll give you one chance.' Kathy said he helped her, but I felt some of the stuff he used was hokey. He talked about 'applied kinesiology' and it all seemed to make no sense. But soon I was bringing the whole team to him regularly.
"The first time I took runners to him was in the winter of '74. I took Patti Van Wolvelaere and Kathy when we were on our way to Pocatello for a meet. He muscle-balanced both girls. In Pocatello, Patti ran a world-record 13.2 for the indoor 100-meter hurdles and Kathy tied the American 100-yard-dash record."
Says Alex Karras, the defensive tackle turned actor, whose father was a neurosurgeon: "Ten years ago, while playing football, I got a neck injury. I also banged up my right knee. For 12 years I couldn't totally flex it. Doctors operated on my knee and told me, 'You've got arthritis. There's not much we can do.'
"My neck problem became chronic. I can't say how many doctors I saw and how much money I spent trying to get rid of my dizziness and pain. Nobody helped. Doctors said I had been banged up so much that, in essence, I had become punchy. The neck got so bad that it hurt my work and my life. I had brain scans. I was going crazy. I was pathetic.
"Then I heard about Dr. Perry. So I saw the Little Rat, which is what I call him. First, he worked on my knee. After one adjustment the knee was fine and I've been able to flex it ever since. The Great Mystic, as I also call Leroy, X-rayed me and found a crushed vertebra was cutting off some blood to my brain. He's given me adjustments and now my neck feels better than it has in 10 years."
Among Perry's tools is kinetic therapy, which utilizes eight different muscle-balancing techniques, one of which is acupressure. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture but the fingertips are substituted for needles.
But undoubtedly his most unusual procedure is what he calls "Muscle Reactive Testing," which helps an athlete achieve his legitimate strength potential. He demonstrated it in the trainer's room at an indoor meet in Albuquerque last February. Lying on a rubbing table was a Swedish discus thrower. Perry had alleviated the athlete's pain, and then, at the request of a trainer, demonstrated Muscle Reactive Testing.