The TEAM approach to working with Olympic Athletes

When I was a young Athletic Training Student in the late 90’s I had a pretty narrow view of athlete care. I was deep into my own Athletic Training education but I knew very little about other medical professionals’ potential value within athletic teams.  Outside of Physicians, Athletic Trainers did it all.  There seemed to be an independence and professional gratification that we didn’t need help from anyone else.  Involving others would perhaps even have felt like an admission that we couldn’t do it all thereby striking a blow to our expertise and identity.  It took me quite a bit of time but I now truly embrace the inter-disciplinary approach to athlete care.  I believe that Certified Athletic Trainers have an extremely wide-ranging education and knowledge base making our profession ideal for directing a comprehensive medical program.  I also believe that there are other professions with a very specialized knowledge base who can add significant value as well.  Let’s give ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back but not beat our chests with ego, arrogance, and naivety.

I know each setting has its own set of challenges and often times it’s easier said than done when it comes to implementing an inter-disciplinary system.  Not only is it difficult to find the right personnel but financial restraints and politics can be roadblocks.  I moved with the USA Men’s National Volleyball Team from the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to Anaheim in 2006.  It was me, myself, and I begging, borrowing, and stealing to get any sort of system in place.  The past 10 years have been paradigm shifting and a constant work in progress.  Here is a snapshot of our current medical team make up:

  • Certified Athletic Trainers
  • Team Physicians
  • Specialty Physicians
  • Athletic Training Students
  • Strength and Conditioning Specialists
  • Dieticians
  • Sport specific coaches
  • Physical Therapists
  • Sport and Clinical Psychologists
  • Team Chiropractor
  • Massage Therapists
  • Vision Care Specialists
  • Team Cardiologist
  • Yoga instructors
  • Sleep Specialists
  • And more….

Each one of these disciplines and the excellent professionals we have within USAV sports medicine is worthy of its own blog entry.  However, in this article, I wanted to speak to the system as opposed to the individuals.  Regardless of our education and discipline, we all need to synergize and collaborate on athlete care instead of battle over turf.  We owe it to our athletes to be open-minded to other profession’s perspectives.  Ok, not so open-minded your brain falls out, but new ideas and concepts should not be discarded simply because they’re outside of your box.  A hammer only sees a nail.  Don’t be a hammer…be more like a swiss army knife with versatility to deal with anything.  I feel like we’ve created an effective inter-disciplinary “swiss army knife” program here at USA Volleyball which will hopefully allow our athletes to be at their peak performance for the Olympics in Rio.

This content is by Aaron Brock. To read more about Brock, click here. You should seek expert counsel in evaluating opinions, treatments, products and services. For more info see our Editorial Policies.

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