It’s not often that you find someone as caring, dedicated, and passionate as Abby Irwin, D.C., DACBSP (a.k.a Dr. Abby) is for the All Blues. She was on the road with us to WPL Nationals this past season where she helped many of our athletes deal with injuries and get back on the pitch. Dr. Abby, however, is not a new face to the All Blues and has been known as our ‘secret weapon’.
As an undergraduate and varsity athlete at Eastern Michigan University, Dr. Abby (then just “Abby”) played volleyball where she was a recipient of one of the school’s first athletic scholarships. At the time she had planned to be a veterinarian and, after finishing undergrad, went on to Michigan State University for pre-vet studies where she also first discovered rugby. After hearing the distressing stories from friends who had gotten into vet school, though, she decided that that life wasn’t for her. She took a step back to gauge the options for her career. Simultaneously, Dr. Abby was dealing with back problems and after going to see MDs whose response was to stop playing rugby (as rugby players know all too well), she saw a chiropractor who was able to make a much greater difference in her situation. With a passion for sports and for healing others, her mom suggested being a sports chiropractor. Soon after, Dr. Abby drove out to Life West Chiropractic College here in California.
The rugby connections Dr. Abby created in college later resurfaced when a couple friends began playing for the All Blues. Although she was too busy to get back on the pitch, Dr. Abby quickly realized that the team needed her in another way. Dr. Abby and her partner, Andrea Sullivan, approached Kathy Flores, the coach at the time, and soon they were volunteering their services at home games, giving players the immediate care they needed. Dr. Abby credits Flores for much of the time she has spent with the All Blues; Flores utilized the chiropractic duo more than any coach had thus far. With the help of Kathy Flores and the chiropractic team, the team began winning national championships. Fast forward 25 years later and we still have the privilege to have Dr. Abby by our side on the pitch.
During WPL Nationals in Tucson, AZ this past November, Dr. Abby lived up to her moniker as the All Blues’ “secret weapon.” After the All Blues’ first game, outside center Cathy Cai started to feel pain radiating down her right shoulder and back. She immediately sought help from Dr. Abby who not only allayed the pain and identified where the pain was coming from, but also made sure to provide rehab and prehab instruction to expedite recovery time. For Cai, “[Dr. Abby] took her time with every All-Blues player, making sure their concerns were heard and addressed. She also worked past lunch maintaining her high level of care with each player. I, along with all of my teammates, were ready to play our game the next day. Having Dr. Abby at Nationals is one of the main reasons our players were able to win both of our games that weekend.” Whether it was chronic pain, a blow to the shoulder, or a tight muscle, Dr. Abby was able to help our players find relief and feel confident about going back onto the field.
Currently, Dr. Abby dedicates her time not only to the All Blues as a chiropractor, but to her daughter’s softball team as a coach. Just about any time during nationals weekend you could catch the former competitive softball player keeping up with her daughter’s games on her phone or beaming about the results. To Dr. Abby, ‘working with female athletes has been my way of giving back to women’s sports in a way I never got to experience consistently as an athlete’. As a former female athlete and champion of the Title IX movement, Dr. Abby knows all too well the challenges in women’s sports. When asked what was important in raising a daughter/female athlete, Dr. Abby emphasized the value of exposing young girls to the opportunities that sports have to offer and increasing retention in athletics. When this interview was done last fall season, she said that 2017 was a year that “has been a great year of empowerment for women in general. Their voices have been heard more than ever before. I want my daughter to feel this power and strive for equality. Athletics can be a path to this goal.”