Doctor treats Olympic skatersWritten by Scott McKimmy | | email@example.com
Participating in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, requires long hours, dedication and determination not only for the athletes, but for coaches, staff and team doctors.
Just ask Dr. Roger Kruse, UT head team physician and sports medicine specialist for high-profile Olympic figure skaters including Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinksi and Sarah Hughes.
He’s served the U.S. skating team for 16 years, attending four Olympics and caring for about 10 skaters on a year-round basis. He described the experience as ”grueling,” arriving two weeks before the opening ceremony to tend to his patients through every practice and competition.
He is also vice chairman of sports science and camps for the U.S. figure skating team in Colorado Springs, Colo.
”It’s not a vacation like everybody thinks,” he said. ”It’s very time-consuming and tiring, but it’s also exhilarating because you’re dealing with athletes who are the cream of the crop.”
To rise above the rest, Olympic athletes train vigorously, and their commitment to optimal health and fitness must equal their desire. Where a high school or collegiate jock devotes time outside their studies to a sport, an Olympian signs up for as many as 12 hours a day.
But whether treating a gold medalist or a prep athlete, the level of care is always the same, Kruse said.
”Personally, I don’t treat a UT athlete any different than I do an Olympic athlete, only the Olympic athlete will have more time to devote to their sport,” he said. ”They won’t be doing something else. Their life is around the sport.”
To qualify, sports doctors undergo two weeks of training at one of three U.S. Olympic Committee centers, according to Bob Condron, director of media services. Spots are reserved for the best doctors in the country based on their performances during the previous four years or longer. They also must have national or international competition experience under their belts.
”It is a competition to go to the next level,” Condron said. ”Each medical staff is critiqued after every competition. It’s the top of the top that earn the right to go.”
Condron said Kruse repeatedly has measured up to the committee’s standards.
”He’s outstanding in the field — in this case at the Olympic games — under a high-pressure situation in the spotlight having to make sure that relationships go well,” Condron said. ”It’s like being on a submarine crew; you have to get along.”