We departed the U.S. on July 25 for a training camp for the U.S. Olympic swim team in Singapore. This allowed the athletes to acclimate to the heat and humidity that we would experience in Beijing, and to adjust to the time change (Singapore is in same time zone as Beijing). From a medical standpoint, as the physician I am busy prior to the Games with a number of issues. I review all of the athletes (and staff) medical histories and medications. Several types of medications, such as asthma inhalers, insulin, ADD medications, require special permission (a "therapeutic use exemption") before they can be used. One of my duties as team physician is to coordinate these forms. I also spend time educating the athletes about issues related to acclimation to the heat and humidity, how to best adjust to the time change, appropriate and safe nutrition in a new environment, and the importance of maintaining hydration in this hot, humid environment.
Another very important area is doping control, and educating the athletes to the risks of over the counter supplements (these substances are not FDA-regulated, and thus can potentially be contaminated). Over the counter medications for cold and sinus conditions can also contain banned stimulants (especially brands sold overseas), so we educate the athletes about this risk. I have a well stocked medical bag with supplies and medications to treat all of the common conditions that we are likely to encounter.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Just as the athletes prepare intensively with their training, the sports medicine team prepares thoroughly to provide excellent medical care. I believe in the adage: "if you prepare for problems you won't have them". In the months before the Games I arrange for local medical contacts that would be available in the event of an emergency or if we need to obtain imaging studies (X-ray, MRI). We recommend specific vaccines in the months prior to the Olympic Games and also educate the athletes and staff about strategies to minimize the effects of jet lag, the dangers of positive doping tests from contaminated supplements, and issues related to the expected heat and humidity of Beijing.