Caring for athletes at the U.S. Olympic Training Center

olympic_signWith the 2016 Summer Olympics just a few months away, Olympic-bound athletes are hard at work preparing for their events.

Many of these athletes are training at one of three U.S. Olympic Training Centers.

Recently Jacqueline Munch, an orthopaedic surgeon in OHSU’s Sports Medicine program, served a two week rotation at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

She answers a few questions about her experience:

1. What was your role at the Olympic Training Center?

I was the primary care and orthopaedic sports medicine doctor in charge of care for the athletes. I volunteered with a physical therapist and a massage therapist, and we worked alongside the on-site staff, including physical therapists, athletic trainers, and chiropractors.

The Olympic Committee sports medicine staff depends on volunteer medical providers to diagnose and treat athletes at the training center.

2. How did you get this opportunity?

I did my fellowship in Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) and my fellowship director is an Olympic team physician.

As his fellow, I got a window into the world of sports medicine for Olympic athletes.  He wrote a letter in support of my application as a volunteer.

3. What types of athletes did you treat?

I worked with the men’s and women’s wresting team, the men’s gymnastics team, paralympic swimmers, shooting athletes, modern pentathletes and men’s and women’s weightlifters.

Figure skaters practiced off-site, but presented on occasion to the sports medicine department for treatment or therapy.

team at desk4. What kinds of injuries did you see and treat?

Probably the most common problems that I saw were shoulder-related issues, especially with the gymnasts where there are such strong forces put on the shoulders. I also saw a variety of overuse injuries.

Fortunately, none of the athletes suffered any major injuries during my rotation.

What did you most enjoy during your volunteer rotation?

Watching the men’s gymnastics practice – these athletes were working so hard and were doing such amazing things. I also really enjoyed getting to know the athletes as actual people, not just as elite athletes.

The athletes I met were dedicated, hard-working, down-to-earth people.

5. What did you learn working with Olympic athletes that will be useful for your treatment of patients at OHSU?

At the Olympic Training Center, I had immediate exposure to the mechanism of injury, as I was seeing injuries right after they happened.

Working in this environment also exposed me to new techniques for injury rehabilitation, as I got to work side-by-side with the therapists on site.


Pete Dahlgren is the Project Coordinator for the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation which is dedicated to diagnosing and treating common and complex bone and joint illnesses, injuries and diseases.