Local docs, therapists part of Olympic team
VAIL ” Dr. William Sterett hopes his services will be in low demand when he travels to the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, next month as part of the U.S. medical team.
“If you’re anonymous and no one ever hears you, it’s a great Olympics,” he said.
Some of the best doctors and physical therapists in the world ” including some from the Vail Valley ” will be caring for the athletes during the games. Sterett, a partner at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic, will be caring for the women’s alpine ski team and also manning the clinic that serves all of the U.S. athletes.
The United States Olympic Committee selected him as one of 12 doctors on the medical team.
“It is a thrill and it’s certainly an honor,” he said.
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He already serves as team doctor for the U.S. women’s alpine team through the United States Ski Association. In that capacity, he oversees the athletes’ medical care and travels with them a couple of times a year to events in Europe.
Sterett must be ready to care for ailments ranging from his specialty of knee and shoulder orthopedics to things as common as a cold or the flu. Or if a bobsledder cuts himself on his sled while Sterett’s at the clinic, Sterett has to sew him up.
Sterett, who was a ski patroller at Squaw Valley in California before he went to medical school, said he thinks five or six of the women alpine skiers have a chance to end up on the podium.
“Hopefully it will be a special time for the U.S.,” said Sterett, who is also the chief of surgery at Vail Valley Medical Center and sports medicine director for the Eagle County School District.
‘It’s a great opportunity’
Dr. Larry Gaul, a cardiologist with the Aurora Denver Cardiology Group who works in the WestStar Bank building near the Vail hospital, will be caring for the U.S. Nordic team during the games.
His medical specialty dovetails with the aerobic Nordic events. Some common ailments for Nordic skiers are respiratory infections and asthma, Gaul said. He will also help at the U.S. clinic.
He is also the doctor for the Nordic skiers through the U.S. Ski Team, and travels a few times a year with the Nordic skiers.
“In our role with the ski team, once you accept that position, (the Olympics is) one of the things that’s on your duty list,” Gaul said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Karyn Ann Thull is also headed to the Olympics as a physical therapist for the Nordic team. “It’s the chance of a lifetime, for sure,” she said.
Thull works at the Howard Head clinic at Keystone. She lived in Edwards for two years before moving to Summit County in November.
Thull said she’s hoping to check out some other events when she’s not working, especially the snowboard halfpipe and boardercross.
She goes to competitions, practices and even meals with the athletes, and helps take care of any kinds of injuries, from spines to knees to toes.
Luke O’Brien, a physical therapist at the Howard Head clinic in Vail, is also going to the games to work mostly with the women’s downhill and super-G competitors. He’s traveled with the U.S. team to World Cup stops in Canada, France and the Czech Republic.
O’Brien helps skiers with management of injuries, whether the injuries are new or nagging.
Beyond his medical training, he also help clear the course, radioing down to the coaches that the racer is in the gate.
“It’s going to be great,” he said. “We should be very competitive.”
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or email@example.com.