October 1996 Bulletin

Orthopaedists play big Olympics role

'Championship team' volunteers services

If you were watching your TV when track star Michael Johnson won his second gold medal at the summer Olympic Games, you had a fleeting glimpse of someone wrapping Johnson's leg with ice.

That was Glenn C. Terry, MD, one of the many orthopaedic surgeons who provided medical care for the Olympic athletes. The 37 medical personnel at the Olympic stadium included seven orthopaedic surgeons.

Dr. Terry led Johnson to a treatment room where the runner's hamstring muscle was examined. Suffering a mild strain, Johnson decided to hang up his gold track shoes and rest on his laurels, having set a world record in the 200 meter race and winning gold medals in the 200 meter and 400 meter track events.

Johnson was one of 150 track and field athletes treated each day by Dr. Terry and other physicians. Typical problems were tendinitis, cramps, hamstring strains and stress fractures.

A dual role

Dr. Terry had a dual role at the Olympics; he also was in charge of the subcommittee for athlete care that planned the medical care at the Olympic stadium. He estimates that in the last year the demands of his dual role at the Olympics took about three months out of his practice time and made a dent in his income. However, there was a payback in satisfaction. "For a brief time I put aside all the socioeconomic problems, the harassment and the paper work, and just focused on medical care," Dr. Terry said.

He praised the Olympic medical team as "an outstanding group of professionals. It was like playing on a championship team. It was an altruistic effort by a group of committed people."

Blane A. Woodfin, MD, who spent 33 days at the Olympic Village, estimates that 50 orthopaedic surgeons volunteered their services. He said 700 physicians were among the more than 4,000 medical volunteers providing medical care at the Olympics.

Dr. Woodfin was medical director of the Olympic Village Polyclinic, a multispecialty, full-service ambulatory facility, and was director of the Sports Medicine Center for the Olympic Village. His involvement in the planning process for the medical care at this year's Olympics goes back to observing the medical organization at the 1992 summer Olympic Games in Barcelona and 1994 winter games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Shares knowledge

Dr. Woodfin will share his knowledge as medical consultant for the next winter games in Nagno, Japan and the summer games in Sidney, Australia.

The Olympic Village medical facilities were staffed by 450 people, including 175 physicians, representing specialties from orthopaedics and gynecology, to cardiology and dermatology. They were involved in about 13,000 medical encounters, ranging from repair of anterior cruciate ligaments and Achilles tendons, to gender verification for 3,300 women athletes which was required by the International Olympic Committee. Athletes needing emergency hospital treatment were transported to Crawford Long Hospital.

While most of Dr. Woodfin's work at this year's games was administration and coordination of the medical care, he also was involved in several surgical procedures.

David Apple, MD, was co-chairman of the doping control committee, which administers a tightly-controlled system to discover if athletes are using prohibited stimulants, narcotics, anabolic agents, diuretics and other substances. Twenty-six medical officers and 40 technical officers were involved in the random testing program.

Dr. Apple also was chief medical officer of the Paralympics which followed the Olympic Games.

There were too many orthopaedic surgeons who participated to mention everyone, but it should be noted that the involvement of orthopaedic surgeons in the Olympics wasn't limited to the games in Atlanta. William A. Mitchell Jr., MD, was medical director for the Olympic Team Trials in gymnastics which was held in Boston in late June.

He supervised the medical care of the athletes and coordinated the medical service provided by a team of physicians in a variety of specialties.

Dr. Mitchell is no stranger to the world of gymnastics. He was a member of the U.S. Gymnastics Team for the 1971 competition with the Soviet Union. He was captain of Pennsylvania State University's NCAA Bronze Medalist Gymnastics Team and was 1972 rings champion in the Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League.

"It's a thrill to see the skill level of the gymnastic athletes today is much higher than it was 20 years ago," Dr. Mitchell said.

Although he has given up participating in gymnastics, Dr. Mitchell stays close to the sports scene. For 10 years he has served as a team physician for the U.S. Alpine Ski Team during World Cup events. He also has been a sports medicine consultant for the U.S. Gymnastics Federation Junior Olympics Committee and the U.S. Ski Team.

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