While hundreds gathered in Gondola Square and at Howelsen Hill on Feb. 25 to watch the final Olympic Nordic combined event, a more intimate gathering took place at Yampa Valley Medical Center’s SportsMed gym.
Scott Blair, physical therapist and assistant director of the clinic, supplied commentary on which competitors could threaten the United States’ medal hopes to an audience of employees and patients cheering on the team. He would know, because he has been to many competitions traveling with the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team as a physical therapist.
After years of sending Blair and other SportsMed staff to competitions, and rehabilitating U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team athletes in Steamboat Springs SportsMed recently was named an official medical provider of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams. SportsMed is one of just 17 hospitals, physical therapy and medical clinics that have been formally recognized for their services to U.S. athletes.
“This distinction is several years in the making,” Blair said after returning from the Nordic Combined World Cup in Finland last week. “We were first contacted by the U.S. Ski Team in the early 1990s for help here in Steamboat as well as on the road.”
Through the associations with athletes and coaches on the U.S. Ski Team as well as at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, SportsMed solidified relationships and spent an increasing amount of time caring for these elite athletes. As time went on, SportsMed’s connections to athletes opened opportunities to travel with U.S. teams.
“Our therapists and trainers also began to specialize in the athletic discipline in which they were working,” Blair said.
With the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team Olympic Trials in Steamboat in December, SportsMed physical therapist Jen Kerr did not have to travel far to provide her services. Her last “big trip” for the freestyle and skiercross teams was to Japan for the World Championships in 2009. She also has traveled with the teams to France and Canada.
SportsMed athletic trainer Frederica Manning spent more than a week in Vancouver, British Columbia, assisting U.S. Alpine snowboard athletes as their athletic trainer in preparation for their events at this year’s Olympics. She also has traveled to Japan as well as Russia to offer her expertise.
SportMed endorses Blair, Kerr and Manning to travel six weeks a year. It is their job to assist the team’s medical leader in making sure athletes get the medical assistance needed for injuries incurred in training or competition. Team SportsMed also provides therapy for other chronic or ongoing injuries. Additionally, they provide performance enhancement training to help improve athletes’ efficiency with technique.
World Cups, World Championships and the Winter Games are not the only events SportsMed attends. For more than 20 years now, therapists, aides and trainers have been providing monetary support as well as volunteer staff at multiple local events from the Pro Rodeo Series to the Steamboat Springs Running Series. Like so many businesses in Steamboat Springs, SportsMed has sought ways to give back to the community that supports them.
One of the most recent new services SportsMed provides to local athletes is a testing system called ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion and Cognitive Testing). Originally purchased by the Winter Sports Club for its athletes, this testing system helps evaluate head injuries and gives coaches and parents objective parameters to know when an athlete’s brain can return to training and competition.
“It is a service we are trying to coordinate with young athletes as part of their pre-season physical,” Blair said. “The test provides a baseline upon which we can compare to if these athletes should receive a head injury in their sport.”
SportsMed is working on arrangements to test youths ages 11 to 18 across Routt and Jackson counties who participate in high-risk impact or collision sports. The test also will be available to adults and, in the future, to younger athletes as well.
While honored to travel the world to help elite athletes, SportsMed always has prided itself on being behind the scenes in support of the local community.
Riley Polumbus is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.