Today the 2012 London Olympic Games open. The first day of competition, July 28, features swimming, which is always one of the highlights of the Olympic Games. I will be with the U.S. team as a team physician. It is a true honor to work with America’s top athletes, especially as they have dedicated years to training for this opportunity. My job is to help keep the athletes – and all involved, from coaches to managers and other staff – healthy.
Common Issues We Treat
At the Olympic Games, the team physician will treat both musculoskeletal injuries as well as medical illnesses. Common musculoskeletal problems include shoulder pain, low back muscle strain, and patellar (knee cap) pain. Common medical illnesses include upper respiratory tract infections, coughing, sore throats, and gastroenteritis. Other issues that we address include jet lag, adjusting to new foods, dehydration, and problems with sleep.
Swimming in new pools with varying water quality and chemicals can lead to sinusitis and other upper respiratory symptoms. The stress of travel and international competition can also lead to temporary alterations in immune function and result in some of these illnesses. The team physician?s job is to anticipate and treat all of these issues in a timely fashion.
At the Games
In London, all members of the U.S. team stay in the Olympic Village. The U.S. Olympic Committee sets up a sports medicine clinic in the Olympic Village that is available to all members of the U.S. delegation. All of the U.S. team physicians provide coverage in this clinic. We have a comprehensive staff of physicians (trained in both orthopedic surgery and internal medicine), athletic trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and a pharmacist as part of the overall U.S .sports medicine team. In addition to covering the pool swimming team, I will cover diving, synchronized swimming, and open water swimming. When I am not covering these sports, I will be staffing the clinic in the Olympic Village or otherwise assisting other sports and athletes until the end of the Games, which conclude on August 12.
Another important role of the team physician is to supervise the doping control process. Athletes undergo urine and blood testing after competition and can also be tested randomly at any time, with no advanced notice. The physician must know how the process works in order to ensure that all steps are carried out appropriately. The physician must also know what medications are banned in order to be sure that no such medications are used by our athletes.
For example, some over-the-counter cold and cough medications contain banned stimulants. Some athletes may need to use medications that are on the prohibited list for a legitimate medical problem (for example, asthma, attention deficit disorder, and insulin for diabetes). In this situation we help the athlete arrange for a ?Therapeutic Use Exemption (T.U.E.)?. The dangers of unregulated over-the-counter supplements are constantly discussed with the athletes.
Providing the Best Care to Our Athletes
The opportunity to serve America?s athletes truly is an honor and a privilege. The Olympic Games is a unique and special event; I have been fortunate to have served in this role at the 2004 Athens Games and the 2008 Beijing Games. I have learned a lot from those experiences, and I hope to use that knowledge and experience to provide the highest level of care to our team in London.
Dr. Scott Rodeo is an orthopedic surgeon and the co-chief of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at Hospital for Special Surgery. He serves as a Team Physician for U.S.A. Olympic Swimming.