If you’ve ever had an Olympic dream, you know about all of the hard work and training it takes to get to the Games. The same holds true for members of the medical staff. Olympic-caliber athletes need medical care in the unfortunate event of an injury, but they also need help pushing their bodies to perform at their maximum potential. Doctors of chiropractic who specialize in sports injuries and physical fitness are the ideal practitioners to provide that care, being uniquely equipped to handle both injury and recovery treatment, as well as to help athletes prepare for the competition. And the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) agrees.
Since the 1980 Games when Team USA’s chiropractor was choses for the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., DCs have been included on the U.S. Medical Team. In 2008, a record number of four chiropractors were sent to Beijing, China, with Team USA for the Summer Games. There were approximately 600 athletes to care for on the U.S. team. This winter, the USOC will take five DCs to Vancouver, Canada, for the 2010 Olympics. They’ll have about 200 athletic competitors to work with.
“Chiropractors have really come a long way in terms of the Olympic Games,” says Michael Reed, DC, MS, DACBSP, medical director for the USOC. “And the demands of athletes are one of the main reasons why.”
Simply put, elite athletes are asking for chiropractic treatment. Sports-focused DCs are able to treat pain and injury with spinal manipulation, but they are also trained in many other modalities that help athletes avoid injury and prepare their bodies for competition—including taping, icing and stretching, explains Dr. Reed. At the 2008 Summer Games, for example, the U.S. beach volleyball team requested that Ernest Ferrel, MA, DC, CCSP, serve as the medical staff member to accompany them to their matches.
“These athletes are used to receiving chiropractic care at their home training centers because they know that it helps them to perform at their top level,” Dr. Toto says. “Since we’ll all be there for about a month, the athletes will need someone to continue their regular chiropractic routine.” In addition to maintenance and performance care, Dr. Toto will also be available for acute-injury treatment.
Richard Robinson, DC, CSCS, who practices in Calgary, Canada, will attend the Olympics with the Canadian team and work with the freestyle skiing, speed skating, women’s ice hockey and alpine ski teams. “I wasn’t hired by the Canadian team just to treat injuries,” he says. “I was hired because the team recognized the value in what I do to make them go faster and perform better. If we plan to treat injuries after they’ve happened, we’re already too late; we need to get to the Olympics performing our absolute best.”
Competition actually begins a week prior to the opening ceremonies, and Dr. Robinson will be moving into the Olympic Village in the first week of February. “I’ll spend time working in the clinic in the village, but I’ll also be onsite for every training session and competition for speed skating and freestyle skiing,” he says. Luckily, the speed skating events will take place in the mornings, while freestyle will be under the lights in the evenings.
Greg Uchacz, DC, FCCSS(C), CSCS, who practices in Calgary, Canada, will also be a part of the Canadian medical staff. He will focus on the bobsled and skeleton teams and was chosen because of athlete requests. He, too, will prepare the athletes, rather than just treat their injuries. “As DCs, we focus on ensuring that the athletes are performing to their optimum biomechanical function,” he explains. “If you think about athletes as racecars, we are essentially fine-tuning them all the way through training. I’ll be present at competition time, helping to make sure the athletes are in ideal condition by stimulating nervous system responses and stretching, among other things. I’m the last person they’ll interact with before stepping onto the course,” Dr. Uchacz continues.
How They Got There As an athlete, you can’t just sign up to compete at the Olympic Games. It takes years and years of training, and you must prove your skills at Olympic trials or team try-outs. The same holds true for doctors of chiropractic who want to work at the event. The road to the Olympics is a long one, and it often requires relationship building, as well as physical training.
To be considered for inclusion on the U.S. medical staff, DCs must first go through the USOC’s Sports Medicine Volunteer Program—a 15-day rotation at one of the U.S. Olympic Training Centers, in which they treat any athletes that need rehab or long-term care. (DCs can apply for a volunteer position by logging onto www.teamusa.org/medical.)
Interested in a DC for your sports team
South Lake Tahoe has been a hub for winter and extreme sports for decades. Keeping your body in top shape requires multiple facets of healing and training. Dr Joshua Welch, has been a Tahoe local for over 12 years and specializes in shoulder and knee injuries. "This was not intended to a shoulder and knee specialist, but was formulated out of necessity to everyone he treats because of an active outdoor lifestyle Tahoe-ans like to keep", say Dr. Welch. "
If you are a sports team interested in a team DC, please contact Dr. Welch at 530-577-5433.