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Blog Post

Meet the doctors behind Team USA

February 7, 2014

    Juliette Mullin, Editor

    Millions of people across the globe today tuned in (or soon will tune in) to watch athletes march their nations' flags into Sochi's Fischt Olympic Stadium for the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. The United States alone was represented by more than 200 competitors.

    But here's what you didn't see in the arena: The massive medical operations supporting each nation's winter sports team. These are the doctors, chiropractors, psychologists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and massage therapists that keep athletes healthy through their rigorous training routines and draining competition days.

    For Team USA, the 77-person medical staff is led by Dr. Gloria Beim.

    Beim says her path to becoming the team's CMO at Sochi began with her volunteer work at major ski and cycling competitions near her orthopedics practice in Colorado. "Fortunately, my skills and knowledge were noticed at these competitions, which resulted in my servicing a number of medical teams that parlayed me into the world games and Olympic arena," she said in an interview with MedPage Today's "Kevin M.D." blog. She went on to become part of the U.S. medical teams at the 2004 and 2012 Olympics.

    At Sochi, Beim's job is "all about getting the athletes to be able to perform at their maximum ability."

    To adequately prepare for the two weeks of competition, the medical team is spending four and a half weeks in Sochi, where thy have constructed a medical and training facility that athletes will find quite familiar. "What we're trying to do is create a mirror image of the Olympic medical facilities at the Olympic training centers in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Lake Placid, N.Y.," she told The Watch. At the facility, American athletes can get care for everything from a cold to a broken bone.

    Beim notes that Team USA is lucky on this front. "Some teams don't have the same level of care we can provide and they sometimes need to use the Olympic Polyclinics—which offer outstanding service, but sometimes the athletes need to wait to see a doctor, or the procedures might be foreign to them. In our facility, our athletes have ready access to a huge variety of care," she says.

    In a Medscape Medical News interview, Beim noted that one of the unique aspects of caring for Olympic athletes is the drug restrictions. It's her job to make sure competitors are taking approved drugs—namely those not including on the doping list.

    Another unique aspect is the need to balance competition with health. If an athlete falls seriously ill, the decision to withdraw from competition is not a simple one. Beim says an illness likely would need to be life-threatening for all the parties—including the doctors, coaches, and athletes—to agree to pull someone from an event. "They train their whole lives to be at the Olympic Games, and having a bad cold is not a reason they would withdraw for," she says.

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