Vail’s Steadman Clinic doctors Randy Viola and Tom Hackett heading to Olympics
Vail is sending a big group to the Olympics, and we’re not just talking about athletes.
The Steadman Clinic, based in Eagle and Summit counties, has a long and proud tradition of being the primary orthopedic provider for the U.S. Ski Team, going back to the 1970s when Dr. Richard Steadman himself was the head doctor for the team.
This year, Drs. Randy Viola and Tom Hackett will carry on that tradition with their roles as head doctors for the U.S. Ski Team and the U.S. Snowboarding Team.
Hackett is the head doctor for the snowboarders and will be enjoying his third Olympics in that capacity. Viola became the head doctor of the men’s alpine ski team four years ago, following the Sochi Games. It will be his first trip to the Olympics.
“All of our doctors spend time with the team, but Dr. Hackett and I were fortunate enough to be named head physicians,” Viola said on Thursday, Feb. 1. “He has been my go-to for information since it will be his third Olympics.”
Hackett said there’s nothing that can really prepare you for the experience, but his first word of advice was to pack lightly.
“I remember my first one, in Vancouver, I was blown away. You get there and there’s a U.S. Olympic area the size of Costco,” he said. “They give you jackets and goggles and gloves, you get fitted for rings and watches, there’s a tailor on site, and you end up going home with bags full of stuff.”
STATE OF THE ART
The doctors have already been there a couple of times for test events and are feeling comfortable with the venue, should their services be required.
“I’ve been to the hospitals and met with their staff; they have a very good system there,” Hackett said on Thursday. “It’s a good set-up.”
The first thing that impressed Hackett was the level of detail on display.
“We’re going into the most organized Olympics we’ve had in (recent memory),” he said.
Viola said he was impressed with the attention being given to the medical needs athletes could encounter.
“I was there two years ago, and they were building a medical facility specifically for the games,” he said. “It’s now complete; as soon as we get there, I’m looking forward to seeing it. From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be a state-of-the-art hospital.”
Viola, a hand surgeon, and Hackett, a knee and shoulder surgeon, have both worked on athletes who will be competing at the games.
Viola said he’s especially excited for alpine racer Tommy Beisenmeyer, who will also be enjoying his first Olympics, along with Viola.
“(Beisenmeyer) has missed two previous Olympic Games due to injuries, and he’s finally going to get to ski,” Viola said. “And then, on the other side of that spectrum, there’s guys like Steven Nyman, coming back from injury and re-injured, who will not get to go, so there’s some heartache, as well.”
Watching the competition in person is tremendously emotional, Hackett said, and part of their job as team doctors is to put that aside once the competition begins.
“I’m watching these athletes come down the course, holding my breath, just hoping they will do well,” he said. “To not get hurt and perform the best that they can perform. … The time and effort we’ve put into these athletes is nothing compared to what they’ve put into their sport, and their craft. To be a part of that is an extraordinary experience.”
The Olympics begin Friday, Feb. 9, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.