VAIL — The Steadman Philippon Research Institute has for years studied how athletes get hurt and how to treat them. That database is about to expand.
The U.S. Olympic Committee announced Monday that the institute and The Steadman Clinic will be one of just two “national medical centers” for some of this country’s most elite athletes. The other center is the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
Those two medical centers are the top tiers of a network the Olympic committee is creating.
Dr. Bill Moreau, the managing director of sports medicine for the Olympic Committee, said the idea is to feed information from hospitals and clinics around the country that treat Olympic athletes into a central database in order to better manage treatment and rehabilitation of those athletes. While the clinic in Vail will treat more athletes, it’s not always practical for someone to travel all the way to Vail or New York. Those people will still be treated at regional centers. The idea is to have all the information about a particular athlete in one database. That information could shave a few extra hundredths of a second from a performance time or an extra point or two in a judged activity. And, Moreau said, those fractions matter.
“The difference between a champion and a competitor is razor-thin,” Moreau said. “We can help provide that edge.”
‘KEEPING PEOPLE ACTIVE’
Olympic athletes are often frequent patients at the Steadman Clinic — Dr. Tom Hackett is the chief doctor for the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team — and clinic founder Richard Steadman said having more elite athletes as patients can help the organization meet its goal of “keeping active people active.”
That applies to both current and former Olympians. Vail resident and former Olympian Cindy Nelson has been a Steadman patient for years, and the clinic has 20 years’ worth of information about keeping her on skis.
Karen Briggs, director of the research institute’s Center for Orthopaedic Outcomes Research, said more data is always better, from both younger and older athletes.
The association with the Olympic committee “will take that to a new level,” Briggs said.
After the presentation about the new alliance, Dr. Tom Clanton, a foot and ankle specialist at the clinic, said having elite athletes around can help find ways to prevent injuries in both top-level competitors and weekend warriors.
Clanton said he’s been doing research on impact injuries in snowboard competitors, learning why there’s a difference between them and recreational snowboarders. That research, as much as the care patients receive, may have influenced the Olympic committee to strengthen its partnership with the clinic and research institute.
Dr. John Ferguson is retired now, but has known Steadman since his Lake Tahoe days of rebuilding the Maher brothers into Olympic medal winners.
“This (association) is great,” Ferguson said. “But we wouldn’t have (the Olympic committee if we) were without the research component.”