Health Lessons Learned from the Olympics
The Olympic Games create a unique bond between elite athletes and the physicians who manage their injuries and illnesses during one of the most high-profile competitions of their lives. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, have a long history of serving Olympic athletes due to the profession’s emphasis on treating a patient’s mind, body and spirit, says James Lally, DO, chief medical officer for the International Shooting Sports Foundation.
Osteopathic physicians treating athletes at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio shared several observations with takeaways for athletes at all levels.
Cupping is an ancient Chinese remedy using heated glass cups to create rehabilitative suction. Rebeccah Rodriguez, DO, medical director of the Team USA high performance center, says cupping is believed to revitalize muscles.
“We regularly use cupping to facilitate muscle recovery for our Olympians,” she said. “The ancient therapy is most often used in conjunction with other techniques, including Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) provided by DOs, to facilitate muscle recovery.”
OMT and Athletes
Through OMT, DOs use their hands to diagnose illness and injury and to treat muscular skeletal complaints. Dr. Rodriguez has seen Olympic gymnasts, rugby and badminton players request OMT for treatment.
“As a DO, I use OMT to identify and correct asymmetries in the body, which usually corresponds to pain reduction,” Dr. Rodriguez explains.
For some athletes, it’s a matter of helping improve performance by reviewing the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities within the context of a training schedule, Dr. Rodriguez says. For others, OMT helps address specific conditions including chronic low back pain, concussions and migraines.
Two case reports published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA) document improvements in concussion-related symptoms following an initial session of OMT. Additionally, recent studies published in JAOA found that OMT reduced pain and improved function in patients suffering from chronic, nonspecific low back pain.
Whether you’re competing in the Olympics or a neighborhood soccer field, Dr. Lally encourages all athletes to be on the lookout for signs of concussion, including:
- Ongoing head or neck pain.
- Difficulty remembering or concentrating.
- Slowness in speech or thought.
- Getting lost.
- Feeling tired or experiencing frequent mood changes.