March 2010

Providing Medical Care at the Winter Olympics

Dear Colleagues,

During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I had the opportunity to serve as a volunteer sports medicine physician. Helping to provide medical care for the Olympic athletes gave me a new excitement and appreciation for the power of sports. And as a Canadian, I experienced a great sense of pride to have Canada host the games.

It was a privilege to be in the Athletes Village, where I met an interesting, diverse group of athletes — and physicians — from all over the world, and even met British royalty! The volunteer staff and resources organized for the athletes were exceptional and we delivered the world class medical care that athletes need.

Despite their many differences, the athletes share the common goal of trying to be the best at their sport and to overcome extremely serious injuries in the process. For some, an injury can end an Olympic medal pursuit and even end a career. Fortunately, many well trained athletes can walk away from a fall.

At the winter games, we tried to get the athletes in shape to compete, despite injuries that ordinarily would require rest. We faced many challenging decisions regarding whether an athlete should compete or not.

Good training and technique are critical to compete. To help develop these fundamentals, the new UCSF Human Performance Center at the Orthopaedic Institute in Mission Bay offers human performance testing, including maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) testing, lactate threshold testing, 3-D optical motion analysis and biomechanical assessment. These tests help athletes better understand how they perform and what can be done to prevent injury, work around injuries, and optimize efficiency in sports.

Seeing the finely tuned athletes at the Olympics drove home the importance of safely maximizing function and performance and the principles we apply at UCSF — discipline, commitment and enjoyment of a favorite sport.

Anthony Luke, M.D., M.P.H.
Primary Care Sports Medicine Specialist
Director, UCSF Human Performance Center
UCSF Sports Medicine Center
UCSF Orthopaedic Institute